Source: DAP Insider
IJM Land Berhad has been a major developer in Penang for a long time and the political tsunami of March 8, 2008 caught it by surprise when the BN administration led by Gerakan Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon was toppled by DAP in the General Election and Lim Guan Eng was swept into the Chief Minister’s seat in Penang.
IJM Land Berhad had many applications for property development in Penang which were pending approval by the Penang State Government. The most ambitious project was the Penang Waterfront project planned by IJM to be built over 152 acres of reclaimed land. This huge tract of reclaimed land was the result of the Jelutong Expressway (Federal Route 3113) which is a coastal expressway that connects the Penang Bridge to George Town, Penang. It is today part of the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, which runs for 17.84 km from the Prangin Road Ghaut junction to Batu Maung intersection.
One component of the development plans for the Penang Waterfront Project was a super high-rise condominium project called The Light Point – with proposed plan for 56 storeys – that will make it the highest ever residential project in Penang and the second highest building in Penang (after KOMTAR which is 65 storeys). It was designed to be the iconic building in Penang – designed like a light house to be seen even from afar. The project is part of a larger, more comprehensive mixed development spanning 152 acres on the Eastern coastline of Penang Island known as THE LIGHT Waterfront Penang. The entire development includes the construction of hotels, shopping malls, MICE, Cultural Centre, IT Hub, Office space and a seven acre landscaped seafront park.
Since there is now a new administration in Penang, IJM Land Berhad sent its Managing Director Datuk Soam Heng Choon and Dato Teh Kean Ming, the then Managing Director of IJM Properties Sdn Bhd to pay a courtesy call on Lim Guan Eng who is the new Penang Chief Minister and seek reassurance that their development projects will remain on track without changes. The meeting took place in April 2008.
It was a cordial meeting and understandably, the two gentlemen from a major corporation asked Lim if there was anything that they can do to assist him in developing Penang or any donations that they can make to help the construction of a new DAP Headquarters building in Penang. Guan Eng’s reply was quick and to the point – yes apparently the DAP would like to have a new HQ building so as to reflect their status as the ruling party in Penang. As such, he would be most happy to accept a RM3 million donation towards the construction of the new State HQ in Rangoon Road. This can be paid into the DAP Penang Building Fund. Datuk Soam and Dato Teh was shocked by such a blatant request but nonetheless kept their composure and indicated to Chief Minister Guan Eng that they will certainly make a donation but will need to discuss the exact amount with their Board of Directors.
Over the next two weeks, the Board of Directors of IJM Land Berhad met and the “request” for donation of RM3 million to DAP Penang Building Fund was discussed and a decision was made that a donation of RM1.5 million was to be made instead of RM3 million. The said sum of RM1.5 million was then subsequently paid into the DAP Penang Building Fund account and Guan Eng was informed of it by IJM.
Within 3 months, IJM Land Berhad received approval for their development project and to their shock, the approval for the LIGHT POINT project was slashed down from 56 storeys to only 28 storeys. Datuk Soam immediately sought a meeting with CM Guan Eng to clarify and seek an explanation.
The explanation from CM Guan Eng was very simple – the request was for a donation of RM3 million but only half of it which is only RM1.5 million was received, so likewise the approval was for “half” of what was applied – 28 storeys only instead of 56 storeys. It is simple mathematics.
Datuk Soam had no choice but to accept this as an expensive lesson from Guan Eng and over the next few years, he learnt how to do business with Guan Eng in Penang. Today, save for that hiccup in 2008, IJM Land remained as one of the biggest developers in Penang and continues to focus on its iconic waterfront project in Penang, known as The Light Waterfront. It has launched its first phase consisting of three residential projects called The Light Linear, The Light Point and The Light Collection. Phase two comprises a mixed development including a hotel, corporate park, office towers and business hotel, fashion mall and waterfront dining and entertainment district. Its third phase, according to the master plan, is a sea front park.
The whole waterfront project spans a total of 152-acres and will be developed over the next 12 to 15 years via Jelutong Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of IJM Properties Sdn Bhd.