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‘sPICE runs foul of FoI’

 | February 20, 2012

Penang MIC chief criticises Pakatan government's reluctance to divulge details of contract signed between MPPP and the developer for public scrutiny.

GEORGE TOWN: The secrecy shrouding the Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centres (sPICE) contract runs foul of the recently passed state Freedom of Information (FoI) Enactment.

MIC state chairman PK Subbaiyah criticised the Penang government for not walking its talk on FoI by publicly revealing details of the sPICE contract signed between the island council (MPPP) and developer Eco-Meridian Sdn Bhd (EMSB) on Aug 19, 2011.

He said the Pakatan Rakyat state government’s reluctance to reveal details of the sPICE contract had also run foul of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s CAT hype of competency, accountability and transparency.

“Why is the state government is so secretive about the sPICE contract? Why is it not revealing details of the contract for public perusal?

“This contradicts its own FoI and inconsistent with CAT principles,” Subbaiyah told a press conference at the Barisan Nasional state headquarters here today.

Also present were state BN working committee and Gerakan chairman Dr Teng Hock Nan and PPP chairman Loga Bala Mohan, and state BN secretary Dr Hilmi Yahaya.

Last November, four local ratepayers filed a civil suit seeking a High Court order to declare the sPICE agreement as null and void.

In their joint affidavit, the four – R Rama Krishnan, 59, Abd Manan Abd Manap, 58, K Sathiasilan, 53, and Khoo Yen Her, 37 – have claimed that the agreement signed on Aug 19, 2011, was ultra vires Section 9(1) of the Local Government Act 1976.

CM Lim must clarify

The four are seeking the court to declare the 1,500 housing units leeway given to sPICE developer EMSB, a subsidiary of SP Setia Bhd, under the agreement as null and void.

They claimed that EMSB or any other SP Setia subsidiary has been given a free hand to build the houses in any project, anywhere, on the island within a stipulated period.

They claimed that the state authority had forced the MPPP to agree to an increased density for the housing leeway overlooking related rules and regulations.

They claimed the state authority, which is the state exco, had usurped municipality powers, provided under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 to force the MPPP to sign the contract with EMSB.

The state government and executive councillors, along with MPPP and Eco Meridian have filed an application at the High Court to strike out the suit on the basis that taxpayers have no locus standi in the matter.

At the press conference today, Teng said BN viewed with ‘utmost seriousness’ the state government attempt to strike out the ratepayers’ suit.

He raised a question on whether the 1,500 extra density units were included as among the conditions in sPICE contract when the state government invited bids in an open tender.

“It’s time for Chief Minister himself, not others, to clarify publicly about sPICE,” he said.

Given that the sPICE case would be up for court hearing soon, he called on Penangites “to stay focused on the pressing issue to know the truth.”


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