KOTA KINABALU: Former chief minister Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee has urged the leaders of the Sabah United Chinese Chambers of Commerce (SUCCC) and The United Sabah Chinese Communities Association of Kota Kinabalu (USCCAKK) to reconsider their shocking decision to sell their prime land at Karamunsing.
He said this was because the loss of the land would be a big blow to the self-confidence and dignity of the Chinese community in Sabah.
“The land belongs to the Chinese community. That is why the building is supposed to be called Wisma Tiong Hua.
“On the land is supposed to rise a magnificent building that symbolises the success and pride of the Chinese community,” he said.
Yong reasoned that was the grand vision presented to him when the two associations came to him as the then chief minister to approve the land, and that was in 1996 and 1997.
He said the news of the proposed sale of the land had already caused dismay among the people.
“This is because people don’t believe that the SUCCC, being the premier business association of top business leaders with wide and deep access to banks, cannot develop its own land. The land was endowed at RM1,000 free from encumbrances. It was a debt-free land,” Yong explained.
He said people can see that there are several successful developers in USCCAKK.
Yong said since they have proven expertise to develop their own lands, people cannot understand why they cannot use their expertise and experience to help the association realise its dream of Wisma Tiong Hua.
At various informal occasions, “I had pointed out to the association leaders to stick to the original purpose – that is to develop the land for ‘community purpose’.
“This is what the Sabah United Hakka Association has done successfully. This is what the Foo Chow Association has achieved.
“The Tawau Chinese Secondary School (Bah Zhong) has developed their commercial land and has been receiving good income from the shops. The Syn Hwa primary school at Lahad Datu has also similarly benefited from the oil palm land granted to the school. There are many other successes that make us proud,” he said.
So, what is stopping these two top associations from building Wisma Tiong Hua? asked Yong.
Behind the scenes pressures never revealed before, Yong said.
“The time has come for me to tell the Chinese community leaders that it was not without much efforts and political risks that the land was granted to the two associations.
“In the midst of the raging battle by the Sabah Government to fulfill its promise to curb gambling in Sabah in 1997, the then acting Prime Minister had summoned the Sabah cabinet to a meeting at Sandakan. That was on 15 August 1997 at the Ramada Hotel (now Sabah Hotel) in Sandakan.
“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.
Yong said when the Prime Minister returned from overseas, “I explained to the PM the raging issues affecting Sabah. He accepted my explanation and left the matter to me. When I met the PM, in my pocket was my signed letter of resignation.
“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, adding “That is why I feel a deep sense of pride and relief that the KK Hakka Association, of which I am a member, had objected to the sale of the land at the general meeting of the USCCAKK”.