Candi destruction shocks former Kedah MB

(The Star) – It started as a dream to create a tourist attraction with an ancient candi of Bujang Valley as its centrepiece. Two decades on, it’s now an archaeological nightmare.

Former Kedah Mentri Besar Tan Sri Osman Aroff said he had made preservation of all the candi a “strict condition” when approving the Kedah International Resort City project in Bujang Valley in 1993.

The project never saw the light of the day. However, things have spiralled out of control.

“I am devastated to learn that a candi in Sungai Batu was destroyed by a private developer recently.

“This begs the question of how the state land ended up in private hands,” said Osman.

That is the burning question, because his successors as Mentris Besar have also denied selling the land to any developer.

Bandar Saujana Sdn Bhd project manager Saw Guan Keat had said that the company bought eight lots of land in Sungai Batu from another developer earlier this year.

The new developer destroyed the candi while clearing the land for a housing project.

Osman said the Kedah Inter-national Resort City project was a joint venture between a Qatar-based company and Mentri Besar Inc. The state had a 40% stake while the company held the remaining shares.

“The state also acquired the surrounding piece of land for the project covering about 400ha,” he added.

Osman said he was surprised to learn that a private developer now owned part of the land.

“The project was supposed to comprise an agriculture park and a hotel amid the preserved ruins of an ancient civilisation,” said Osman who was Mentri Besar from 1985 to 1996.

Another former Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Sanusi Junid (1996-1999), said he had rejected the request of a foreign company to be recognised as a local one. Sanusi told the company to abide by the country’s rules and regulations.

“But after one meeting with me, they never came back,” he said.

Former executive councillor Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah of the Pakatan Rakyat state government (2008-2013) said the company had threatened to sue the state for rejecting its proposal to build houses in the area.

Amiruddin said the late Kedah Mentri Besar Tan Sri Azizan Abdul Razak rejected the company’s proposal because it involved building thousands of housing units in the area.

“We do not need a foreign company to build houses here.”