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The Corporate Cronies of DAP in Penang

IJM Land Berhad has been a major developer in Penang for a long time and the political tsunami of March 8, 2008 caught it by surprise when the BN administration led by Gerakan Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon was toppled by DAP in the General Election and  Lim Guan Eng was swept into the Chief Minister’s seat in Penang.

IJM Land Berhad had many applications for property development in Penang which were pending approval by the Penang State Government. The most ambitious project was the Penang Waterfront project planned by IJM to be built over 152 acres of reclaimed land. This huge tract of reclaimed land was the result of the Jelutong Expressway (Federal Route 3113) which is a coastal expressway that connects the Penang Bridge to George Town, Penang. It is today part of the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, which runs for 17.84 km from the Prangin Road Ghaut junction to Batu Maung intersection.

Hectares of land were reclaimed for the construction of this expressway. Phase I of the Jelutong Expressway was completed in 2003 while Phase II was completed and opened in July, 2006.

One component of the development plans for the Penang Waterfront Project was a super high-rise condominium project called The Light Point – with proposed plan for 56 storeys – that will make it the highest ever residential project in Penang and the second highest building in Penang (after KOMTAR which is 65 storeys). It was designed to be the iconic building in Penang – designed like a light house to be seen even from afar. The project is part of a larger, more comprehensive mixed development spanning 152 acres on the Eastern coastline of Penang Island known as THE LIGHT Waterfront Penang. The entire development includes the construction of hotels, shopping malls, MICE, Cultural Centre, IT Hub, Office space and a seven acre landscaped seafront park.

Since there is now a new administration in Penang, IJM Land Berhad sent its Managing Director Datuk Soam Heng Choon and Dato Teh Kean Ming, the then Managing Director of IJM Properties Sdn Bhd to pay a courtesy call on Lim Guan Eng who is the new Penang Chief Minister and seek reassurance that their development projects will remain on track without changes. The meeting took place in April 2008.

It was a cordial meeting and understandably, the two gentlemen from a major corporation asked Lim if there was anything that they can do to assist him in developing Penang or any donations that they can make to help the construction of a new DAP Headquarters building in Penang. Guan Eng’s reply was quick and to the point – yes apparently the DAP would like to have a new HQ building so as to reflect their status as the ruling party in Penang. As such, he would be most happy to accept a RM3 million donation towards the construction of the new State HQ in Rangoon Road. This can be paid into the DAP Penang  Building Fund. Datuk Soam and Dato Teh was shocked by such a blatant request but nonetheless kept their composure and indicated to Chief Minister Guan Eng that they will certainly make a donation but will need to discuss the exact amount with their Board of Directors.

Over the next two weeks, the Board of Directors of IJM Land Berhad met and the “request” for donation of RM3 million to DAP Penang Building Fund was discussed and a decision was made that a donation of RM1.5 million was to be made instead of RM3 million. The said sum of RM1.5 million was then subsequently paid into the DAP Penang Building Fund account and Guan Eng was informed of it by IJM.

Within 3 months, IJM Land Berhad received approval for their development project and to their shock, the approval for the LIGHT POINT project was slashed down from 56 storeys to only 28 storeys. Datuk Soam immediately sought a meeting with CM Guan Eng to clarify and seek an explanation.

The explanation from CM Guan Eng was very simple – the request was for a donation of RM3 million but only half of it which is only RM1.5 million was received, so likewise the approval was for “half” of what was applied – 28 storeys only instead of 56 storeys. It is simple mathematics.

Datuk Soam had no choice but to accept this as an expensive lesson from Guan Eng and over the next few years, he learnt how to do business with Guan Eng in Penang. Today, save for that hiccup in 2008, IJM Land remained as one of the biggest developers in Penang and continues to focus on its iconic waterfront project in Penang, known as The Light Waterfront. It has launched its first phase consisting of three residential projects called The Light Linear, The Light Point and The Light Collection. Phase two comprises a mixed development including a hotel, corporate park, office towers and business hotel, fashion mall and waterfront dining and entertainment district. Its third phase, according to the master plan, is a sea front park.

The whole waterfront project spans a total of 152-acres and will be developed over the next 12 to 15 years via Jelutong Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of IJM Properties Sdn Bhd.

Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping successfully negotiated purchase of prime Penang Turf Club land and also funded the Pasukan Peronda Sukarela (PPS) in Penang

In Part 1 of our new series on the cronies of DAP in Penang, we wrote about how IJM Land Berhad learnt its “arithmetic” lesson on doing business with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in Penang. In this Part 2, we reveal here now another crony – Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping.

Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping is a man who moves in influential circles – he is a director in Vincent Tan’s companies and is often seen as the Vincent’s front man in Penang. Kok Ping was also once a member of Gerakan and he quit just after Gerakan lost its power to DAP in Penang. Tan is also the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PCCC) as well as the Chairman of the Han Chiang School Board.

At the same time, Kok Ping is no stranger to controversy as he is also the head of the underground triad gang “Pheh” in Penang – the arch-rivals of the “04” gang led by another tycoon – Tan Sri Lim Gait Tong.

Kok Ping was also linked to some questionable incidents notably the one in 2002 when he was the executive chairman of Magnum Corp Berhad where he was quizzed and interrogated for three hours by the police in Bukit Aman in connection with a forged letter which he allegedly used to attain his position in the company.

His statements were recorded by Team B head Superintendent A. Thaiveegan of the Federal Police Commercial Crimes Department. When the New Straits Times reported the story, he sued the newspapers for libel and defamation but he lost the suit when he failed to prove his case against the NST. The case at the High Court was decided by Ghazali Gha J. in (2010) 3 CLJ 61.

But his relationship with Guan Eng yielded great rewards because the biggest deal that he has successfully got from Lim Guan Eng is facilitating the purchase of 57.3 acres of the Penang Turf Club land at the price of RM459 million by Berjaya Land when the land itself is valued at over RM1.5 billion.

This was the same site where the doomed Penang Global City Centre project attempted by Patrick Lim during the Abdullah Badawi administration but failed miserably thereafter when BN lost Penang and Abdullah Badawi lost his position as Prime Minister.

Kok Ping is a smooth operator and he moved very fast to woo and court Guan Eng who quickly took him into confidence seeing he is a leader of the Chinese community in Penang. They are very close and Kok Ping speaks to Guan Eng very often over the phone and can ecven see the Chief Minister any time without an appointment. He also dispenses political advice and campaign strategy to Guan Eng from time to time.

Kok Ping even attempted to take over the Penang Port but was bested by Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary. The Penang Chamber of Commerce where Tan Kok Ping is the President also made a RM2 million donation to SMJK (C) Heng Ee, the same school that is attended by Guan Eng’s son and where at one time, he was alleged to run into some disciplinary problems in the school.

Some time in 2011, an Indian Muslim who was very angry with Guan Eng actually challenged Guan Eng to a fight in KOMTAR and also an incident in Teluk Dumbar where the Chief Minister was almost assaulted by angry Malays. When Kok Ping found out about it through his conversation with Guan Eng, he was very angry and immediately proposed that a special private protection squad be set up to protect Guan Eng.

Kok Ping offered to kick off the initial funding for it with a RM1 million donation. Thus the Pasukan Peronda Sukarela (PPS) was born and Guan Eng launched it on September 17, 2011. Of course, the PPS is designed officially as a volunteer unit to fight crime as it goes around on its patrol in their official vests on motorbikes and armed with walkie talkies but its hidden agenda is to provide security for Guan Eng around Penang.

The voluntary patrol squad members are also responsible to look after the security of all state Exco members. They are equipped with walkie-talkie and answerable to state Exco member Phee Boon Poh. The police are only informed of the PPS formation and not allowed to supervise their activities.

No one knows what are the exact roles and functions of these PPS members except to primarily protect the Chief Minister, his wife, children and his exco members from being harassed by disgruntled and angry public over unfair treatment and discriminated policies by Guan Eng and his stooges on them (mostly Malay traders).

As at 7 th June 2012, there is a total of 134 teams set up with 3121 members of the PPS and by the end of November 2012, the number of PPS members has risen to 5,300.

The Penang State Government also allocated a sum of RM 1 million for the second half of 2012 and increased the number of walkie talkie sets from 1,000 units to 2,000 units.

But what happened is that the DAP’s Pasukan Peronda Sukarela (PPS) were becoming like thugs around Penang and recently a Chinese journalist from the Guang Ming Daily newspaper was beaten up by some members of Lim Guan Eng’s PPS led by Khoo Eng Chong, the Perak Lane PPS Squad Leader.

This has caused some negative backlash to the party as more and more members of the public feel that the PPS members are behaving with arrogance even though they do not have any lawful powers.  This is certainly one area which Guan Eng should seriously look into and review before it gets out of hand.

There is more about Kok Ping and Guan Eng that DAP members need to know and we will be exposing it in our next article in Part 3 of the Cronies of DAP Penang coming soon only in the DAP Insider…


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