(Press Statement By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On 2.8.2017)
This violates a fundamental principle of Freedom of The Press Namely A Right Of Reply. In the public interest, I will release my reply in full to allow the true story to emerge on the so-called controversy over the “50, Love Lane” property.
The Star’s Joceline Tan typically mixes her usual staple of innuendo with half-truths to cast a negative light against the Penang state government in her Sunday column on 30 July 2017 under the heading, “Political standoff over 50, Love Lane”. The so-called controversy revolves around the refusal of the Penang Chinese Clans Association (PCCA) to obey the rule of law, in the transfer of the property at 50, Love Lane.
PCCA Chairman Chang Wei Lu has instead chosen the road of public confrontation against the state government, even though the state government has fully fulfilled its promises to transfer the property for a land premium set at a nominal sum of RM1. Such public confrontation and attack against the state government may not be surprising, when those who are openly pro-BN are also in PCCA, such as PCCA deputy president Lim Mee Lee.
To give a short background, this dilapidated Love Lane property was connected to the Ghee Hin society, vested by court order in 1909 under the name of trustees. The trustees are naturally now all deceased. The property has a long backlog of unpaid assessment duties and quit rent. The Penang state government even had to spend a substantial sum of money to prop up the dilapidated building to prevent it from collapsing.
PCCA wanted the property transferred to their name, claiming a connection with Ghee Hin through their ownership of another Ghee Hin property, Meng Eng Soo in Jalan Pintal Tali. The state government was agreeable. During discussions between myself and Chang, the state government had agreed to the proposal to confiscate the property and hand it over to PCCA.
However, Chang failed to tell me that PCCA did not own Meng Eng Soo in Jalan Pintal Tali, which was still in the name of another set of different long dead trustees. In other words, even though PCCA was operating Meng Eng Soo, it was not the legal owner. Legally, this changes the whole equation as the legal nexus of connected property ownership, with PCCA as the owner of Meng Eng Soo and by extension the Love Lane property, is broken.
The state government does not blame Chang for failing to tell us that PCCA does not own Meng Eng Soo, because he may not have realised its legal significance. But why then is he peeved and blaming the state government, when the state government is not the cause for this legal complication?
The state government cannot just do as it wishes, by simply transferring over the property to PCCA, unless we can prove some sort of legal connexion. That is what we sought to do to seek documents from PCCA’s lawyers, to comply with land laws as a government that abides with the rule of law.
Unfortunately, Chang threw a public tantrum when we requested that PCCA send its lawyers to furnish some documentation legal or otherwise, to see how the state government can conduct the transfer of the property legitimately. Chang initially refused to even send his lawyers to meet with our Land Office, even though this is standard legal practice in any transfer of property, as anyone who has purchased a property can attest that a lawyer is needed.
Never at any time did the state government refused to transfer the property to PCCA or intended to profit from the transfer as claimed by BN. BN’s lies were disproved when an official letter was sent to PCCA setting out the RM1 nominal land premium to transfer the property, together with request for furnishing documentation.
What then is so difficult about furnishing documentation to see how we can effect the transfer of property legally? Instead, Chang took a decidedly political turn by openly and continually attacking the state government. Joceline Tan reported that Chang is organising a dinner next week, where he will fully relate the background to the issue, the threats against him as well as a smear campaign including his alleged love affair.
This is the first time that he is talking about threats to his safety and a smear campaign of his alleged love affair. If true, Chang should either lodge a police report and file a defamation suit. This is the type of scandalous reporting filled with innuendos that has got Joceline Tan into trouble in the past. Lest she forgets, ‘The Star’ newspaper has publicly apologised to me in their newspaper and withdrew what she wrote about me in her columns in the past.
For these reasons, the state government has decided that this matter be handled officially, strictly between their lawyers and our Land Office. We believe that the transfer of property can be still be effected through rational discussions with their lawyers, though it may take some time.
Despite that, Chang is still looking for a fight with the state government for reasons best known to itself. Chang may have obtained some backing from BN, but as a state government that upholds the rule of law, we will not be bullied. Let history judge us as a government that respects the rule of law, whatever price we may have to pay.
LIM GUAN ENG