KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s Chinese community leaders must not sell a prime piece of land in the heart of the city here that was given by the state government in 1997, says former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee.
Yong, who facilitated the granting of the state land for building Wisma Tiong Hua in 1997 at a high political risk, said it was shocking for the Sabah United Chinese Chambers of Commerce (SUCCC) and the United Sabah Chinese Communities Association of Kota Kinabalu (USCCAKK) to decide to sell the land.
“I sincerely urge them to reconsider their decision to sell the prime land. This is because the loss of the land will be a big blow to the self-confidence and dignity of the Chinese community in Sabah,” he said in a statement here Wednesday (July 3).
He said the land belongs to the Chinese community and was meant for the building of Wisma Tiong Hua that would symbolise the success and pride of the Chinese community.
“That was the grand vision presented to me when the two associations came to me as the then Chief Minister to approve the land sometime between 1996 and 1997,” he said.
He said news reports on the proposed sale of the land had already raised serious concerns and dismay among the people.
“This is because people don’t believe that the SUCCC, being the premier business association of Sabah’s top business leaders, cannot develop its own land,” he said,
adding that land was given by the state at a cost of RM1,000.
He said that people can see that there were several successful developers in USCCAKK and it was a surprise that they cannot help the association realise its dream of Wisma Tiong Hua.
The association leaders must stick to the original intention – to develop the land for “community purposes,” he said.
Yong said that the time had come for him to tell the Chinese community leaders that he had to take a big political risk and a lot of efforts for the land to be granted to the two associations in the first place.
He said that it was done in the midst of the Sabah government’s move to fulfil its promise to curb gambling in the state and the then acting Prime Minister had summoned the state cabinet for a meeting in Sandakan on Aug 15, 1997.
“One of the accusations fiercely thrown at me was that I was granting prime lands to Chinese associations. I had to stand my ground.
"And I remain honoured and grateful that all the Sabah Cabinet ministers stood by me,” he said, adding that when the Prime Minister returned from overseas, he explained the issues affecting Sabah.
“He (the PM) accepted my explanation and left the matter to me. When I met the PM, my signed letter of resignation was in my pocket.
“If I had been asked to back track on the gambling issue and the land approvals to Chinese associations, then I would have resigned. But the PM left the matter to me,” Yong said.
He hoped that the two premier Chinese organisations would stick to its original purposes just like what the Sabah United Hakka Association and Foo Chow Association that put up their own buildings while even a Tawau Chinese Secondary School (Bah Zhong) and Syn Hwa primary school in Lahad Datu had developed their commercial and oil palm land granted to them to have steady income.