Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng blasts reports attempting to tarnish the image of the state government ahead of the 14th general election.
- Guan Eng condemns reports of MACC raiding and temporary closure of his office
- Berated BN media over their reports on the undersea tunnel project
- Called claims of “pre-sell state land rights” worth RM3b an “outright lie”
- Stressed that land swap worth RM208m for work done on three highways, not undersea tunnel
Lim Guan Eng today denied that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) raided his office yesterday.
He also refuted a report by Utusan Online that his office was temporarily shut yesterday, and that some members of the media who had tried to use the lift at level three to reach the 28th floor in Komtar were prohibited from doing so.
Lim said his office was never closed, and that he was still carrying out his duties and it was business as usual.
“Also, my office was never raided yesterday. I hope you do not try to tarnish the image of the state government and the CM’s office,” he said at a press conference today.
This was after Utusan reported a security guard as saying he had received orders not to let anyone enter the chief minister’s office.
Lim said the reports were plainly an effort to sully the image of the state government ahead of the 14th general election, and that he would not be surprised if more such reports or efforts occurred.
He also berated several Barisan Nasional media outlets such as The Star, the New Straits Times, Berita Harian and Utusan over their reports on the undersea tunnel project.
Speculation was rife yesterday that Lim would be arrested by the MACC in relation to the project.
However, MACC deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki said Lim’s arrest was not necessary.
A group of 20 journalists, who were anticipating Lim’s apparent arrest at his office, were surprised when the Chief Minister emerged in the evening and went on a 1km walk to a coffee shop along an alley off Campbell Street.
Laughing off rumours of graft-busters coming after him, Lim strode down Penang Road with his accompanying police sergeant, two city councillors and colleagues. The reporters also followed him.
Beaming and in good spirits, he ordered a cup of coffee at the coffee shop and told those accompanying him that he would also buy them drinks.
Yesterday, Lim said his government had not paid “a single sen” for the feasibility studies of the undersea tunnel, insisting that his state had only paid by swapping land for three highways.
“We only swapped two pieces of land with the development value of RM1,300 psf for 3.7 acres of land which comes up to RM208 million,” he said in a press conference at his office.
He stressed that the land swap worth RM208 million was for work done on the three highways and not the undersea tunnel.
Lim said the project was awarded via open tender to Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd in 2013 by a committee chaired by the state secretary, adding that none of the state exco members was on the committee.
The 7.2km RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project was proposed to connect Gurney Drive on the island to Bagan Ajam in Butterworth as part of the Penang Transport Master Plan to ease traffic congestion in the state.
The project also involved three highways, consisting of a 10.53km North Coastal Paired Road from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang, a 5.7km Air Itam-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass and a 4.075km Gurney Drive-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass.
Lim said HSS Integrated Sdn Bhd (HSSI), a specialist engineering consultant, was appointed in 2014 to assess the claims and designs by Consortium Zenith.
“Consortium Zenith claimed RM302mil for the job. But after assessment by HSSI, the justified amount claimable was RM208mil,” he said.
“Contractually, the project contractor should be starting on the three highways first, that comes first,” he added.
He explained this is why there was no hurry for the feasibility studies for the undersea tunnel to be completed first.
“The undersea tunnel is only expected to be completed in 2027, still a long way to go, so let’s concentrate on the three highways first,” he said.
Lim was responding to criticisms by his political opponents over the delay in the completion of the feasibility studies.
The studies for the tunnel were delayed for almost two years and last October, Consortium Zenith claimed there was no hurry to complete them as the project is only expected to start in 2023.
Lim also denied claims that the Penang government had allowed a company to “pre-sell” RM3 billion worth of land given as payment for an environmental study.
He referred to The Star’s report claiming that the state government had allowed a “special purpose vehicle” to “pre-sell state land rights worth RM3 billion despite a four-year delay in the construction of roads”.
He stressed that the state did not pre-sell any other lands or swap any other lands other than the first 3.7 acres for the whole RM6.3 billion project.
The two pieces of land covering 3.7 acres were swapped to pay for the completed environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports for the three highways which were already submitted to the Department of Environment.
“We will pay for the whole project through more land swaps in future but we’ve not done that yet because the project is not completed,” he said.
Lim added that The Star article claiming the state had “pre-sell state land rights” worth RM3 billion was a blatant lie.
“Prove it that we approved the pre-selling of land rights. Where did they get the RM3bil figure? The feasibility study of the tunnel is 92% completed but not a single sen has been paid for the project,” he said.
Earlier media reports had said that the MACC probe into the Penang undersea tunnel is focused on land swaps that were made for the feasibility and detailed design study which has yet to be completed.
It was also reported that sources said the study cost of the undersea tunnel is around RM305 million, and that it has become an issue that the cost was inflated so much when it should have been an estimated RM60 million.
Meanwhile, the MACC recorded statements from 12 witnesses as part of its investigation into the undersea tunnel project and visited some government agency offices in Komtar yesterday, seizing some documents related to the project.
“We need to scrutinise the documents as the project contract is suspicious while the costs of the feasibility studies for the mega project is not RM305 million as announced,” the Malay Mail quoted an MACC source as saying.
He said there was a discrepancy between the costs of the studies and the costs of the land swap made between the state and the company appointed to conduct the studies.
“We believe that there is a possibility the state paid a sum that’s vastly different from the actual costs of the feasibility studies,” he was quoted as saying.
As for the land swaps, the source reportedly said: “we want to see how it was done and whether it was done according to procedure.”
MACC deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki told the media that the investigation team had also recorded statements from witnesses in Kuala Lumpur.
“For now, there are no other arrests made but there is a possibility of other arrests after we have gathered new information and evidence in this investigation process,” AZA said.
Earlier, Lim said the MACC contacted his office to request for documents related to the undersea tunnel.
“I’ve told my officers to give them all the documents they need for the investigations, we have nothing to hide,” he said.
He revealed that the MACC investigation team had also spoken to his officers and asked a few questions but did not divulge what they had asked.
“They did not request to talk to me,” he added.
On Tuesday, the MACC raided seven offices, including government agencies and construction companies.
A director from a construction company and a deputy chairman from another property development company were detained following the raid on Tuesday.
The duo, both with the title ‘Datuk’, was remanded until January 15 to assist in the ongoing probe.
Earlier report: Jan 10, Two Datuks in Penang Tunnel Probe Remanded