Develop beach front responsibly, Warisan tells Sabah govt ahead of Chinese investors’ entry

Party Warisan Sabah vice-president Datuk Junz Wong said that although development is welcomed, it must be done carefully and with the public, not profit, in mind. ― Picture by Julia Chan
Party Warisan Sabah vice-president Datuk Junz Wong said that although development is welcomed, it must be done carefully and with the public, not profit, in mind. ― Picture by Julia Chan

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KOTA KINABALU, April 20 — The announcement that the Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) beach project may get a boost from Chinese investors has sent alarm bells to the Opposition who are warning them to ensure they choose the right developers wisely.

Party Warisan Sabah vice-president Datuk Junz Wong said that although development is welcomed, it must be done carefully and with the public, not profit, in mind.

“This is shocking. GRS never consulted the public. There are no details, but more confusion and questions,” said Wong, who is also Tanjung Aru state assemblyman.

He said that the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government headed by chief minister Datuk Hajiji Noor needs to weigh the decision about developers carefully as there were many concerns — environmental, traffic congestion and public access to the popular beach.

He said that the initial Barisan Nasional TAED-proposed project never got off the ground because of public objections and the Warisan administration, during their reign from 2018 to 2020, did not approve any developers because they did not meet their requirements.

“Warisan is all for development. But pre-requisites and requirements were set, in order to protect and safeguard Sabahans’ rights and interests. For example, public ownership of the beach cannot be compromised. The public must be able to continue to enjoy the use of the beach as a public space,” he said, adding that economic benefits must also be guaranteed for the people.

“At the construction stage, developers must use local workers and not the so called Chinese experts. Upon completion, there has to be things like hawker centre for the benefit of local traders. These are steps to ensure local Sabahans feel the positive economic impact. We do not want a situation where Sabahans can only see mega projects but cannot feel the economic benefits.

“Thirdly, top soil for reclamation works must not be taken from nearby areas which are prone to landslide and erosion. We are talking about reclaiming big areas of the sea. So we do not want a situation where Tanjung Aru is reclaimed and developed, yet other parts like Penampang or Tuaran become negatively impacted with more flood,” he said.

“Fourthly, the project cannot be guaranteed by the government. This is to avoid the state coffers being impacted, should the project cost be bloated or declared fail in future.

“We do not want irresponsible developers to come in with some grand ideas, then declare it as a failed project one day because they know that the government is there to guarantee it,” he said.

He said that those were some of the requirements set by the Warisan administration upon receiving public feedback and he did not want to see Sabah’s coffers get depleted if the projects failed.

“Money that could be used for welfare, ends up being used to rectify mistakes of irresponsible leaders.

“These requirements could not be fulfilled by interested developers, hence the project was put to a halt.

“If a developer came forward and said they could develop Tanjung Aru into an international world class tourism hotspot, without taking away public ownership of the beach, and at the same time fulfil other requirements, that will be the best,” he said.

“But if investors just want to make money, and then neglect the rights and interests of Sabahans, why should we allow them to do so?

“It was unfortunate that during the Warisan era, we found out that most developers wanted ownership of the beach. They also want to use foreign labour and wanted a government guarantee,” he said.

He also said that because they did not have plans to revive TAED, they had invited hawkers from Tanjung Aru to repopulate the area and earn their livelihood.

He said that he hoped that the GRS government had the same priorities in mind when thinking of how to develop the prime beach land.

Yesterday, Hajiji announced that Chinese company CRCC International Investment Group Limited have shown interest in investing in developing the project after receiving a courtesy call.

The project was proposed in 2013 by the BN government.

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