East Malaysians riled by Tower M project

They say public funds held by Petronas should instead be used to improve the lives of Sarawakians and Sabahans.

(FMT) – Two prominent politicians and an activist group in East Malaysia have denounced a Petronas subsidiary for its plan to build a three-tower skyscraper in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Sarawak minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee and Sarawak4Sarawakians chairman Peter John Jaban questioned the justness of spending money that they said would be better used to improve the lives of East Malaysians.

Karim, who is state minister for tourism, arts, culture, youth and sports, said the project seemed “ridiculous and unnecessary” and would be an “irrational use” of public funds acquired from oil extraction, mostly from East Malaysia.

Speaking to FMT, he said: “On one hand, the public is informed that the government has some RM1 trillion in debt, but on the other hand, the country is set to embark on projects that are not really beneficial to the public.

“And for what? To please someone’s ego?”

A recent news report said the building is tentatively called Tower M. This has led to speculation that it is to be named in honour of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Karim, a vice-president of PBB, said the people of Sarawak and Sabah were in desperate need of funds for infrastructure development.

“We are hoping to get a bigger share of revenue from our oil and gas resources and I believe the people of Sarawak and Sabah will not be happy with this new development,” he added.

Yong, who leads the Sabah Progressive Party, said Petronas should be more concerned with its contingent and potential payments to Sabah and Sarawak.

Jaban said projects similar to the Pan Borneo Highway were more urgent than another skyscraper.

“I think this project is a waste of money,” said the activist. “The indigenous people in the interiors of Sarawak badly need roads. They also need good healthcare.”

Recently, Petronas suffered a setback when the Federal Court refused to hear whether Parliament was competent to make laws on oil and gas exploration activities nationwide. The company was seeking a declaration of its exclusive ownership of oil and gas resources in Malaysia.

Sabah and Sarawak politicians and activists have long held that both states should get a fairer share of its oil and gas resources, pointing to the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 and income disparities between the Borneo states and peninsular Malaysia.

Tower M, to be constructed by KLCC Holdings, will have 27 floors more than Merdeka PNB 118, a skyscraper being built by Permodalan Nasional Berhad, the government’s investment arm.

PNB 118 has been criticised as wasteful by detractors of former prime minister Najib Razak.