Why did MCA reject a RM 30 million donation to UTAR ?

Posted on September 10, 2010

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Till today, no one knows why MCA reject the RM 30 million donation from Mr Koon Yew Yin , founder of the IJM Corporation, Gamuda and Mudajaya Group, all leading public-listed construction companies. On 9 Sep, Mr Koon called a press conference to explain  his stand and refute Ipoh MCA’s Thong Fah Chong allegations that Mr Koon wanted a seat on UTAR’s council.

On 1 Sep, MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek  said , “Since I took office as party president, I was neither consulted nor approached by businessman Koon Yew Yin, who purportedly wants to donate RM30 million to Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman”.
He said he has checked with Utar council chairman, Dr Ling Liong Sik on the matter and that the university would soon issue a statement to explain on Koon’s offer. He ended saying  “The MCA leadership welcomes donations from all philanthropists to Utar”.

What could be the possible reasons why MCA reject this donation ?The 1300 acres of land given by the Perak state government for hostel construction lays idle till today. Meanwhile about 20,000 students has to seek accommodation by renting rooms from households nearby. It has been reported that a private company has been collecting annually RM 50 million in rentals from the students. It does not required a Sherlock Holmes in us to deduce someone or some groups affiliated with MCA  is profiteering from this. Allowing the hostels to be built will deprived these opportunists of a guarantee income. The vested interests of MCA’s members associated with UTAR  is blocking acceptance of this donation.  Accepting the donation from Mr Koon will mean no more excuses about insufficient funds from MCA.

This vicious circle is deeper than one could possibly think. Dr Chua saying he is ignorant of this donation is suspect.  As the donation is a massive amount, it is highly unlikely he is not aware about it. Pleading immediate ignorance will buy some time for the MCA president to come out with a plausible explanation. Assuming what he said is true, this would mean the whole UTAR council is working behind his back and keeping him in the dark. I wonder whether this donation was ever discussed in UTAR’s board meetings and if so, was it ever minuted ?

The reason given by the Ipoh MCA Thong is so weak that it could be easily refuted. Even if this is so, this not a good reason to reject the donation.

Dr Chua should do the right thing and accept the donation since Mr Koon has now openly stated his ” without any obligation”  terms. We are only concerned about the students welfare and construction of the hostels should be through open tender to dispute claims of MCA’s or Mr Koon’s companies connection and influence.

Press Statement by
Philanthropist Koon Yew Yin

Thursday 9 September 2010

I want to know why the MCA rejected my RM30 million student-aid offer

I called a press conference to refute the statement made by Ipoh MCA politician Thong Fah Chong as published a few days ago. He said that I wanted a seat on the Utar (Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman) council and because of that the university cannot accept my RM30 million donation to build hostels within its campus in Kampar, Perak.

I have never wanted a seat on the Utar council and what Thong said is not true.

The Ipoh Echo and the Centre for Policy Initiatives carry an advertisement of my offer of scholarships to help poor students whose family income is less than RM2,000 per month. In the last three and half years, I have given scholarships to about 70 really poor students and most of them are studying in Utar Kampar.

Scholarship recipients do not need to pay me back the money I give to them nor do they need to work for me. They only have to promise me that when they are financially solvent, they will help other poor students. In this way, I believe many who have benefitted from my charity will continue to do charity after I die.

Before the end of the year, my first scholarship holder will be graduating as an accountant. This student had 10A1 for his SPM but failed to get a scholarship from anywhere. Moreover, his father died soon after he completed his SPM. He is one of many thousands of bright but poor students who do not have the resources to further their education.

There are currently 12,500 students in Utar and 2,100 students in TAR College. The student population is increasing by 2,000 a year and is expected to hit well above the 20,000 mark soon.

As reported, the Perak state government has allocated 520ha of land and Utar has utilized less than 100ha for current development.

After receiving confirmation that Utar has no plan to build hostels, on 19 August last year, I offered a RM30 million donation to Utar to build hostels with all the net profit to go towards building more hostels. I have openly declared that my intention is to help the students and I do not want any part of the profit for myself.

The following is my original donation offer written on 18 August 2009:

Proposed hostel development within Utar campus, Kampar

I wish to donate RM30 million to Utar for a hostel development within the Utar campus on the following conditions:

(1) I solemnly declare that all the benefits derived from this hostel development is only for Utar in Kampar and not for my personal gain.

(2) A foundation to be set up under the control of a board of directors with me as chairman and four directors to be appointed by Utar council with my approval.

(3) The main object is to provide suitable accommodation with recreational facilities for Utar students within the campus.

(1) The rental rate must be sustainable and competitive. The return from the investment must be able to generate a profit of at least one million ringgit a year for scholarships to help poor students and additional funds for maintenance and new development.

Advantages of hostel and recreational facilities within the campus:

(1) To help students, especially new ones, to solve their immediate accommodation problem.

(2) Hostel environment is more conducive for learning and the development of human relationships.

(3) Currently the 9,500 Utar students are scattered all over Kampar and the university has practically no control over them after lectures. They are free to drink and gamble as much as they like. Moreover, they have the constant worry of their landlords kicking them out or they have to find new accommodation before the start of the next semester. Can you imagine living with this constant fear while you are burdened with lectures, examinations and financial difficulties? This situation cannot continue if the Utar council has a good alternative.

(4) University students are always burdened with a lot of difficulties and some students will develop irreversible psychological problem. Studies have shown that living in hostel have many advantages including the reduction of dropouts.

(5) Living in university hostel is the most pleasurable period of a student’s life. The hostel facilities will generate happiness and comradeship among fellow students. As a result, students are better prepared to face the competitive world after their graduation.

After having waited more than six months for Utar’s acceptance of my donation, on 1 March 2010 , I met Lau Yin Pin, chairman of Utar board of trustees and Prof Chuah Hean Teik, president/CEO of Utar council, in Kampar and I gave them in writing my final donation offer as follows:

Final donation offer letter to Utar made on 1 March 2010

Koon Yew Yin’s objectives and conditions for his RM30 million donation:

KYY’s mission is to help Utar students, especially the poor students in their access to university residential accommodation and scholarships.

(1) All the RM30 million donation and the profit from the rental and other income must be used for building hostels and other associated residential buildings for the use of students within the campus of Utar, Kampar.

(2) All construction contracts exceeding RM10,000 must be open to competitive tenders.

(3) The task force is to be composed of 7 members, 4 members to be nominated by Utar and 3 members to be nominated by myself or by my nominee.

(4) I will be appointed by Utar as adviser to the task force. The role of adviser must be spelt out and agreeable to me. This position will be a lifelong one. Any change to be made to the position has to be sanctioned by me or by the executors of my estate.

(5) Utar will utilize a team of people to manage the hostel on a commercial basis. The rental rate must be competitive and profitable but at the same time it should not burden the students.

(6) Koon Yew Yin and his estate reserve the right to authorise Utar to use a portion of the net income to create a Koon Yew Yin Charity Foundation to help poor students by offering scholarships or loans to Utar and other needy students.

(7) In honour of his donation, Koon Yew Yin wishes to have a tablet prominently displayed with these words inscribed:

“Recipients of Koon Yew Yin’s scholarships and residents of Koon Yew Yin’s hostels have only to promise him that when they graduate and are financially solvent they will help other poor people.”

The whole residential village is to be named Koon Yew Yin Residential Complex. Each hostel block should be named after the fundamental rights of citizens such as Liberty, Justice, Equality, Fraternity, Freedom, Integrity, etc.

From the start of the negotiation, Utar has insisted on having full control of the spending of my own money. This seems so ridiculous, yet I was willing to accept, and only adding the proviso of clause (3) above.

For the past one year, it is a puzzle why the board of trustees and council of Utar have had such difficulty in accepting my donation offer. Any reasonable donor, anywhere in the world, would have lost patience and given up much earlier.

It is with deep regret and disappointment that I now inform you that I wrote to all the members of Utar board of trustees and council yesterday to withdraw my donation offer.

As a result of Utar’s rejection of my donation, thousands of students will miss the advantages of living in hostels within the campus and thousands of parents will suffer in paying higher cost for accommodation for their children.

It is now up to the public, Utar students and parents to push for the building of the residential colleges using the university’s own resources. The public has the right to ask the MCA president the true reason why UTAR cannot accept my donation offer.