TAR College grant a legal obligation on federal govt, says think-tank

Pamela Yong, deputy chairman of the MCA-linked Insap centre.

PETALING JAYA: An MCA-linked think-tank has accused finance minister Lim Guan Eng of turning TAR university college into a political pawn in a personal quest to get at the MCA.

Pamela Yong, deputy chairman of the Institute of Stratergic Analysis and Research (Insap) said the federal government was legally obliged to provide an annual matching grant to the college.

Any government funds should be paid directly to the college and not made via a third party, she said.

Last week Lim said that the government would provide RM40 million to a trust fund set up by the TAR Alumni Association (TAA) which would be used for the benefit of the college and students. He has insisted that the MCA give up control over the college before the government grant is paid directly to the college.

Yong said that the allocation to TAA was not the same as the matching grant that the government agreed to give the college in 1972.

“Originally, the TAR College’s matching grant was stated in a special instrument of government presented by the then Education Minister, Hussein Onn, to Parliament on 22 August 1972 to commit the government’s “dollar for dollar” support for TAR College to realise and deliver affordable education to all Malaysians.”

She said the cabinet in 2013 had agreed to give the institution RM60 million after it was endorsed by the Federal Government during a cabinet meeting on 5 Dec 2012, and the special instrument was revoked following the decision.

She said the matching grant to the college “is a legally binding contract by the government to aid the institution directly”. The college had received RM1.353 billion in total over the past five decades.

Lawfully, any financial aid to the college – whether by matching grant or allocation – must be given directly and not through a third party.

She said the college was accountable for every sen that it received directly from the government, which would be reflected in its accounts.

Even if the college received the RM40 million from TAA, the accounts now would reflect an NGO donation for which the TAR Education Foundation, which owns the college, may issue a tax-exemption receipt.

“But whether or not TAA will make this donation remains to be seen,” she said.

She urged the public to “vigilantly hold TAA and Lim Guan Eng accountable for this RM40 million out-of-budget allocation from taxpayers”.

She said the distortion of the issue by the minister had annoyed people so much that petty traders were now raising funds for the college, and that discontent over the government’s handling of the issue had “somewhat translated into the dire defeat of the PH government in the recent Tanjung Piai by-election.”