Sunday, July 23, 2006

NAJIB ARMS DEAL link High Performance Training Centre? – “A HOT Political and Diplomatic POTATO to the HIGHESET OFFICES in UK” but NOT in MALAYSIA?

It looks like the "cat is out of the bag" and this well orchestrated High Performance Training Centre proposal is doomed. The local Sun paper has a dossier of information and was well prepared when the proposal was mooted and shot it down with a lot of questions. Now from the UK end "This plan is a political and diplomatic hot potato which will reach the highest offices in the land" But will it reach our highest offices in Malaysia?

The HERTS & ESSEX Newsonlins has this story
Arms deal link with £73m leisure centre? 21 July 06

THE Malaysian government plans to use an arms deal with Britain as leverage to persuade planners to build a £73m sports centre in the Green Belt in East Herts, it was claimed this week.
Plans are being drawn up for a sports academy in the grounds of the Malaysian-owned Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre (TARRC) at Brickendonbury to help Malaysian athletes prepare for the 2012
London Olympics.

The move faces fierce opposition in
Malaysia, where the government has been accused of wasting taxpayers' money.

Deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak visited
Britain this week to speak about the plans for the centre.

He said: "The details, scope and budget have not been approved. We have only approved its concept but the youth and sports ministry needs to make a concrete proposal for the government."

He met defense procurement minister Lord Drayson to talk about buying two frigates and other military hardware.

The deputy editor of the Sun Daily newspaper in the Malaysian capital,
Kuala Lumpur, told the Mercury: "When we told our civil servants that East Herts Council will not allow any development, we were told not to be too worried because the deputy prime minister is also the minister of defence.

"One of them, a very good source of mine, told me that 'the deputy PM is signing a few defence deals in the
UK and he will get the right people to lobby for the approval."

East Herts councillor Nik Wilson said: "This plan is a political and diplomatic hot potato which will reach the highest offices in the land. Our Government may not be able to refuse
Malaysia, a major customer of the UK."

The Malaysian government has approached
East Herts Council about its plans. Council spokesman said: "We have had discussions but no application has been made.

"Members of the development control committee will make their decisions based on current Local Plan and Green Belt policies.

"If there was to be a departure from these policies, then the application would be referred to the Secretary of State."

TARRC is the research and promotion centre of the Malaysian rubber board.

..and the BACKGROUND
available from

How much has been spent? R. Nadeswaran

The Youth and Sports Ministry had never intended to build a full-blown sports complex for the proposed High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) in Brickendonbury, England for RM490 million as claimed. Upon the completion of a feasibility study, it was estimated that it would cost £65 million (about RM455 million) to build a full blown sports complex with all facilities. -National Sports Council Director-General, Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz.

A contradiction of sorts? If there were no plans to build a massive sports complex, why was a feasibility study done in the first place? How much was spent on the feasibility study to discover that it would cost such an astronomical sum to serve a handful of athletes?

So, all the denials inside and outside Parliament that "we do not know the actual cost" were nothing more than hot air and perhaps, misleading. From the word "go", these people were aware of the problems and yet they chose to conceal the truth.

It took someone no less than the prime minister to tell us that the London authorities would not allow the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia in Brickendonbury to be turned into a High Performance Sports Centre.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that they would not allow any extension to the present buildings as they wanted to preserve the area.

So, there was a plan and inquiries were made and we were told in no uncertain terms that "you can't go ahead". Period.

In short, what was dished out to the public by the minister, her deputy and NSC members were half-truths, to say the least.

So, why the need for surveyors and a secretariat?

By the way, Ramlan's claim that the "figure of RM490 million for the HPTC as quoted widely in the media was absolutely wrong and highly speculative" is pure bunkum.

If merely building the centre cost RM455 million, what about the other costs like staff, equipment and of course, the consultants' fees?

Now that the prime minister has put the record straight, shouldn't we stop the so-called surveys that have been commissioned and dismantle the secretariat which is being set up?

Shouldn't we cut our losses instead of putting good money on a useless cause?

This e-mail (pix) from Kevin Steptoe, the Head of Development Control in the East Herts Council, which was received yesterday, reaffirms the obvious:

"The site is located within the Green Belt. Green Belt is a form of planning policy designation for land. Within Green Belt, development would not normally be permitted unless it is for certain designated purposes. Small scale participatory sports facilities are a form of development that is allowed, but larger scale specialised facilities of the type you describe would not normally fall within the forms of development allowed. Where development does not fall into a group normally allowed, a case can be put forward setting out what are called very special circumstances which are in favour of a permission being given. This case would be for any developer to make, but if proposals were to come forward here I anticipate that the unusual nature of Olympic training requirements could be a basis. This council would then take this into account when making a decision on any proposals."

Every right-thinking person would put everything on hold in view of the PM's statement and the stand taken by the authorities in Hertfordshire.

Spending even a sen more would be an exercise in futility and an act of defiance, lack of common sense, morals and standards.

But before we close this sad chapter of yet another Malaysia Boleh effort which collapsed even before it could take off, let's have full disclosure on all sums expended

Let's have the names of the people who flew to London on taxpayers' money, the allowances they received and how much was paid in salaries to the so-called surveyors and secretariat staff. A little bird says that the feasibility study itself cost RM2 million. And please don't forget to also make public the names of the consultants and the remunerations they received.

Only such disclosure will appease the public who have been instrumental in preventing RM490 million going down the drain. Is that too much to ask in view of the PM's policy of openness?

Counting our lo$$es

When a large amount of taxpayer’s money is going to be spent on a project which at best can be described as an extravagance, there will definitely be opposition.

Thus, it was no surprise that from coffee shops to both sides of the aisle in the hallowed halls of Parliament, there were protests against plans to build a High Performance Training Sports Centre at the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia in Brickendonbury, London.

While authorities have been evasive and non-committal over the RM490 million question, truth of the matter is that it is too much and too soon - especially with the present less-than-favourable economic climate.

So, it came as a relief that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Wednesday declared that the sports centre project will be shelved, as the Hertfordshire council has said "no" to it.

Another reason that should have been cited is that the government cannot be expounding belt-tightening measures on one hand and on the other, splurging on a multi-million ringgit project which has little prospects of good returns.

But now that Abdullah has pulled the plug on the sports centre, he should take it a step further by demanding figures for the amount spent on work done; i.e. conducting feasibility studies and paying surveyors and consultants, as well as flying and accommodating officials in London.

Whether it is RM490 million or RM49, 000, it is still the people's money and every sen must be accounted for. Doing so would correspond with the PM's emphasis on transparency and accountability when he took office three years ago.

We are supposed to learn from the past. Obviously some of our policy makers and people who wear the tag of "educationist" have learnt nothing from history.

A lot of water has run under the bridge in the building of this nation.


Anonymous xazuru said...

whatever the reason that najib give.. makin a sport center out of Malaysia is just waste of money.

not to forget that london's cost of living is damn high too!

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Onlyme said...

Hi - how about doing away with all those awful colours? Saves you time trying to colour those sentences, and save the readers headache and eye-sore trying to read those lines.

2:32 PM  

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