Controversial workers' hostel in Penang did not meet requirements, says CM

GEORGE TOWN: The controversial five-block workers' hostel in the Silver Jubilee Home in Sungai Dua was not given the go-ahead as it did not satisfy requirements, including having a legal team to protect the home's interests, says Chow Kon Yeow.

The Penang Chief Minister, who is chairman of the home's board of trustees by virtue of his position, said that three trustees of the home had commenced preparatory works earlier on their own accord before he was briefed about it in April 2022.

"The briefing included verbal clarification on the proposed terms and conditions of agreements relating to the proposed project.

"I acknowledged the trustees' efforts, particularly Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping, in using the proposed project to generate sustainable income for the Silver Jubilee Home.

"However, the proposed project is not exempted from adhering to and meeting the requirements of all due processes," he said during a press conference in Komtar on Friday (Dec 1).

Chow said in July last year, his office received draft documents in forms of a master contract, tenancy agreement, lease agreement and power of attorney (POA) to formalise the deal with Winbond Holdings Bhd.

"The documents were to formalise contractual relationships between the home and a company identified as Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd (MESB).

"MESB was subsequently replaced by another company identified as Winbond Holdings Bhd," he said.

Chow said that apart from the POA, the remaining draft documents had revealed that the home, landlord and lessor were not represented.

"In legal terms, reference to a party being 'unrepresented' indicates that the home is not legally represented by any registered legal firm," he said.

Chow said as the proposed project did not go through an open tender process, and seeing that the home was not legally represented and in adhering to the competency, accountability and transparency (CAT) principles of the state, he instructed his office to send the draft documents to the state legal adviser's office for their advice and comment.

"Having weighed on the content of the state legal adviser's opinion on Aug 22, last year and the fact that the Home was not legally represented, my officer was then instructed to convey my suggestion that the home should engage a lawyer for independent legal advice.

"This was done by way of an email dated Aug 25, last year to a fellow trustee who is also a practising lawyer.

"A follow-up by my office sometime in October last year with the said trustee indicated that there had not been any action taken as per my suggestion.

"To date, I have not received any update that the Home had in fact engaged an external legal firm for advice," he said.

Meanwhile, responding to Tan's resignation, Chow said the state appreciated Tan's commitment in pursuing the growth and running of the home over the last 15 years.

Earlier, Tan had announced his resignation in a separate press conference that was held at the Home.

He said he had worked to oversee the transformation of the home, including plans to optimise the current vacant land and meeting up with representatives from companies specialising in construction of hostels and living quarters to build the five blocks of workers hostel to be rented or leased for a period of 30 years.

"There is no hidden political agenda behind the project nor is the same laced or tainted with any ulterior and unscrupulous intent for commercial gains and profits for certain quarters," he said.

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