Amanah’s Khalid Samad has admitted backing a private property firm’s bid to overturn the revocation of approval for the transfer of a plot of land in Kuala Lumpur for a mixed development project in the city centre during his time as the federal territories minister under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
The Shah Alam MP made the admission despite a policy by the PH government against ministers flexing their muscle in favour of private companies.
Khalid however justified his act, saying the project would benefit the urban poor as part of it was for affordable housing, adding that it was in line with the ministry’s goal of providing one million affordable homes in the capital city.
“This was because those in the low- and middle-income groups in Kuala Lumpur needed affordable housing as the price of ordinary homes was beyond their reach,” he said.
He said he gave instructions to his aide to follow up on the request by Saujana Beringin Sdn Bhd, a company whose web of ownership has been tracked to several individuals including the younger brother of a former prime minister, because he was not part of the land executive committee for Kuala Lumpur.
“As such, it was appropriate that I give my view on this development proposal in writing,” he added.
His admission came on the back of a revelation by MalaysiaNow that Khalid had breached the policy of the PH government banning any act that could be seen as flexing ministerial muscle.
This included issuing support letters as well as giving instructions that could be seen as influencing decisions.
“The only thing that is permissible is the use of the words ‘for consideration’ or ‘please look into the matter’,” Khalid’s former Cabinet colleague from DAP, Anthony Loke Siew Fook had said last year.
Copies of letters leaked to MalaysiaNow by a senior source in Amanah showed Khalid’s handwritten instructions to his political secretary Azli Yusof to follow up on a letter from Saujana Beringin.
They also showed Khalid personally recommending that the request by the developer be approved.
He likewise urged the Kuala Lumpur mayor and the chief secretary to the government to approve the transfer of some 26 acres of land for the purpose of mixed development.
Khalid in his statement today said he could have erred in his choice of words, but maintained that it was not an instruction.
“And it is not possible for a minister to direct the chief secretary who reports to the prime minister,” he added.
It is understood that the Federal Territories Lands and Mines Office had approved the company’s application for the land in December 2017, but that this was revoked in November 2018.
The company decided to appeal directly to Khalid in December 2018, just six months after his appointment as minister.
“We also hope that you can give full support in reconsidering the decision to cancel the transfer of ownership for this land as the proposed development empowers Bumiputera entrepreneurs like us to make a significant contribution to the nation’s economy which at the moment is not encouraging,” the company said in its letter sighted by MalaysiaNow.