A large number of senior public servant join the Kelab Golf Perkhidmatan Awam (KGPA), which was originally called Kelab Rekreasi Perkhidmatan Awam or KRPA. Similar privileges were given to selected public servants (read: Gred Jusa and above) to join other private member clubs like the Royal Lake Club, Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC) and Kelab Golf Negara Subang (KGNS).
These club memberships were encouraged and modelled after similar private clubs of the British Commonwealth of nation-states. They, over time became elitist clubs, where major policies and public concerns were discussed and resolved by an ‘old boys club’ without going through the formal media or social media; as it is done today.
But, today, the government of our independent nation we call Malaysia, has actually gone even one step further. The federal government, with the involvement of senior public officials, have even developed such clubs to fully encourage such membership clubs. The KGPA is one such club.
It is my belief that KRPA was the original initiative. I am told, that the then-mayor of Kuala Lumpur City Hall moderated the issue with two former public officials of the Administrative and Diplomatic Service (PTD); both chief secretaries of the government, and then they made their argument to the then-prime minister; who finally agreed to it, when he was convinced of their arguments.
Consequently, the commissioner of Lands of the Federal Territory, or the director-general of Lands and Mines, allocated some of the government-acquired lands for public development, from private owners, towards the KRPA, while the Sime Darby Group developed their Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC) where international ladies golf tournaments are held today.
The Equestrian Club was also part and parcel of the same land acquired by the government and so are the lands surrounding Taman Tun Dr Ismail Park were also acquired. Today, the walkers and hikers of the TTDI Hill notice it’s being upgraded for public use but we also hear ‘rumours’ that there is a plan to convert the neighbourhood green lungs into housing development projects.
My four questions
Premised upon all of the above, I now have four questions I am directing to the office of the chief secretary of the government of Malaysia. The chief secretary is the most senior public service officer and is currently the highest level public servant and secretary to the cabinet. He is the only permanent cabinet member, and symbolically acting prime minister, when the government is being formed after dissolution of the government of the day. He is also president of KGPA.
Question 1: Whose lands were these and how were these acquired public lands allotted to different private interests for further development? If and when they are allotted to private developers, like the KRPA, what are the terms and conditions tied to the proper use of those lands?
My reasons for asking this question are rather simple and straightforward. My understanding is that the lands were allocated to the KRPA ‘project promoters’. I further understand that the FT chief land officer gave the promoters a conditional land lease for a period of 60 years. The promoters went ahead to develop the land and grow their modified golf club agenda.
Somewhere along the way, the ‘recreation club agenda’ morphed into a golf club agenda. Therefore and thereby most of those who join are almost limited to senior grade 1 officers and one may not see too many grade 2 or 3 officers although the original agenda and justification was for all public servant as a recreation club.
I wonder aloud therefore, “Why did it get changed into a golf club?” Maybe the terms and conditions will help me understand the logic and rationale why the non-senior officer of public service are excluded, by default.
Question 2: Who are the trustees of this property as, if the allocation is for 60 years, then we need an open and transparent set of trustees to ensure that the use and deployment of these lands are consistent with the original terms and conditions?
Over the last 54 years, our excellent land administration system, modelled after the Torrens system of Australia, is one of our well-kept secrets as to why the growth and development of Malaysia could proceed with such speed and acceleration. Many other democracies, whether Indonesia or India, do not have an equivalent system and suffer serious delays thereby.
Question 3: Was the trustee board for this tract of land, “which is being held in trust” for all public servants, informed and did they agree to new development project of a hotel within the same geography of the concession?
In my experience, 10 Royal Military College (RMC) alumni and classmates took an initiative to purchase a half plot of small holder oil palm land some 30 years ago. To ensure we did not run away from the original intent, we appointed a three-person informal board of trustees to make all decisions to keep the other seven in the loop and remain accountable.
We successfully sold that tract of land and distributed even the gains which are also text-exempted, trust delivered; against all those who trusted us.
That does not mean that in every case trust is moderated by the trustees. As in the many Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) cases of corruption against the land officers in Johore, there are always ‘project promoters’ who do it for ulterior motives, if not challenged and held fully accountable.
Question 4: At the EGM to promote the hotel project, I asked you publicly, if you chairing the meeting was as conflict of interest and you confirmed publicly that it is not. I disagree and state my reasons below:
- All approvals for Land Development in KGPA will go to City Hall and KPTG; both are senior officers who are promoted and probably appointed by you to their posts.
- After an EGM chaired by you, which approves the proposal ( I do not know if it was, as I left the meeting when you said there was no conflict of interest), do you honestly believe that the mayor and KPTG will not consequently approve the project?
- I noticed that the two of three retirees who spoke to “shut me up” were both ex-City Hall officers, and so, this project and its consequential approval raises more issues of concern for me and many others.
Dear Sir, as your senior PTD officer, I have a moral obligation to do the above. We were always called to be neutral and professional public servants and let the politicians do the double-speaking. I therefore will state and rest my case.
KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback or views.- Mkini