WE ARE countering your cover story “In default of tenancy deal” (StarMetro, Aug 12) by Bavani M and Shalini Ravindran.
The story is based mostly on half-truths provided by a source in the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac), a source with clear intent to misdirect over the recent termination of tenancy of social enterprise Asian Heritage Museum Sdn Bhd (AHM) at Carcosa Seri Negara.
Your report omitted the reasons why AHM’s tenancy – from April 2017 to March 2020 – was abruptly terminated in a high-handed manner at the end of May by the landlord, the Director General Lands and Mines Department (JKPTG), although we had nine months left.
It must be pointed out that Motac has a direct conflict of interest in this case for being a beneficiary since it is now the purported new tenant at Carcosa Seri Negara.
Motac has no official involvement in Carcosa Seri Negara and no locus standi, except for being a beneficiary, in the current tenancy dispute.
Any official views from Motac must come from either the minister or deputy minister as they are politicians answerable to the public. They would do so openly on such an important issue of public interest.
Therefore, this source clearly does not represent the official position of Motac.
The minister should carry out an investigation, with the help of MACC, on how Motac’s name has been misused by rogue and dishonest officer/s with a hidden agenda to spread slander.
This source, which surreptitiously manipulated your reporters to use the name of Motac (yet afraid to reveal their identify), is most likely a senior officer (or a small group of them) in Motac.
The aim is simple – discredit and defame AHM and perhaps that of its minister too, whom the source may have an internal problem with.
The source may also be part of plans or perhaps a conspiracy to hijack this sacred heritage and nature site, and sell it off to a private business entity later on.
We do not have any concrete evidence
at the moment but based on feedback and the manner in which AHM’s tenancy was terminated, there are grounds for this suspicion.
Carcosa Seri Negara is supremely important to our country’s heritage. It was where our Constitution was drafted and where the Merdeka Agreement was signed. It must be preserved at all cost for our future generations.
The public (the real owners of this site), media, politicians, government and NGOs concerned must ensure that Carcosa Seri Negara must never be sold off to any private business group for self-interest.
The report’s standfirst that reads “An artefacts museum has been evicted from Carcosa Seri Negara for owing the Federal Government more than a million ringgit in rent for over two years” is erroneous.
The title inside “End to business agreement” is also mischievous.
AHM’s role was meant to be a social tenancy with the focus on public interest from the start and not a normal business tenancy.
As reported in the online and mainstream press many times, AHM could not set up its Asian peace and heritage museum there due to the untenantable and unproductive conditions.
From the beginning, JKPTG had stated clearly in its letter dated April 7, 2017
(which superseded the letter of tenancy offer dated March 2, 2017 on the rental payable) that AHM did not have to pay any rentals until the building plans were approved by DBKL.
At least RM20mil was needed to fully repair and restore the two national heritage buildings. JKPTG had no such funds.
There is no money whatsoever owing to JKPTG from AHM.
JKPTG has already acknowledged this fact by its letters to AHM dated April 7, 2017 and May 14, 2019.
In fact, with the repairs and partial restoration, maintenance, upkeep, operations etc for the last two years and three months since AHM took over (at an estimated total cost of over RM2.5mil, fully borne by AHM), AHM could have made a valid claim against the landlord.
In the first letter of termination of the tenancy dated Jan 10, 2018 by JKPTG under the former government, it stated that a payment of three months plus one month deposit was due, but this was challenged by AHM.
JKPTG then did not pursue the termination until the new government took over.
JKPTG’s letter of termination dated May 14, 2019 rescinded their first letter dated Jan 10, 2018, and used the 30-day escape clause 2e(v) in the original letter of tenancy offer dated March 2, 2017 to terminate the tenancy without having to state any reasons.
This is in contravention of the Estoppel principle of law.
The three-year tenancy offer letter from JKPTG and subsequent letters represented a contract in law.
So it is nonsense to say there was no agreement in the first place. If there was no agreement, then on what basis did JKPTG terminate the tenancy?
The reporters also omitted a crucial fact that when AHM took over Carcosa Seri Negara, the site was in a horrible and derelict state. AHM had to spend so much at its own cost, time and effort to clean up, repair, restore, maintain, upkeep and operate.
Also omitted in the story was another crucial fact that in spite of the limited repair and restoration on the ground floor and surrounding areas of Carcosa and Seri Negara, AHM still managed to perform three important public services there:
l We organised a highly acclaimed, non-profit (free entrance), patriotic and pro-national unity Jalan Merdeka exhibition on the comprehensive journey to Merdeka, which was supported by the relevant government agencies concerned, two Rulers, media, NGOs, educational institutions and the corporate sector
l We made the place safe and clean for local and foreign tourists to visit and see (free of charge) the two heritage buildings where major historical events took place
l We enabled the public to book the place for filming, events and functions.
AHM had been very transparent since the beginning when it took over Carcosa Seri Negara.
Even the filming of Crazy Rich Asians in May and June 2017 was done with the written consent of JKPTG via their letter dated April 7, 2017 to AHM.
All fees that AHM had collected for all events/functions defrayed the high cost of repairs, maintenance and upkeep, which was not enough.
This was why AHM still made an audited net loss of RM279, 903 in 2017 and net loss of RM762, 970 in 2018.
The estimated total net loss up to May 2019 is more than RM1.3mil.
Besides the time and effort spent, this net loss is the sacrifice and contribution made willingly by AHM.
On your story, “Former minister uneasy over Carcosa deal”, you only quoted the former minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, which is not the full story and lacks context.
Wan Junaidi was the minister who directed JKPTG to terminate AHM’s tenancy at Carcosa Seri Negara in January 2018.
However, he later confided to AHM that he was directed from above to do it, so it was really not his fault.
When the then minister visited Jalan Merdeka on Sept 4, 2017, he was full of praises for AHM and his visit and statements were widely reported in the press.
He knew about the non-payment of rentals as AHM wrote him a letter dated Oct 25, 2017 to explain the situation and the letter dated April 7, 2017 by JKPTG on the non-necessity to pay rentals came from his agency (JKPTG).
Your reporters should have quoted from a more recent and authoritative source on how AHM was managing Carcosa Seri Negara – letter dated March 26, 2019 from Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad where:
* He congratulated AHM for taking good care of Carcosa Seri Negara.
* He stated that AHM had done a lot at its own costs by repairing the ground floor of the two national heritage buildings and maintaining the entire 12ha site for the public to visit and that AHM has organised the highly acclaimed, non-profit and patriotic Jalan Merdeka Exhibition.
ADVISORS AND ASSOCIATES OF AHM
Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (special advisor)
Tan Sri Dr Salleh Mohd Nor (Nature and Environment senior associate and consultant)
Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman (advisor)
Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin (advisor)
Commissioner (Rtd) Datuk Shabudin Abdul Wahab (security associate and advisor)
Hamidon Taib (advisor)
Azmi Anshar (media associate and advisor)
KK Tan (chief executive officer)