Decision to redevelop Sabah's trade centre questioned by GRS leaders

KOTA KINABALU: The decision to redevelop the state-owned Sabah Trade Centre (STC) building is being opposed by two Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) leaders.

Usno president Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee also questioned the rationale for redeveloping the building just because it did not have an occupation certificate (also known as a certificate of fitness for occupation).

Both Pandikar and Yong said that the absence of certification was not an excuse to redevelop the 10,000 square metre double-storey building that once housed government offices and used for expositions.

The two leaders said that some renovations would suffice for the building that sits within a 2.8ha prime land in Likas here to be safe and usable.

They added there was no necessity for it to be redeveloped by private companies into a high-rise.

Pandikar, who is Sabah's Special Envoy for the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) said he had written to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor for the building to be used for BIMP-EAGA office as well as for trade exhibitions.

Pandikar said he was surprised when Sabah Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship Minister Datuk Phoong Jin Zhe talked about redeveloping STC.

He also questioned the short notice given to the interim management to vacate the building as this affected 16 local companies and over 20 food stall hawkers using the premises.

Pandikar, who is also the Tanjung Aru Eco Development Sdn Bhd (TAED) chairman, also said Thursday (Feb 22) that TAED as a state-owned property developer could redevelop the building.

Yong was puzzled by Phoong's statement that the state government wanted to take back the STC land when it already belonged to the state.

"What is he talking about," he said, adding the STC should be repaired and renovated and not given to a private developer.

"STC is a dedicated exhibition centre," said Yong, a former chief minister during the Barisan Nasional government.

He said STC was conceived in the late 1980s, designed in the early 1990s, and built around 1997.

"The centre, which was declared open by the then Prime Minister, offered the best exhibition centre at the time," he said, adding STC played host to numerous trade exhibitions.

The STC was designed to be a low-rise building so that maintenance costs can be kept to a minimum," he added.

"It is flawed logic for the Industrial Development Ministry to now claim the place must be shut down with 72 hours' notice simply because it has no occupation certificate," Yong said.

"If all old buildings, though still safe to occupy, have to be shut down due to the challenge of OC compliance, then half of government buildings would also be shut down," he argued, adding that he estimates the cost of repairs to be only RM8mil.

"This is called 'Low Budget, High Impact' economics. Kota Kinabalu City would then get back its dedicated exhibition centre," he said, adding that there was no more need for high-rise buildings.

Amid the growing controversy about redeveloping STC, Phoong said that his ministry welcomed any ideas or proposals on redeveloping STC.

Phoong said that the decision was not an overnight decision, with the matter decided in the Sabagh cabinet in 2023 as there were no activities at STC for 10 years.

“It’s not the ministry’s sudden interest because the planning of redevelopment of STC had gone through the Cabinet last year.

“I don’t want to prolong this discussion because the government of the day needs to make decisions on how we move forward, and it is clear that the building is run down, with many complaints about the building's condition.

“So, the Cabinet last year made a decision to take back the land that was initially supposed to be sold to somebody, but the buyer did not want to pursue the purchase," he told reporters on Wednesday (Feb 22).

“I don’t want to make this into a political argument because this is straightforward. The government wants to take back the land, and it is not a wrong thing,” he added.

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