Johor residents object to Forest City at dialogue

Around 350 people turned up at the public dialogue to voice their objections to the Forest City project. Photo by Chu Juck Seng

JOHOR BARU: Around 350 people turned up at a public dialogue yesterday to object to the massive Forest City project in Johor.

The objections were expressed at times in a heated fashion that shocked representatives of the developer, Country Garden Pacific View Sdn Bhd (CGPV), a joint venture (JV) between China’s Country Garden Holdings Ltd and Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd.

Esplanade’s main shareholder, according to Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) records, is the Sultan of Johor. However, the project promoter has been saying that Esplanade is owned by state agency Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ).

The same happened at yesterday’s dialogue where the presentation stated that KPRJ has a 40% stake via Esplanade.

KPRJ executive vice-chairman  Datuk Md Othman , however, admitted to The Edge Financial Daily at the dialogue that the sultan has a stake in Esplanade but insisted KPRJ also has a 20% stake in the company.

According to CCM documents, however, KPRJ does not currently have any shares in Esplanade. It only has 80,000  redeemable convertible preference shares (RCPS) which if converted to ordinary Esplanade shares will give it a 6.8% stake in CGPV. The Sultan of Johor currently has a 99.9% stake in Esplanade and 255,000 RCPS which when converted will give him an effective stake of 21.9% in CGPV.

The main arguments against the project by those present at yesterday’s dialogue were that locals cannot afford the properties and the livelihoods of fishermen will be affected.

“The fate of fishermen is affected by those who sit in hotels eating tuna and salmon. I want to know how this project benefits the Malays who will not be able to afford the properties,” says a fisherman who identified himself as Hasnuar.

Another man who identified himself as Fakrul Annuar from the Umno Gelang Patah division said the division objects to the project.

“We object to the project as it affects the development in Gelang Patah,” he said.

The Forest City development will entail reclamation of over 4,000 acres (1,619ha) of land in the Strait of Johor near the Second Link to Singapore and the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP). It is to be developed over 30 years and will have a gross development value of RM600 billion and a potential profit of RM290 billion.

Critics said it would wreak environmental havoc, block the growth of the PTP and threaten the development of Iskandar Malaysia as it is not part of the master plan. Singapore has also expressed concerns that Forest City will impact its shoreline.

On the sidelines of the dialogue, CGPV project director Datuk Zamani Kassim said a second dialogue will be held on Saturday while the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report will be ready by the end of the month for public viewing. The public will then have 30 days to give their feedback.

Zamani said they opted for land reclamation as it would have been more difficult and more expensive to buy 4,000 acres of existing land.

He also said that they would ensure that Forest City will be developed and integrated into the overall plan of Iskandar Malaysia.

The state department of environment (DoE) had in January given the go-ahead for Forest City to proceed but in June the federal DoE issued a stop-work order pending further considerations, including submission of an EIA report.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 22, 2014.



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