KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Question marks continue to surround the 1 Malaysia Spiritual Tourism project as more government officials expressed ignorance over the purported multi-billion ringgit planned development.
Despite the developer’s claims of official backing for the massive project to build a religious retreat for non-Muslims like Buddhists, Hindus and Christians in Gambang, Pahang, members of the state’s branch of Tourism Malaysia and the state tourism office insist they have not heard of it.
“So far, we have not gotten any information,” Tourism Malaysia Pahang tourism officer Fauziah Elias told The Malay Mail Online on Wednesday.
In a video presentation on the website for project developer Enchant Acres Sdn Bhd, group managing director Datuk Dr Allan Ho states that the 500-acre retreat will feature the largest columbarium in the world with five million niches to store cinerary urns.
Priced at US$4,000 (RM12,000) each, the niches would raise a theoretical total of RM60 billion that Ho said would be “more than enough for us to fund the whole building of this environment” that he said would start this year.
Ho is listed as a marketing and hospitality expert on the company website.
A “marketing plan” available on the same website depicts what appears to be a multi-tiered business model that promises early investors who make a booking of US$700 (RM2,310) per niche a 360 per cent return on their investment if they resell the reservation to the company.
Investors who allow their booking fees to mature further in the company’s possession until 2016 were promised a columbarium niche that the company said would appreciate to US$6,000 in four years.
The “marketing plan” also illustrates three tiers of memberships, from the entry-level “Kapitan” for US$2,100 to the top “Emperor” level that retails for US$7,000. Benefits and promised “compensation” increase based on the tiers, with the investors signing up for the uppermost tier standing to ostensibly earn up to US$20,000 a week, according to the plan’s claims.
Investors also stood to gain commissions based on bookings for niches that they manage to sell either personally or via a sales group that would then make them eligible to earn bonuses from an “Orchid World Pool” that could contain up to RM196 million.
A Pahang state tourism official, who declined to be named, also said he has never heard of the 1 Malaysia Spiritual Tourism project.
“We’re not aware of it,” he told The Malay Mail Online.
Enchant Acres’ website states that a 250-acre parcel of government land in Gambang has been approved for the project.
The Pahang state secretariat refused to confirm or deny Enchant Acres’ claim of government approval for the land when contacted on the phone this week, and told The Malay Mail Online to send enquiries via email instead.
They have yet to respond via email at press time.
Previously, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz also said that he was unaware of the mammoth faith tourism project.
According to Enchant Acres’ website, the 1 Malaysia Spiritual Tourism project will promote Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Christianity, as well as the Sai Baba and I-Kuan Tao movements.
Among the planned constructions are a 30-storey pyramid, which is supposed to be the largest pyramid in the world, as well as a giant Kuan Yin statue on top of the pyramid.
Kuan Yin is the Goddess of Mercy that is typically worshipped by Buddhists.
The project - which Enchant Acres says will start at the end of the year - will also include the construction of a recreational and commercial area that comprises hotels and resorts, food and beverage outlets, recreational facilities like clubs and entertainment centres, parks, gardens, business centres, and even a university-college, an international school, and other learning centres.
Earlier this week, Muslim group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) criticised the project and accused its developers of threatening the position of Islam in the country.