If you can recall I wrote that Georgetown in Pulau Pinang, and the City of Melaka in Melaka, were bestowed UNESCO Heritage Site status on 7 July 2008.
The application for the status was first made sometime in 1998 but failed to achieve the status as the documentation was not proper.
If I recall correctly, the Federal government had to step in through its Jabatan Warisan Negara (National Heritage Department) to properly structure the application to UNESCO.
In January 2007 the Nomination Dossier was submitted. In July, the official acknowledgment from UNESCO was received.
This followed a visit by officials from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to Georgetown and Melaka between 24 to 31 August 2007. They include Professor Yukio Nishimura who is from the Department of Urban Engineering, University of Tokyo.
Since being bestowed the status, Melaka took the necessary steps to ensure that the descendants of the historical Melaka people, its customs and sites remain preserved with very little restoration modifications done.
Both Melaka and Georgetown are similar in many ways. Some parts of both cities are time capsules of eras that have passed, eras that played a huge role in shaping the two cities. But that is where the similarities end.
In Georgetown you can hardly find the original people. Although the clans still have their presence there, only the richer ones remain on the island while poorer ones have moved to the mainland.
Gone are the sundry shops, the second-hand bookstores I used to frequent along Armenian Street, the old Chinese man weaving rattan baskets and the Malabari newsagents.
While the facade of their shops remain, inside are rows upon rows of boutique hotels and hipster cafes that are owned by foreigners and by that I mean non-citizens.
Pulau Pinang’s adamant stand to fulfill its Transportation Master Plan as wel as the selling of heritage buildings to foreigners also contribute to Georgetown losing its heritage status. Changing the landscape by the reclamation works to build three man-made islands would also destroy Pulau Pinang’s heritage.
Other than having to maintain and preserve historical buildings and sites, multi-cultural tangible and intangible heritage expressed in the great variety of religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic quarters, the many languages, worship and religious festivals, dances, costumes, art and music, food, and daily life must also continue to be preserved.
Under the guise of development the DAP-led state government of Pulau Pinang is only interested in making as much money as it possibly could. After all, land is money? Why worry about 40 buildings that nobody could live in when you have preserved five?
But what I am about to tell you will make many become apoplectic with rage – if Georgetown loses its UNESCO Heritage Site status, SO WILL MELAKA.
Yes, the UNESCO Heritage Site status was jointly awarded to both Georgetown and Melaka on 7 July 2008, and the Jabatan Warisan Negara is the body to preserve the sites as per the status. There was one joint-application to UNESCO for both cities.
But with land being a state prerogative, what chances does the department or all Pulau Pinang’s heritage NGOs have? The innocent victim here would be the people of Melaka. If robbed of its status because of the callous behaviour of the Pulau Pinang state government, the romance of showcasing historical sites to tourists in Melaka would be forever gone. So would be the businesses, the trishaw riders, and possibly some of the archaeological excavation sites.
Yes, Tokong’s greed and selfishness will not only destroy Pulau Pinang, they will destroy Melaka too. Does he care? I doubt. The people of Melaka are not going to vote for him next year.
On 7 July 2008, four months after DAP’s coming into power in Pulau Pinang, the old part of its capital Georgetown was declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site.
Georgetown, alongside Melaka, were chosen on that day because both demonstrate a succession of historical and cultural influences arising from their former function as trading ports linking East and West.
These are the most complete surviving historic city centres on the Straits of Malacca with a multi-cultural living heritage originating from the trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Malay Archipelago to China.
Both are living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, and European colonial influences. This multi-cultural tangible and intangible heritage is expressed in the great variety of religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic quarters, the many languages, worship and religious festivals, dances, costumes, art and music, food, and daily life.
But after nine years, Georgetown will soon lose it all. In 1966 the Alliance government of Pulau Pinang introduced the Control of Rent Act (CRA) to help original tenants in the inner-city area have the rights to enjoy low rental rates for housing, allowing them to continuously reside and practice their trades in the area. The Act was repealed and this led to a drastic increase in rent.
Without the RCA, Tokong’s DAP government is no longer restricted to raise the market price of land within the heritage site and this has led to the redevelopment of areas within the site and selling them to foreigners.
The Tokong does not care for Georgetown’s heritage sites, and this is evident in his attitude towards the preservation of the Sia Boey. The sooner he could sell that piece of land off, the more money is made.
This “don’t-care” attitude of Tokong’s is just like his Underwater Tunnel Project. The reclamation works for the project has gone full swing, yet the feasibility study for it has yet to be submitted.
The RM305 million study, which Pulau Pinang taxpayers paid for some time back, is still not completed. It was back in March this year that the Tokong said it was 87 percent complete.
Today, more than six months later, Tokong still has not submitted the feasibility study to the Ministry of Works.
Tokong will continue to give all sorts of stupid excuses for not being able to submit the report and stretch this until after the next general election if at all possible.
All we know is that while he is busy giving excuses, there would be more land within the heritage site that would be sold.
The clock is ticking, however Tokong knows how to buy more time to be able to make more money by getting rid of the UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Pada bulan Julai 2017, Perdana Menteri telah mengumumkan bahawa unit-unit integriti dan tadbir urus akan diwujudkan di semua syarikat-syarikat GLC dan akan dikawalselia oleh Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM). Ini selaras dengan tugas-tugas SPRM yang termaktub di dalam Akta SPRM.
Walau bagaimanapun, Menteri Di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Paul Low pula telah umumkan dua bulan kemudian bahawa kabinet telah bersetuju untuk menubuhkan Jabatan Integriti dan Tadbirurus Negara (JITN) yang akan diletakkan di bawah pentadbiran beliau.
Ini nyata bercanggah dengan pengumuman yang telah dibuat Najib Razak dua bulan sebelum itu. Percanggahan ini telah mencetuskan rasa tidak puas hati di antara Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad dengan Paul Low dan mengakibatkan sebuah NGO bernama Pertubuhan Belia Generasi Mahkota (PEMBELA) membuat laporang terhadap Ketua Pesuruhjaya MACC itu kerana melawan cakap Menteri.
Yang menjadi tanda-tanya adalah keperluan untuk membentuk sebuah jabatan hanya untuk penambahbaikan integriti dan tadbir urus Kementerian-Kementerian serta GLC-GLC sedangkan jentera-jentera kerajaan yang sedia ada termasuk SPRM sudah boleh menangani ketirisan, ketidak-cekapan serta membanteras perbuatan rasuah. Apa yang perlu dilakukan hanyalah untuk ketua-ketua jabatan serta GLC menentukan segala kelemahan yang telah dikenalpasti oleh Ketua Audit Negara diambil tindakan segera dengan membentuk jawatankuasa dari kalangan juruaudit dalaman setiap jabatan dan melaporkan kemajuan dan kelemahan kepada unit-unit yang telah disebutkan oleh Najib Razak.
Difahamkan setakat ini memang sudah ada pegawai-pegawai SPRM yang terlatih sebagai Pegawai Integriti Terlatih (CIO) yang ditempatkan di jabatan-jabatan kerajaan. Bagaimanapun, Paul Low bercadang untuk menempatkan seramai 20 orang pegawai tadbir dan diplomatik (PTD) menggantikan kesemua CIO SPRM yang telah bertugas di unit-unit tersebut.
Ini bermakna, 20 orang PTD ini terpaksa dilatih sebagai CIO, manakala SPRM perlu membuat perjawatan-perjawatan baru untuk menyerap para CIO mereka yang tidak akan mempunyai sebarang jawatan. Ini sahaja akan melibatkan kos tambahan kerana akan terdapat perjawatan baru.
Bukan itu sahaja, malah dakwaan Paul Low bahawa penubuhan JITN tidak akan memberi kesan kepada SPRM juga nyata terpesong kerana sudah tentu akan ada perubahan struktur organisasi serta tanggungjawab-tanggungjawab yang telah diberikan kepada SPRM melalui Akta SPRM.
Melalui akta apakah kuasa JITN diperolehi?
Pada masa yang sama, persoalan yang timbul ialah bagaimana 20 orang ini boleh memantau kesemua jabatan dan GLC milik kerajaan dengan berkesan? Adakah ini bermakna kerajaan perlu melantik konsultan luar untuk membantu pengurusan unit-unit di bawah JITN? Saya tidak yakin bahawa integriti dan penambahbaikan tadbir urus jabatan-jabatan kerajaan serta GLC dapat dilakukan dengan baik oleh hanya 20 orang!
Tugas JITN juga akan melibatkan latihan integriti kepada para pegawai dan kakitangan kerajaan, iaitu satu peranan yang sememangnya telah diberikan oleh Akta SPRM kepada SPRM. Adakah JITN akan menggunakan 20 orang PTDnya yang dipertanggung jawabkan untuk mengawalselia integriti dan tadbir urus jabatan-jabatan kerajaan dan GLC juga untuk menjalankan latihan-latihan integriti? Atau adakah JITN akan membayar konsultan luar untuk menjalanjan peranan ini? Di bawah akta apakah akan latihan ini dijalankan?
Di Akademi Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (MACA) juga terdapat sebuah sistem iaitu Sistem Pengurusan Anti Rasuah (ABMS) yang diseliakan oleh CIO-CIO dari SPRM. Sistem ini memerlukan latihan dan pensijilan khusus untuk mengendalikannya. Maka, adakah sebuah lagi konsultan akan dipanggil untuk mengendalikan sistem ini, atau adakan sebuah konsultan akan dipanggil untuk mengadakan sebuah lagi sistem yang akan memakan lagi belanja wang rakyat?
Kita maklum bahawa Paul Low sudah berada di penghujung perkhidmatannya sebagai seorang Menteri. Khidmat beliau sebagai seorang Senator akan berakhir pada bulan Mei 2019. Oleh itu, beliau tidak akan lagi dilantik sebagai seorang Menteri selepas Pilihanraya Umum Ke-14. Ini membawa kita kepada persoalan adakah Paul Low menggunakan penubuhan JITN ini sebagai rancangan persaraannya?
Pada 2 Oktober 2017, Perikatan Integriti Perniagaan (BIA) telah menandatangani sebuah MOU dengan Jabatan Perdana Menteri (Bahagian Integriti adalah di bawah Paul Low) kerana dilantik menjadi “rakan” kerajaan untuk menjadi pemudahcara bagi pihak kerajaan untuk membanteras perbuatan rasuah di sektor swasta dan sektor awam yang nyata penindihan tanggungjawab dengan SPRM.
Berapa yang kerajaan perlu bayar untuk mereka menjalankan tugas pemudahcara tersebut?
Paul Low telah lama berbincang dengan pihak BIA mengenai penubuhan JITN ini. Pertemuan mereka pertama kali diadakan pada bulan Disember 2016 semasa bersarapan bersama-sama.
Pentadbiran baru SPRM sejak setahun lalu gandingan mantap Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad dengan timbalan-timbalan Ketua Pesuruhjayanya telah membuahkan hasil yang tidak pernah kita lihat berlaku sebelum ini.
Dalam sembilan bulan pertama tahun ini sahaja sebanyak RM21.4 juta wang hasil rasuah telah dirampas, iaitu kenaikan 400 peratus berbanding dengan tahun sebelumnya. Sebelum pucuk pimpinan SPRM diambil alih oleh Tan Sri Dzulkifli, SPRM hanya berjaya merampas RM4.95 juta pada tahun lepas dan RM3.9 juta tahun 2015. Ini menunjukkan bahawa SPRM kini lebih tegas dalam hal pembanterasan rasuah berbanding dengan tahun-tahun sebelum ini sedangkan perbuatan rasuah yang melibatkan pegawai-pegawai kerajaan dan syarikat-syarikat kerajaan.
Kalau JITN itu bagus, kenapa sebanyak 50 NGO dan tokoh-tokoh integriti seperti Ramon Navaratnam, Lee Lam Thye dan Tunku Aziz membantah penubuhan JITN?
Pada tahun 1967, Perdana Menteri Malaysia Ke-2 Allahyarham Tun Haji Abdul Razak bin Hussein telah memberitahu para penjawat awam suaya tidak tunduk kepada para ahli politik kerana di dalam sebuah demokrasi para penjawat awam mempunyai tanggungjawabnya tersendiri.
Saya yakin Najib Razak benar-benar ingat akan pesanan Allahyarham Ayahandanya. Itulah sebab beliau terus membuat ucapan pada bulan Julai 2017 tersebut dengan tujuan menentukan SPRM terus bebas dari sebarang pengaruh politik.
Sekiranya itulah kebenarannya, adakah Najib Razak yang mempengerusikan mesyuarat kabinet di mana Paul Low telah mengusulkan rancangan persaraannya ini supaya diterima dan dipersetujui oleh para menteri kabinet yang tiada sebarang petunjuk atau maklumat mengenai perkara ini sebelum ianya diperbincangkan?
Jika benar tanggapan saya bahawa Najib Razak tidak mempengerusikan mesyuarat kabinet tersebut, adakah ini bermakna PEMBELA telah tersilap dalam langkahnya membuat laporan polis terhadap Tan Sri Dzulkifli sedangkan yang melanggar kemahuan Najib Razak ialah Paul Low sendiri?
Inilah jawapan yang perlu kita cari untuk merungkaikan permasalahan ini.
In November 2016, Malaysia’s largest island, Pulau Banggi which is located on the northern tip of Sabah, faced gruelling months without fresh water supply. The situation was dire that not only the mainstream media carried the story virtually on a daily basis, but it warranted a posting by DAP’s Roketkini.
This situation occured just a month after MACC raided a house in Sabah and found RM114 million in cash stashed there. According to a portal called Anti Fitnah Sabah the bust by the MACC is related to the Sabah water project that commenced in 2010 costing the Federal Government RM3.3 billion under the purview of the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development (Kementerian Kemajuan Luar Bandar dan Wilayah or KKLW). The Minister then was Shafie Afdal.
Two days ago, MACC Deputy Chief Commissioner (Operations) Datuk Azam Baki announced that the Commission was looking into the RM7.5 billion worth of projects for water supply, electricity and roads in Sabah between 2009 and 2015 approved by the Federal Government but were either not carried out, or were not carried out to the required specifications. The Minister then was Shafie Afdal.
Initial investigations found that out of the RM7.5 billion allocated by the Federal Government for the development of rural Sabah by the KKLW, RM1.5 billion had been siphoned by criminals linked to the Ministry.
Three people were arrested following the investigation. They are Parti Warisan Sabah vice-president Datuk Peter Anthony who is Shafie’s closest ally, a contractor, as well as a former Deputy Secretary for Infrastructure of KKLW, Norhataty Rahmat.
Norhataty Rahmat was Shafie’s right-hand person during his tenure in the KKLW. Norhataty was a M54 grade PTD officer who, although was just a Deputy Secretary, had direct access to the Minister then.
For a M54 grade PTD officer, her lifestyle does not commensurate with her income. Not only does she own a bungalow in Bandar Baru Bangi, her Facebook and Instragram accounts show her lavish lifestyle that includes a Franck Muller watch and five-figure priced branded handbags.
For those who do not know how much a M54 grade PTD officer earns, you can have a look at the 2016 tables below (courtesy of myschoolchildren.com)
The allocation approved by the Federal Government for Sabah and given through KKLW is meant for the improvement of treated water and electricity supply to rural areas of Sabah, to assist the poor, as well as to provide the rural elementary schoolchildren with food through the Additional Food Programme (Rancangan Makanan Tambahan). However, it is sad to learn that 20 percent of that allocation have gone to finance the lavish lifestyle of some.
Although the money is channeled to Sabah, it is KKLW that appoints the contractors for the works planned, deals directly with the relevant state agencies, but not the Sabah state government. But when the rural people do not get the help needed, it is the Sabah state government as well as the Federal Government that get blamed.
The Sabah state government had no control over the selection of contractors. In fact, for limited tenders the Minister of KKLW had the right to shortlist 10 companies to be selected. The raids on 4 October and 5 October led to the discovery of RM150 million and RM29 million cash respectively.
Shafie has since returned to Sabah to assist investigations. Calling the raids “politicaly motivated” he promised to assist “as long as the evidences are not fabricated.” It is like saying the MACC officers brought RM179 million in cash inside their pockets and planted the money upon raiding the premises.
Shafie’s eagerness to assist in investigations show that he knows a lot about what is being investigated. Shafie seems to know a lot, too! Last year when the MACC raided the house with the RM114 million stashed, Shafie was quick to say that he would assist in the investigations.
In April this year, Shafie also said that he was ready to assist the MACC in its investigation into transactions carried out by Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd (Mara Inc). Mara is an agency under KKLW.
What the MACC has uncovered is the reason rural Sabah continues to remain backwards despite the funds given to develop the areas. The culprits include those from Sabah who portray themselves as champions of the Sabah cause. Yet, they demand support from the Sabah people while stealing their very rights from them. If you have an appropriate term for these people, help me name them.
Meanwhile, it is evident that Shafie knows a lot about the embezzlements that took place during his tenure as the Minister of KKLW. The question now is, how much did he make out of all this and will he fabricate lies to cover them?
The only thing relevant to Sabah about Parti Warisan Sabah as it is seems to be making the money meant for the people of Sabah as their warisan.
The development of Forest City, one of Johor’s iconic development on the western half of the southern coast of the state, is proceeding well and is on time. When completed, the southern-most man-made island of the project will be just two kilometers away from Singapore’s Tuas.
A little over two years ago, the project area was under three meters deep of sea water. Now, a hotel stands completed as do a commercial block as well as an office block, with a beach fronting Tuas. Aptly named “Hotel Phoenix”, the 280-room four-star hotel has already begun to receive guests, and is now one of the favourite venues in southern Johor for international conferences and events. Even Jack Ma’s Alibaba had an event here in late September 2017.
This 20-year development is already into its second year, but has been the subject of several controversies, depending on which side of the fence you are viewing the issue from.
700,000 New Citizens
One of the issues raised by the Opposition is the prospect of 700,000 mainland Chinese obtaining Malaysian citizenship after staying at Forest City for several years. Opposition fear-mongers have been selling this idea to the worried locals who fear that their voice would be drowned by these prospective new citizens.
I threw this idea to an English friend of mine who is married to a Malay woman and have four children, to see if the fear is real.
“Bo****ks!” he exclaimed, scoffing at the idea. “I’ve been married and staying here in Malaysia for 22 years now and I still haven’t got my citizenship. If they think it’s that easy, I will gladly pay the person who could give me my Malaysian identity card.”
But will there actually be 700,000 Chinese from China residing at Forest City? Apparently not. Buyers include people from the Middle East, Thailand, India and Singapore. Forest City was already attracting these buyers even before China tightened the outflow of its currency. Buyers from China have snapped up 70 percent of the early-sale properties there before the measure by China came into effect.
“The number of withdrawals caused by the cashflow controls is about 60, compared with the 15,000-unit sales by the end of 2016, the bulk of which were sold to Chinese buyers. We have to look at the issue in perspective. If we are not confident about Forest City, we will not be investing some RM470 million to build a factory to manufacture ready-to-assemble concrete structures like staircases, beams and columns,” said Dr Yu Runze, President and Chief Strategy Officer of Country Garden Pacific View Sdn Bhd., the developer of the project.
Carving Out Malaysia’s Land To Make It China’s
As a state, Johor has jurisdiction of its land including the foreshore according to the National Land Code, 1965 and its territorial sea jutting out 3 nautical miles according to Section 3(3) of the Territorial Sea Act, 2012.
While Section 76 of the National Land Code includes a proviso that does not allow the foreshore and part of the sea bed to be disposed by the state authority for a period exceeding ninety-nine years, Forest City’s reclamation starts beyond the low-water mark of ordinary spring tides. Unlike the reclamations off Pulau Pinang, a bridge connects the man-made island to the mainland rendering it possible for the Johor state government to allow the developer to obtain a freehold status for the reclaimed portion, anything within the three-nautical mile limit.
Therefore, no part of the mainland was ever carved to become part of Forest City, nor was there a major displacement of people to make way for the apartment buildings and hotels of the development. A freehold land does not mean that it belongs to another country. As mentioned, anything that is within 3 nautical miles including the seabed comes under the state authority while from that point up until 12 nautical miles comes under the Federal authority. The state has the power to acquire the land under the Land Acquisition Act, 1960. hence the sovereignty of the nation is not compromised in any manner.
Forest City Is A China Project And Employs Only Chinese Citizens
The project is being developed by Country Garden Pacific View Sdn Bhd (CGPV), a Johor-China joint-venture company where the China partner has 60 percent equity in the JV, while the Malaysian partners hold 40.
CGPV executive director Datuk Md Othman Yusof said that as at end of September 2017, 859 out of 1397, or 61.4 percent of its workers are Malaysians. This includes the staff at the CGPV Industrial Building System plant in Tanjung Kupang.
Datuk Othman said that it was a decree by His Majesty the Sultan of Johor himself that there should be at least 70 percent staff that are Malaysians. “After only two years we already have 61.4 percent,” he added. “The only difficult part is getting Malaysians who could work as well under intense pressure on the construction side. Many joined but left as they could not match the discipline of the Chinese workers.”
Dr Yu added that of its RM4.7 billion (S$1.5 billion) capital expenditure (capex) spent between early 2015 and December 2016, about RM2 billion, or 42.55 per cent, was spent on the services provided by local consultancy firms and construction materials.
“Cement, sand and other materials were bought locally. We did not import them from China. We also use consultancies such as law firms, planners and architects, to name some. So, it is untrue to say that Forest City has not benefited Malaysia or its people,” he remarked.
Forest City Is The Cause Of Pollution?
To blame the pollution of the Tebrau Strait solely on Forest City alone is not fair. There was already pollution in that area because of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), and 60-odd projects taking place along the Sungai Danga and Sungai Pulai which too affect the Tebrau Strait.
According to Dr Serina Rahman of Kelab Alami, an environmental NGO based in Tanjung Kupang, intially the reclamation works for the Forest City project was worrisome as the waters off Tanjung Kupang is rich with marine life including sea grass.
“The sea grass has spread to the left of the development where there is more water movement. The seahorses are still there, the dugongs are still there, it’s just that they don’t come near the sand barges as they are noisy. There are other patches of sea grass closer to the port (PTP) so the dugongs are there,” she said in an interview.
“The waters off this area isn’t deep. Where Forest City is now was a place for the prawn fishermen to fish for prawns. When the reclamation started, their catch was affected,” she added. “However, the number of prawns have increased tremendously in this area and if you ask any of the fishermen, they will tell you that they are getting more prawns nowadays. Somehow, the sand that is being used to reclaim the area has brought more prawn species here. They may be invasive but I don’t think the fishermen are complaining.”
According to Dr Yu, Forest City was planned as a single 20-square kilometer island. “However, after doing the Environmental Impact Assessment we found that there is a huge patch of sea grass in the middle of where the island should be and decided to preserve it. So, we made Forest City into a four-island development instead – just for the sea grass,” he explained.
“We strive to protect the environment, knowing how important it is for the ecosystem to be able to flourish,” he said. “And because of what we are doing for the sea grass, our neighbour the PTP is also taking measures to protect the aquatic environment.”
I was happy to be shown photos of marine life off the Forest City project that include the Hippocampus kuda seahorses and the Jorunna funebris nudibranch.
Investing In Future Employees
‘Prosper Thy Neighbour’ is something that the management at CGPV holds on to. To increase the chances of employability, Forest City has embarked on several initiatives including providing free Mandarin and English language classes for the fishermen of Tanjung Kupang.
According to Shalan Jum’at, co-founder of Kelab Alami, Forest City has given funds to assist the local fishing community to buy nets and tools to repair them, and have set up a net-service centre at the Kelab Alami clubhouse. The fishermen would gather there to learn English and Mandarin from tutors provided by Forest City. This prepares the fishermen for the possibility of providing eco-tourism services for foreign tourists and future residents of Forest City.
Five local schools have also been adopted by Forest City where the children are being given Mandarin language classes financed by Forest City. Schools such as SK Tiram Duku in Tanjung Kupang are being prepared as future employees and service providers for the foreigners residing at Forest City.
“We would like to be inclusive and ask the Orang Asli in the surrounding areas to provide guides for eco-tourists but it is so difficult to change their mindset.” explained Dr Yu when asked about the involvement of the local Orang Asli at Forest City.
This was confirmed by Encik Noore bin Kasi, the Tok Batin or village headman of Kampung Orang Asli Simpang Arang.
“We would like to get involved in eco-tourism but it is difficult because the Orang Asli have difficulty to change their way of life,” he said of the difficulty faced. “They think that this (Forest City) project does not benefit them. They are wrong! Eco-tourism will definitely benefit them. Development comes at a very fast pace but the mindset of the Orang Asli is too slow to catch up.”
He stressed that the situation is made worse by the presence of outsiders, in particular NGOs that are anti-government that have been coming in and out of the village to spread negative views about the project and the government to the Orang Asli community. He is afraid that the opportunity to benefit from the project will get lesser as time go by, and if the Orang Asli are being bombarded with lies continuously, they will lose out.
How would Forest City help the locals? According to Datuk Md Othman, Forest City is aimed at foreign buyers, not Malaysians. This is to ensure that foreigners take up only what is being sold at Forest City, leaving the development on mainland Johor up for grabs by the locals.
“This is how Johor ensures that the local market is not spoilt,” he added.
Whether or not there is cashflow controls imposed by China, the rich Chinese who already have investments worldwide would still come to Forest City to buy properties.
Dr Yu is equally optimistic. “Forest City is within the One Belt, One Road initiative area. The High Speed Rail ensures connectivity between Forest City and the rest of Asia especially Thailand, and India. People with investments here from the Middle East or China can fly into Senai airport direct and not have to transit at KLIA. I am certain the cashflow control is just a temporary measure to make sure that they know where are the money being invested, and Forest City being a China-involved development project will surely see a surge in investors from China once everything has been consolidated.”
With more sales offices being opened in the Middle East and in Indonesia, Forest City will definitely achieve its target.
Dr Yu said, unlike Langkawi, Tioman or nearby Stulang, the island was not duty-free, but has a portion that is designated as a duty-free area. Within this duty-free area is a township, so that its population will be able to enjoy a lower cost of living because the retail goods and consumables will cost a lot less.
“Many things in Forest City will be “unprecedented”, so in that sense, the project will be exciting,” Yu said.
And for as long as Forest City exists, it will surely continue give good life to the people of southern Johor.