By Koon Yew Yin
My RM30 million donation offer to Utar
About 10 years ago, I started offering scholarships to help poor students complete their tertiary education. Most of my scholarship recipients were studying at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Kampar, Perak.
I told them they must remember that I helped them when they were poor, and when they had graduated, they must help other poor students as well. This way, I will be creating more and more charity workers as the years go by. Up till now, I have given more than 300 scholarships to help poor students.
About eight years ago, I offered to donate RM30 million to UTAR, which is controlled by MCA, to build student hostels within the university campus.
The Perak state government had given 1,200 acres (486ha) of land to UTAR. The university only concentrated on building lecture halls to make money and did not bother to provide student hostels because building student hostels is not as lucrative as building lecture halls.
I openly declared that I had no profit incentive and that all the profit from the rental should be used to build more hostels within the university campus.
MCA rejected my donation offer because a few of the MCA leaders, who owned most of the land outside the university, did not want me to disrupt their lucrative housing development business.
Whatever I said was not published in any of the newspapers because MCA also controls the news media. But this disgraceful episode went viral through the internet. As a result, almost all the MCA candidates lost their seats in the last general election.
Let me reproduce the first paragraph or introduction of an article published by retired Court of Appeal judge NH Chan.
On Nov 5, 2010, Chan published an article titled “Why should MCA interfere with UTAR?”
“Human nature is such that there are two kinds of human behaviour when it comes to charity — the pretentious and the altruistic donor. I have always doubted the sincerity of those who give to charity by proclaiming it under the flashbulbs of press photographers.
In these amusing photo ops, you see the donors posing with an enormous mock cheque to emphasise the size of the donation. If you’re truly charitable, why not dispense with the fanfare and write the amount on a normal cheque?
“Having said this, I can now tell you about the truly altruistic gesture of philanthropist Koon Yew Yin. He made an offer of RM30 million, quite gratuitously, for the building of hostels for University Tunku Abdul Raman (Utar) students in Kampar.”
(I shall post the whole article later for those who are interested.)
God worked in mysterious ways to help me make more money with my rejected RM30 million donation. I bought Latitude Tree, Lii Hen and VS Industry. The former two stocks went up more than 800% within two years, and VS went up 550% within 18 months.
As a result, I could easily afford to donate RM50 million to build student hostels in Penang to help poor students.
My RM50 million donation offer to the Penang government to build student hostels
With the exception of the government-sponsored Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), none of the other universities in Penang provide student hostel accommodations because building student hostels is not a profitable business. They just concentrate on building lecture halls to make more money.
About five years ago, I offered to donate RM50 million to the Penang state government to build student hostels to help poor students. I also openly declared that I did not have profit incentive.
The state exco met and allocated a piece of land of about 60,000 sq ft, located diagonally opposite USM.
As soon as the design drawings were approved, I called for an open tender for piling. I selected the piling contractor. Just before the piling contractor could start work, a Gerakan Datuk put in his claim for the land. He said when Koh Tsu Koon was Penang chief minister, he had been given the right to own the land.
This legal battle has been going on for about two years and God only knows when my problem can be resolved.
I hope Pakatan Harapan will win control of the government and resolve my problem as soon as possible.
Koon Yew Yin is a retired chartered civil engineer and one of the founders of IJM Corporation Bhd and Gamuda Bhd.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.