KUALA LUMPUR: MCA president Wee Ka Siong today said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng wanted to place several of his “preferred” Tunku Abdul Rahman Alumni Association (TAA) trustees in a foundation to manage Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC).
He said the message was conveyed to him and former MCA president Liow Tiong Lai, who is the chairman of the board of governors of TAR UC, by a PKR leader in July.
“The person told me and Liow that he (Lim) wanted us to change half of the board members (of the TARC Education Foundation) so that his preferred TAA candidates can fill up the vacancies.
“This is outright bullying and we cannot accept it,” he said at MCA’s annual general meeting at the party’s headquarters here.
Wee said another meeting between them and the PKR leader as well as Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Saifuddin Nasution took place in August, where the minister said he hoped the issue concerning replacing trustee members could be resolved.
“If the authorities require us to replace the board with four new trustees who have nothing to do with MCA, we will adhere to their wish and resolve the problem amicably, once and for all.
“We insist on acting according to the foundation’s memorandum of association, so we can recommend trustee members for his (Saifuddin) ministry’s approval, rather than the finance ministry’s,” he said.
TAR UC is owned by the TARC Education Foundation, which comes under Saifuddin’s ministry through the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM).
Wee said Liow met Saifuddin again in October to present the names of four individuals to the ministry and SSM.
He said the four – former Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) president Chuah Hean Teik, accountant Khoo Chin Guan, senior lawyer Roger Tan and businesswoman Tan Siok Choo – were alumni and corporate figures. Siok Choo is also the granddaughter of MCA founder Tan Cheng Lock.
He said their names had been submitted for over one month but had yet to receive approval, adding that SSM had previously agreed for them to change their board members by December.
Wee said another incident which took them by surprise last week was when the finance ministry sent a letter saying the TAR UC’s current board members were “illegal” on grounds that they were MCA members.
“Do we have a law that stops political party members from becoming members of a foundation?” he asked, adding that the order was a violation of human rights.
Another “bullying” incident, he said, happened in January when the Inland Revenue Board issued a letter saying the foundation “did not meet specified regulations” despite having given its clearance.
He said that according to the letter, 50% of the trustee members must not have any relationship with its founders and must not be members of the board of directors for its parent company or affiliate company.
“If it were not for the intervention of the finance minister, how could the Inland Revenue Board unreasonably cancel its own official letter sent earlier that confirmed the TARC Education Foundation had complied with the rules?” he asked.
Wee asked whether Lim dared to challenge the composition of the board of trustees of the Perdana Leadership Foundation, which adopted a similar structure as the TARC Education Foundation.
“He is acting like a bully to MCA but is submissive towards Dr Mahathir (Mohamad),” he said.
Wee has been fighting for an allocation for Utar and TAR UC from last year after Pakatan Harapan slashed its funding.
Utar and TAR UC will only receive RM1 million for development purposes under the 2020 Budget, compared to RM5.5 million in the 2019 Budget.
Lim had repeatedly said the institutions’ board of trustees should relinquish their posts if they want more government funding.
If MCA relinquished its control over them, he said, Putrajaya would immediately reinstate funding of RM30 million for this year and next year.
Recently, Lim also said a yearly allocation of at least RM30 million had been approved for a trust fund managed by TAA and told MCA to relinquish their posts in the alumni.