Monday, 24 November 2014

(The Star) States collaborate to draw more local and foreign tourists

JOHOR BARU: Both Johor and Perak governments would be working closely with one another in drawing more local and foreign tourists in visiting the states during the coming years.

State Domestic Trade, Tourism and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said such collaborations would be a win-win situation for both parties in getting more tourists.

He pointed out that Johor has now become an ideal destination for shoppers with a presence of international standard shopping centres especially within the Iskandar Malaysia area.

“Both states have their own identity and uniqueness in attracting large number of tourists to come either in Johor or Perak.

“By working together and coming up with exciting packages, we are confident that such collaboration will become a success for both sides,” he said.

Tee said this when after the Perak Roadshow event and launching of Johor shopping and food trail packages 2015 held at Komtar Johor Baru City Centre here on Friday.

Meanwhile, Perak Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi said her side was looking forward in the partnership with Johor.

She added that the Silver State had plenty to offer such as eco-tourism, heritage, island and beaches as part of its tourism packages.

“There is also a daily flight between Johor Baru and Senai by two airline companies such as Firefly and Malindo Air.

“As Johor is the southern gateway in the country, we are hoping to attract huge number of regional tourists from Singapore and Indonesia,” she said adding that until September this year, a total of 5,600 Singaporeans visited Perak.

Nolee Ashilin also said that the Perak tourism sector was expected to see a boost in arrivial through such collaboration with Johor.

(The Star) No intention to develop wetlands to build F1 circuit or casino

JOHOR BARU: The state Government does not have any plans to remove the Ramsar wetlands to make way for the construction of an F1 circuit or even a casino in the state.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said that there were no such plans and he was shocked as to where the Skudai assemblyman got his information.

Sungai Pulai was recognised by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as a Ramsar site in 2003, signifying its status as a wetland of international importance.

Dr Boo Cheng Hau had previously in his speech alleged that the mangrove reserve along Sg Pulai was 9,126ha but only 6,740ha gazatted as the balance 2,386ha was allocated to a private company to build a mixed development project including luxury condominium, an F1 circuit and casino.

The state opposition head claimed that the state would lose RM1.7bil annually from revenue from fisheries if that area were to be developed.

On another issue, Khaled stressed that the state government was committed to preserving the environment and would go all out to weed out illegal logging in the state.

“We want our forest reserves to be preserved and will free all logging activities at our permanent forest reserve statewide beginning next year,” he said adding that this was one of the reason the state government decided to carry out land reclamation work along the coastline.

He added that land reclamation was not something new as it was already done in Singapore, Dubai, Doha and other countries.

“I assure everyone that we will ensure all the regulation including with regards to the environment is properly adhered,” he said, adding that the land reclamation was given to outside companies as they were stronger financially and had the experience.

He added that it was important for the credibility, experience and the expertise of these players to ensure the effectiveness of the project.

On another issue, Khaled said that the state government had drawn up five strategies to ensure the preservation of the Malay reserves to prevent the land from being sold or transferred to other races in the state.

Among them include changing the status of 145,970ha of land belonging to settlers from the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra) state wide into Malay reserve.

“We also want to create an inventory detailing all the Malay reserves statewide,” he said during his winding up speech at the state assembly here.

Others include seizing Malay reserve land, which have been transferred to non-Malays via the change in the shares held or taking over of a company.

“We also plan for all Malay reserve which is given to people is registered together with a caveat to prevent the land from being sold to non Malays,” Khaled added.

He also said that the Johor Land and Mines Deparment had directed all the land registrars statewide to update the department every six months on the status on the Malay reserves in the state.

Khaled assured the assemblymen that he was serious in preserving the Malay reserve land in the state.

(The Star) International school opens

SIBU: Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has advised the people to be fluent in at least three languages.

Speaking when declaring open Woodland International School (WIS) and extension block ground-breaking ceremony on Saturday, he said the people should be conversant in Bahasa Malaysia, English and their mother tongue as only then they could “say that they are complete.”

“Like me, I can speak four languages. I feel I am complete. So I encourage you to learn as many languages as you can,” he added.

Specially touching on the importance of English and without neglecting the importance of Bahasa Malaysia, he said English being a universal language, is the language for communication, for technology and for literature.

“Whether you like it or not, English is the language of science, of technology, of literature and of communication. It is the first language in the world. If you are proficient in English, the world will welcome you,” he said.

The Chief Minister said due to the people in the state yearning to learn as many languages as they could, they are better off than their counterparts in West Malaysia who are only fluent in two languages of either English and Malay or Chinese and English.

He also paid tribute to religious institutions for playing an important role in the development of education in this town.

“It is always the church and the school, church and the school here. When the pioneers came here 100 years ago, the first thing they did was to set up temple and school which instil valued education. History has shown that civilization will rise when people honour knowledge. Civilization fell when the people lost interest in knowledge. The Foochows here have proven that with school and church, you can progress,” he added.

He also praised corporate companies here which include RH Group of Companies for their involvement in the development of education in the state.

WIS Board of Directors chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King said the school started off in June last year with 100 students.

This has increased to 300 students now and with encouraging response from the community, it was targeting to have 1,000 over the next five years.

Tiong also likened the school to a mini-United Nations as its teachers and students come from different parts of the world.

The school’s next five-year plan, he said included more sporting and recreational facilities and in-house accommodation for teachers and students from outside the town.

(The Star) High up the nation’s icon

There is only one place where anyone can go to in the whole of Kuala Lumpur and claim to have stood higher than the rest and I now count myself as one of them.

For the KL on a Shoestring column, I visited the 86th floor of Tower 2 of the Petronas Twin Towers.

Known as the Observation Deck, it offers tourists an unbeatable view of the city and for a local like me, I had an almost surreal experience of spotting my home using one of the many free-for-use binoculars.

Tickets for locals are reasonably priced at RM25 per adult with MyKad or RM12 per child with MyKid compared with RM80 and RM30 respectively for foreigners.

A quick comparison around the world shows that visiting the 86th floor Main Deck of the Empire State Building in New York costs RM96 per adult and the top floor of Eiffel Tower in Paris costs RM62 per adult.

One thing all three places have in common is the fact that the buildings have been featured in various small- and big-screen shows across the globe.

This deck also has a nifty augmented reality feature whereby one’s entry ticket is used to activate a video that overlaps live footage of whatever is in front of the screen’s camera, including the ticket holder.

It takes a very steady hand to stabilise the image enough to attempt reading the accompanying words though.

There are also a few scale models around but they do not provide added value to the trip apart from a photo opportunity.

The tour includes a visit to the Skybridge, on levels 41 and 42, also known as the world’s highest doubled-decked bridge where one can view the green KLCC Park, among other things.

Tours are held in small groups with two held every hour starting from 9am and the last one at 8.15pm.

Limited tickets are available daily except for Mondays, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Hari Raya Haji and Fridays between 1pm and 2.30pm when tours are not available.

After the sky-high visit, I decided to take it easy by strolling through the lush green KLCC Park. If you have kids, the children’s playground or wading pool can help keep them occupied too.

When the sun gets too hot, one can opt to take a walk in the mall for some shopping or even visit Aquaria at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre where tickets cost RM38 per adult with MyKad.

The real reason I stayed on, however, was for the KLCC Lake Symphony fountain show that started at 8pm sharp.

This nightly highlight consists of foun-tain sprays of varying styles with multi-coloured lights that is choreographed to selected songs played over loudspea-kers.

One can enjoy the show and music from two different vantage points, either from the wide avenues surrounding the man-made lake itself or from one of the balconies of the restaurants overlooking it.

This makes for a pretty relaxing day and perfect for a family outing.

My only advice is to park a little further away, somewhere with a per-entry rate to avoid paying a bomb for parking.

(The Star) New mall to liven up Putrajaya

The newly opened IOI City Mall in Putrajaya welcomed hundreds of shoppers who witnessed its soft launch yesterday.

“It is a very integrated mall with four anchor tenants namely Parkson, Tesco, Aeon Index Living Mall and Homepro,

“We are also anxiously waiting for the opening of GSC’s 13-screen cinema, which features two IMAX screens, in January,” said IOI Properties Group Berhad chief executive officer Lee Yeow Seng after the soft launch at the concourse level.

The mall opened its doors earlier in the week.

Yeow Seng said traffic to the 1.5mil sq ft mall has been unexpectedly smooth since its opening as most of its tenants had opened for business on Thursday.

The mall in Putrajaya is located at the entrance to IOI Resort City spanning across three levels of retail space with 350 tenants.

During the soft launch, Yeow Seng together with IOI Group executive chairman Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng dotted the eyes of the lion during the “lion awakening” ceremony to mark the start of the auspicious day.

They were later joined by IOI Properties Group Berhad director Datuk Lee Yeow Chor to witness a special lion dance performance by world champions Kun Seng Keng troupe and a lively dance routine by a group of local performers.

Come December, 85% of the shops will be in operation while another 15% will be leased out by Chinese New Year next year, said the mall’s general manager Chris Chong.

“We are excited to have IOI City Mall here in Putrajaya to serve residents in Putrajaya, Kajang and Seri Kembangan, as well as an alternative option for those living in Puchong,” he said when met after the event.

Chong said shuttle service to the mall was also available from various bus and train stations around the area such as Kajang Sentral, Putrajaya Sentral and the Serdang KTM station.

After the ceremony, guests were taken on a short tour around the mall where the group made stops at the outdoor musical fountain for a short presentation.

They then proceeded to the soon-to-be-opened District 21, a 70,000 sq ft entertainment park and the RM10mil Olympic-sized ice-skating rink where they were entertained by several Malaysian figure skaters.

(The Star) Council working towards city status for Selayang

Selayang is aiming for city status by 2020.

Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) president Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain, however, admitted that the council needed to improve its services to stakeholders first.

He said these included government agencies and local authorities, developers, utility companies, ratepayers, landlords and the public.

“We are planning to emphasise more green programmes and concepts such as green buildings and eco-friendly amenities.

“We could emulate what is being done by the Petaling Jaya City Council.

“However, any new initiative must first be approved in the MPS fullboard meeting and the state government before it is implemented throughout the constituency.

“Once we improve our services, we are hoping that Selayang could become a city by 2020.

“Another plus point is Selayang’s proximity to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre as this will lead to more development projects and people moving into this area,’’ he said.

Mohd Azizi said the Subang Jaya Municipal Council, Klang Municipal Council, Kajang Municipal Council and Ampang Jaya Municipal Council were also looking to obtain city status in the near future.

He said this after the swearing-in of new MPS councillor Fok Wai Mun, whose term will expire on Dec 31 this year.

Fok, 35, who is a sales manager, will take over from Zulnizam Shahrani, in Zone 23 that covers areas such as Puncak Desa, Taman Bukit Desa, Desa Jaya, Taman Sri Ehsan, Ehsan Jaya, Taman Usaha Jaya, Desa Aman Puri and Perindustrian Tago.

Fok said as he was serving only for a short period, he had already met with residents, including Taman Kepong folk who had complained about the bad road conditions there,

“I will do my best to look into residents’ complaints,” he added.


(The Star) Smooth start to traffic reversal under PJ one-way loop trial

The change in traffic direction in Jalan Yong Shook Lin was largely implemented smoothly yesterday, with only minor hiccups.

The traffic now flows counter-clockwise from Jalan Selangor to Jalan Sultan and subsequently enters Jalan Yong Shook Lin. Similarly, motorists from Jalan Timur and Jalan Changgai heading to the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) headquarters will need to use Jalan Sultan to access the affected street. This traffic reversal move is part of MBPJ’s one-way loop (OWL) trial.

The hiccup came during mid-morning when several drivers from an auto show in the area, who were unaware of the change, drove against the flow and causing a few minutes of traffic confusion.

However, quick action by MBPJ enforcement officers and policemen who were stationed along the route guided the cars into the Lotus Square in front of the PJ State Cinema and smooth traffic flow resumed soon after.

Road users think the local council was able to smoothly carry out this phase of the trial because of the media exposure highlighting the impending change.

Elsewhere, residents and other stakeholders affected by OWL are disappointed that MBPJ has not shown any urgency in installing the push-button traffic lights at the designated pedestrian crossings along the one-way loop.

Section 10 Residents Association (S10RA) president Ronald Danker said the council must give importance to the safety of pedestrians.

“Right now the traffic light has only been installed at one pedestrian, in Jalan Timur, near Tenaga Nasional Berhad.

“MBPJ has identified the crossings in Jalan Utara, near Asia Jaya LRT station, and outside Cystal Crown Hotel for the push-button traffic lights but to-date they have not been installed.

“Even then, this is not enough. There are other areas in need of safer ways for pedestrians to cross the road, such as in front of the PJ Brickfields College and St Paul’s Church,” he pointed out.

He said vehicles speeding up the ramp from the Federal Highway into Jalan Utara were adding to the safety risks.

“The platform-like speed hump after the junction in Jalan 51A/223 does little to slow down the drivers. There is a major need to have the push-button traffic lights for people to cross here. This area has a big population of senior citizens and we want a safer environment to walk about, such as to PJ New Town, Taman Jaya, AmCorp Mall or the MBPJ headquarters, and pay bills or for leisure,” he added.

Danker also urged MBPJ to increase presence of its enforcement officers to monitor traffic movement and put in more measures to calm traffic.

“The traffic committee must review the weaving of traffic from Jalan Utara (after St Paul’s Church) onto the bridge coming into Jalan Timur, crossing from left to the far right in order to access the exit to the Federal Highway. There have been many near-misses in this area,” he highlighted.

(The Star) DBKL’s move to rebuild its headquarters from scratch has not been well-received

A plan to build a new tower as the Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut in place of the Menara DBKL 2 is landing the local authority in controversy as many quarters, including from within its ranks, are questioning the rationale.

Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib had announced that Menara DBKL 2 would be demolished and replaced with a skyscraper to create more office space, as DBKL intended to locate all departments under one roof.

The announcement raised eyebrows and questions because the local authority had spent a substantial sum of taxpayers’ ringgit on renovation and upgrading works in Menara 2 over the past year, that were completed just a few months ago.

Reliable sources from DBKL were tight-lipped about the project but conceded that the works which consisted of upgrading all the lifts and two sets of escalators in the 12-storey building, and retiling some of the departments as well as toilets cost at least a seven-figure amount.

DBKL bought the building about 10 years ago from the Selangor State Development Corporation.

It houses several departments including Licensing and Petty Traders Management , Urban Transport, Internal Audit, and Information Management.

According to a senior officer, discussions over the development have been ongoing for a while.

Some quarters say the project was mooted at a higher level and that the mayor’s hands were tied over this project and that he had very little say on the matter.

The proposed skyscraper, a design by Hijjas Kasturi Associates that the renowned architecture firm submitted for a competition organised by DBKL, features four towers connected by bridges at various levels. The highest tower is 57 storeys.

The plan also includes two storeys for retail space and an open area for the public.

According to sources, the toilets on all floors in Menara DBKL 2 were fully renovated last year.
According to sources, the toilets on all floors in Menara DBKL 2 were fully renovated last year.

DBKL had invited six established architecture firms to participate in the competition (see accompanying story).

Ahmad Phesal said the winning design would be used as the basis for the proposed plan.

An experienced, reputable developer broadly estimated that such a design could cost about RM300mil.

When asked about the cost of the project, Ahmad Phesal said: “We are very concerned about our financial capacity.

“We may not be able to afford the exact design as proposed and will make changes according to our budget.

He said the design was chosen because it allowed flexibility and could be built in phases.

All the lifts servicing Menara DBKL 2 looks brand new and in perfect condition as sources revealed it was upgraded a couple of months ago.
All the lifts servicing Menara DBKL 2 looks brand new and in perfect condition as sources revealed it was upgraded a couple of months ago.

“One of the advantages of Hijjas Kasturi’s design is that it can be built in phases.

“There are four towers in total, which can be built individually depending on our budget,” he reasoned.

“Apart from that, we are very happy with the utilisation of the space and green efforts seen in the design.

“We are making sure that the building will also have more community-friendly areas such as open as well as retail spac es, and halls for the public to rent,” he added.

When queried on who would be awarded the project to build, the mayor said a tender would be called once the architects finalised the design.

He said it would take about three to six months for the designs to be finalised and once that was completed, a tender would be called at the end of next year.

Two sets of new escalators service the ground floor to the second floor at Menara DBKL 2.
Two sets of new escalators service the ground floor to the second floor at Menara DBKL 2.

Ahmad Phesal said Menara DBKL 1 would not be redeveloped because it was a heritage building.

“We cannot make changes to Menara DBKL 1 because it has been gazetted as a heritage building, that is why we are looking at expanding Menara DBKL 2,” he said.

He ellaborated that all departments currently housed at Menara DBKL 3 in Jalan Raja Abdullah would be relocated to the new highrise.

He added that Menara DBKL 3 would be rented out as it was in a prime location.

Currently DBKL has three administrative buildings — Menara DBKL 1 and 2 are located in Jalan Raja Laut while Menara DBKL 3, also known as Menara Wawasan DBKL, is less than 2km away.

Several Kuala Lumpur MPs expressed shock over the decision to demolish and rebuild, saying that City Hall’s plan to spend millions on a new administration building was a waste of taxpayers’ monies.

“I do not see any good reason for this project. DBKL should spend the money to build more public public housing instead of more offices,” said Titiwangsa MP Datuk Abdul Johari Ghani.

Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said the money should be spent on human capital and much-needed DBKL personnel to manage the near-80,000 units of public housing.

“At a time when the mayor talks about decreasing funds in DBKL’s coffers, this is hardly acceptable. Kuala Lumpur has 73,000 of public housing units to maintain including those in the People’s Housing Projects (PPR) but only two main civil engineers, two main mechanical engineers and two main electrical engineers for the work.

“I vote for more efficient allocation for DBKL personnel and against lavish infrastructure spending,” she said.

Echoing the views of Johari and Nurul is Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng who said DBKL should maximise the current office space available instead of spending millions on a new building.

“To my knowledge, not all floors in Menara DBKL 1, 2 and 3 are fully utilised. I was told that certain floors are not even half occupied.

“If the information is correct, it is not logical for City Hall to embark on this proposed plan.

“Also, property analysts have recently been reported saying that there is a surplus of office space in Kuala Lumpur.

“How sure is DBKL that there will be takers for Menara DBKL 3?” Lim questioned. If Menara DBKL 3 fails to get enough tenants, DBKL will have to cough up more money to maintain the building in addition to spending millions for the new building. It does not look like a wise decision to me,” he added.

(NST) IOI City Mall raring to open

IOI Properties Group Bhd’s newly launched IOI City Mall, which is 85 per cent-tenanted, is set to reach full occupancy soon.

“We have an occupancy rate of 85 per cent and the rental rates range between RM10 and RM40 per sq ft. We expect this mall to be fully tenanted by Chinese New Year in February 2015,” said IOI City Mall general manager Chris Chong.

“So far, response has been encouraging. We’re targeting the shopping crowd from the middle- and middle-upper segments from Kajang, Seri Kembangan, Bangi, Puchong, Bukit Jalil, Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and Seri Petaling,” he after the soft launch of IOI City Mall, here, yesterday.

IOI Group founder Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng and his sons, Datuk Lee Yeow Chor and Lee Yeow Seng, who are IOI Corp Bhd and IOI Properties chief executives, respectively, officiated at the event.

Chong said there were many malls in the northern and central regions of the Klang Valley, but hardly any in the south. “The closest malls to us are Alamanda (Putrajaya) and Mines (Seri Kembangan). People from Seremban also go to these malls due to limited retail options there.” 

There is 1.4 million sq ft of net lettable area of four levels with 350 specialty shops in IOI City Mall. Among prominent anchor tenants are Golden Screen Cinemas, Parkson and Tesco.

Other highlights include a 36-lane bowling alley, an Olympic-sized skating rink and an indoor entertainment park called District 21.

Chong said about RM1.5 billion had been invested to build IOI City Mall, two office towers and a five-star hotel. Construction is expected to be completed by 2015.

“Le Meridien by Starwood is expected to come in by the second quarter of next year. We’re also in negotiation with multinational corporations and government agencies to set up office,” he said. 

Last month, the government said the detailed planning of Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit’s Line 2 is under way. The new line will link Sungai Buloh, Serdang and Putrajaya.

Chong said since the mass rapid transit (MRT) alignment ends in Putrajaya, IOI Group is lobbying for future connectivity in the form of an MRT station right next to IOI City Mall.

(The Star) Plans to expand IOI City Mall in Putrajaya

PUTRAJAYA: IOI Properties Group Bhd said plans are already in the pipeline to add a further 1 million sq ft of retail space at IOI City Mall in Putrajaya as occupancy rate at the newly-opened complex reached 85%.

The group expects the current 1.5 million sq ft of lettable area at the mall to be fully occupied by February next year. To boost customer traffic, the mall operator is lobbying for a mass rapid transit (MRT) station to be open within its vicinity.

“We are looking at the possibility of expanding the mall under phase two of the project,” IOI City Mall Sdn Bhd general manager Chris Chong (pic) said yesterday.

He was speaking to reporters at the soft launch of the mall, which is situated in a large catchment area that includes Kajang, Seri Kembangan, Puchong, Putrajaya, and Cyberjaya.

“There are not many malls in the southern area of the Klang Valley,” he said.

The IOI City Mall is spread across four levels. The whole RM1.5bil complex includes two 29-storey office towers and the 21-storey Le Meridian Putrajaya hotel.

Construction of the office towers and the hotel is expected to be completed in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Chong did not elaborate on the cost and targeted expansion timeline, but said the planning stage would probably take about a year to complete.

“Once we finished the second phase, we would be the largest mall in Malaysia. We have already built the bridge to connect with the second phase of IOI City Mall,” he said.

Chong said the group was currently looking for opportunity for the second mass rapid transit (MRT2) line to have station at IOI City Mall.

“We are lobbying for it,” he noted.

Chong also said that IOI Properties was also looking to open a mall in China, IOI Xiamen, between end-2017 and early-2018. This will be part of the IOI Palm City 10 billion yuan (RM5.5bil) mixed development in Xiamen, China.

The group also has a present in Singapore.

“Every knows about the current market situation in Singapore,” IOI Properties chief executive officer Lee Yeow Seng said when met at the event.

“There are some projects we would hold and some we would proceed,” he said.

Earlier this month, IOI Properties proposed to undertake a rights issue of new shares to raise about RM1.03bil for capital expenditure, investment opportunities and working capital purposes.