KOTA KINABALU, May 20 — A man claiming to be the Sabah businessman offering to donate two million Sinovac vaccine doses to Penang insisted his offer was genuine and not "bogus” as described by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaludin yesterday.
Identifying himself as Yong Chee Kong from Hong Kong-based investment company Xintai Enterprise Development Limited, he told Malay Mail when contacted that there was no link to the firm as he was acting in his personal capacity to donate the vaccines and never wanted the exposure.
"This is now a political issue. It’s not fair to me. We only wanted to donate the vaccines, not give cash,” said Yong.
He also asserted that the offer was not initially meant for Penang but Sabah.
According to the address that was included in the letter offering the vaccines to Penang, Yong is a resident of the state.
"I had reached out to the Sabah government via the chief minister but when they didn’t respond, Penang approached me and said since Sabah has rejected the offer, why not offer it to the Opposition?” he said during a phone interview with Malay Mail.
Yong also explained that the letter bearing his signature was written by the Penang DAP to be presented as a formal offer and that it unfortunately carried his private address and not that of a company.
"I didn’t write the letter, this is something my boss in HK wanted, it shouldn’t be my address,” he said.
Following the Penang government’s allegation that Putrajaya was blocking this "donation”, Khairy revealed yesterday that due diligence the government performed found no evidence that the donor had contacted either Sinovac in China or its local distributor here.
Khairy further alleged that there was no record of Yong or the company following checks in Hong Kong, after which the minister described the purported offer to be "bogus”.
During the dispute between Putrajaya and Penang, the purported offer letter was also leaked online, which included Yong’s address here.
Malay Mail visited the address, a home in an established upper-middle class suburban neighbourhood in the state capital, near a Chinese private school and about 10 minutes drive to the city centre.
The Taman Sinar Baru semi-detached unit appeared to be a family home, with several vehicles parked in front, but no doorbell.
No one came out when Malay Mail attempted to contact the occupants today.
However, during a previous visit by another publication, an elderly woman had emerged and provided Yong’s number when the reporters said they had been unable to contact him.
The publication shared this information with Malay Mail.
When Malay Mail contacted the number, the person identifying himself as Yong sounded surprised that he was being contacted about the matter.
Sounding as though he was chewing or eating when he answered, Yong asked how Malay Mail was able to obtain his number.
After this was explained, he told Malay Mail that his company name as included in the letter was inaccurate and that it should not have carried his personal address as the firm operated in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.
When asked if his offer to donate the vaccines remained valid, Yong claimed to have spoken to an aide to Khairy yesterday about the matter.
He reiterated that he would only donate vaccines that he procured himself and was not offering funds to purchase vaccines.
"But they want me to pay to a company in KL. I don’t want that. I know the costs,” he said.
Yong also said he was consulting his lawyer about whether to call for a press conference and clarify matters following the minister’s revelation.
"I’m still thinking about it. Of course I want to clear my name,” he said.
Yesterday, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow demanded that Yong’s company publicly address Khairy’s allegations as they were serious in nature.
Chow previously said the company had offered to donate two million doses of Sinovac, the Covid-19 vaccine from China, back in February, adding that the state secretary had officially written to the Health Ministry secretary-general for approval to accept the donated vaccine.