Ramadan Bazaar Row: How A Bersatu Youth Chief Allegedly Misused His Political Connections
After 9 May, the new Pakatan Harapan Government has shown the will to act on the things as they promised to voters. However, it appears certain individual members of the PH coalition still prefer to skirt around the old ways of using connections to fill their pockets.
Bukit Bintang Bersatu Youth chief, Mohd Noorhisyam Abdul Karim, a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) division in Kuala Lumpur, have been accused of using his political connections to secure permits for 80 bazaar lots from Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for a total of RM6,238.40 and then selling each permit to the Ramadan bazaar traders for up to RM5,000 per lot, allegedly making up to RM400,000 from the traders.
The Bukit Bintang Bersatu Youth chief, however, has denied taking money from the traders, saying the only funds he collected was to pay for the RM6,238 fee that was imposed by the DBKL for licensing, cleaning and rental for the lots.
"I collected the exact amount, and that is all. If there is any evidence that I accepted money, asked for money, furnish it," he told Malaysiakini in an interview, adding that all he wanted to do was to help traders who could not get a lot from DBKL.
"I am hurt in that I only wanted to help people but this (the accusations) happened instead," Mohd Noorhisyam Abdul Karim was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.
Here's an overview of the alleged scandal that while directly involves Mohd Noorhisyam Abdul Karim, indirectly involves DAP's Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun along with Bukit Bintang division secretary Razak Zabir and information chief Azrul Feisal Abdullah
Earlier this week, letters informing a Federal Territories Bersatu Youth member of his successful application for 80 lots at the Ramadan bazaar was circulated online.
The letters, bearing the DBKL logo, alleged that Mohd Noorhisyam had used his position as Bukit Bintang Bersatu Youth chief to obtain a total of 80 bazaar lots, adding that the said plots were then leased to other traders via a middleman.
Following which, DBKL Licensing and Petty Traders Development Department director Anwar Mohd Zain claimed that he was "forced to approve" Mohd Noorhisyam's application after initially telling him no more lots were available.
The DBKL Licensing and Petty Traders Development Department director gave in after the Bersatu youth leader's relentless "pestering" and a support letter by Fong.
According to Anwar, DBKL had made it clear to Noorhisyam that he must ensure that he received the co-operation from the shop owners along Masjid India.
For his part, while Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun has admitted to writing a letter to DBKL to support the application of Mohd Noorhisyam, the veteran lawmaker, who is also DAP treasurer, distanced himself from the allegations of abuse.
Fong claims that his support letter was issued with the intention of helping traders who needed the space, with his letter clearly stating that DBKL still had the final say.
"My intention was to help traders. So I wrote the support letter stating conditions that other than the rental charged by DBKL, no other fees were to be collected by any party. My letter also stated that DBKL had to make the final decision," Fong said.
According to a report in Malaysiakini, the alleged involvement of Bukit Bintang division secretary Razak Zabir and information chief Azrul Feisal Abdullah pertains to Mohd Noorhisyam getting a letter of support on behalf of the Bukit Bintang division.
However, both Razak and Azrul has denied their involvement in the scandal.
Razak has claimed that his involvement was to the extent of giving Mohd Noorhisyam a letter of support on behalf of the division, for a meeting with Bukit Bintang MP Fong.
"Mohd Noorhisyam made a proposal to be involved in the (bazaar) and he requested a letter of support, that's all," Malaysiakini quoted Razak as saying.
Meanwhile, several traders at Jalan Masjid India have claimed that individuals wearing Bersatu's red shirts demanded inflated fees to ensure that lot allocations for a Ramadan bazaar were not revoked
This, according to a report in Malay Mail which was reporting on a walkabout organised by PKR Youth Setiawangsa Treasurer Muhammad Arif Safruddin Thursday to gather evidence from affected traders to be presented to the MACC.
Malaysiakini, on the other hand, interviewed traders at the capital's premier Ramadan bazaar along Jalan Masjid India who said they had no choice but to fork out upwards of RM3,000 for a lot as it was a highly coveted area.
Responding to the controversy, Bukit Bintang Bersatu division chief Zailani Isausuludin, while speaking to Malaysiakini, said that Mohd Noorhisyam, whom he handpicked to be the division Youth chief, had violated the principles of Pakatan Harapan.
"If he had used his own name as a citizen to do this, that's different, but why did he use the party's name and why did he use his position?," Zailani was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini, adding that he was unaware of the issue until it was brought to him by traders who met with him to complain about the prices of the bazaar lots.
Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, meanwhile, has promised that he will not hesitate to lodge a complaint with the MACC if it is found that any member of the PPBM had misused the party name for favours.
"I welcome the MACC to investigate the case if indeed there has been any wrongdoing involved over the rental of the plots, and with the use of party name without permission. Being in government does not mean that I am ignoring all the wrongdoings that are in front of my eyes. Wrong is wrong," Syed Saddiq said.
Bukit Bintang Bersatu Division chief Zailani, Syed Saddiq, and DAP's Fong are all now considering to lodge a report with the MACC over the whole matter.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, meanwhile, said that the PH Government may review the practice of lawmakers providing support letters for certain government initiatives or applications
While he didn't make any concrete promises, he said that until he has spoken to the people involved in the Ramadan bazaar row, he cannot comment further.
The DAP national vice-chairman said while the practice of lawmakers providing support letters might have been the case during the BN administration, it should be reviewed.