In 2008, shortly after being sworn in as the 4th Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng moved into a bungalow on 25 Pinhorn Road.
Lim purchased the property in 2015 for RM 2.8mil (roughly RM275 per square foot) while a property a few doors down was sold for over RM700 per square foot a few months later.
Lim claimed that he had agreed to purchase the property before the 13th general election and former owner Phang Li Koon agreed to hold it at that price.
Kuala Lumpur International Dental Centre (KLIDC) won a controversial tender for a piece of valuable land in Taman Manggis, Penang in 2012.
The Taman Manggis land was sold at roughly above RM11mil and many believed at that time and continue to believe that the property was worth much more.
After purchasing the land, KLIDC applied successfully to alter the development conditions attached to the land allowing a mix of medical and commercial development to be undertaken on the said piece of land thus appreciating its value considerably.
It could be said that the state government and the people of Penang have lost out financially.
Phang then swore a statutory declaration that she is being maligned and the sale of 25 Pinhorn Road has nothing to do with the Taman Manggis land or KLIDC.
She claimed that she was good friends with the wife of the Chief Minister and she was indeed proud that Lim and his family were residing in her property as tenants and now as owners after she sold it to him.
Lim also took the media on a tour of the property, ostensibly to show that its value is close to what he paid for despite renovations works undertaken previously that would naturally have increased the value of the property.
When asked by reporters if he knew the property was undervalued, he merely replied that he was not a real estate agent. Also, a lawmaker from his party as claimed that Lim was an accountant and not a surveyor or property valuer.
Later, when confronted with an assessment of the stamp duty payable on the property and the value that was assessed by the Inland Revenue Board which was over RM4mil, Lim changed tack and said he indeed knew that the price he paid was lower but no where near to the concocted amount of RM6mil that was alleged by Barisan Nasional and other critics.
Lim went on to castigate the media for misrepresenting his statement even though there is video evidence of his denial on knowing the value of the property beyond what he paid for it and an admission that he is not a real estate agent. The media have been made convenient scape goats to masks his own economical approach with the truth.
Further, BN nor its allies never claimed that the property was worth over RM6mil.
The allegation remains and it is unrebutted that he underpaid for 25 Pinhorn Road compared with comparable properties sold over a similar period on the same road.
There has been no “BN lies” as claimed by Lim, merely pithy, crass and somewhat disjointed responses from DAP leaders including the most laughable claim that the property was sold cheaply because it had bad “feng shui.”
In order to extricate themselves from what was a clearly messy situation, they have selectively released minutes of a state executive council meetings in 2005 and 2007, ostensibly that the previous BN state government had rejected a request from the Land Commissioner for the said land to be acquired to develop public housing and instead, proposed a mixed development.
In the interest of full and frank disclosure, the full minutes of the meetings should be disclosed to ensure the public is presented with a complete picture.
Further, assuming that BN had actually balked at the idea of developing Taman Manggis for public housing,then the state government that has always fashioned itself as a people’s champion should have earmarked the land for public housing.
Instead they sold it at a bargain to KLIDC then allowed KLIDC to change the terms of the development conditions providing for an increase in the value of the land.
To quote part of a press release by Gerakan National Legal Bureau chairman, Datuk Baljit Singh, Lim must answer the following questions:
1. What is the market rate of the house? How much is the going rate per sq feet , and how much he pays for it?
2. If the house is sold cheaper than the market rate, why is the seller selling it cheaper?
3. Is there extensive renovation of the house prior to selling/renting it out? If so, then it does not matter whether the house is 30 years old or five years old. An old house that is extensively renovated is as good as a new house.
4. If the selling price is below market rate, then we cannot simply attribute it to “willing buyer” willing seller. Just like the 2.6bil donation, we cannot just conclude that it is a case of willing donor willing receiver. We need to know whether the seller has benefited in any deals.
To put to rest the speculation and the innuendo surrounding the situation, my advice to Lim is to stop the muddled and disjointed responses and as Phang has already sworn a statutory declaration, he should do the same and answer the questions above.
Those who demand unbridled integrity must subject themselves to the highest levels of scrutiny. Only then their claims of public probity will hold water.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.