On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

None of Yayasan Selangor’s business

Have we become so politically partisan that we have refused to ask how this foundation, which has a horrible reputation for mismanagement, could possibly be able to utilise the land properly and efficiently?

There are now suspicions, rightly or wrongly, that the land currently being used by nursery operators would be passed on to crony developers once it has been acquired by the state.

Yayasan Selangor is not in the business of developing land. It cannot even run itself properly. We are now suddenly being told that the land where the nurseries are located has underground water pipes and that, for security reasons, the nursery operators have to move out.

But Yayasan Selangor will get the land. We should then be demanding to know why Yayasan Selangor would want the land with all these “dangerous” water pipes.

The fact is that these 50 nursery operators are sitting on land that is next to the over 1,300ha of land belonging to the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia which has been earmarked for redevelopment. The development in the area comes under the Greater Kuala Lumpur Strategic Development Project initiative which is under the 10th Malaysia Plan.

Of the present total land area, rubber plantations take up about 939ha (2,320 acres) while the remainder includes the nurseries and other buildings. So who can blame them if they are suspicious of the motives of the state government?

Even if we accept the argument that the state has the right to take over this land, we should be looking at the track record, or lack of it, of Yayasan Selangor.

Financial mismanagement has caused Yayasan Selangor to chalk up RM7.41mil in deficit from January till November last year.

In normal circumstances, the financial state of the foundation would have been called a scandal and there would have been a demand for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be set up to investigate it.

But it looks like many of the Barisan Nasional state assemblymen are still not thinking, acting and functioning like aggressive opposition leaders.

Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim himself has revealed that “expenditure that is not transparent, prudent or reasonable had caused the cost of Yayasan Selangor’s 40th anniversary celebration to reach almost RM1mil”.

The audit on Yayasan Selangor was done from Nov 29 till Dec 1 last year after the Sultan of Selangor snubbed the foundation’s 40th anniversary luncheon, which was scheduled for Nov 15, over its exorbitant cost. The luncheon was subsequently called off.

First, the state government said the luncheon was billed at RM300,000 but Selangor Umno claimed that the event would have cost RM800,000. The audit report showed that the foundation actually spent RM996,472 on the overall celebration.

The luncheon may have been cancelled but Yayasan Selangor still had to pay RM387,232. The other costs included RM225,000 for copies of the Quran, RM206,040 on souvenirs and clothes, and RM178,200 on a fishing competition.

Can someone shed some light over this fishy event involving public funds?

The audit report also stated that Yayasan Selangor could recover an estimated RM148,500 from the company in charge of the luncheon, but it had yet to do so.

The fiasco, however, did not stop the Yayasan Selangor board of trustees from paying themselves bonuses of RM5,000 last year – a violation of the foundation’s memorandum.

Yayasan Selangor’s board of trustees includes Khalid, who is chairman, former state secretary Datuk Ramli Mahmud, Selangor executive councillor Dr Halimah Ali, Ilham Marzuki, Datuk Mohd Arif Ab Rahman, Sulaiman Wak and Haji Mohd Adenan Deraman.

The only saving grace is that the Mentri Besar has taken action and revealed the contents of the audit, and a former deputy general manager has been charged in court on three counts of graft involving RM45,000 in connection with the anniversary celebrations.

The nursery operators who have been toiling the land for over 22 years are now being shown a grand plan submitted by Yayasan Selangor. It supposedly involves converting the land into an expo area with plans for flower shows, 24-hour security and proper lighting.

Who are Yayasan Selangor to tell these operators how to run their nurseries when they have no experience whatsoever in this business?

And if they buy the Yayasan Selangor idea, what about the security of the water pipes claim that has been bandied about?

The story doesn’t seem to tally at all. Would the water pipes/security claims suddenly vanish?

It’s just like the pomelo farmers in Tambun, Perak, who have finally been given a 99-year land lease after having to fight their case for years.

Then there are the ornamental fish rearers in Gopeng who are still fighting for their land despite bringing in millions of ringgit for the country.

These people truly deserve our support. They have toiled on their land for decades while contributing to the nation’s economy and no one should grab the land from them.

Certainly, in Sungai Buloh, Yayasan Selangor should learn to run itself first before telling the flower growers how to run their business. It’s really none of Yayasan Selangor’s business.