The Country Heights' Raid: Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew Spins A
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The Country Heights' managing director, Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, when asked to pay a long overdue RM9 million in assessment rates, to the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ), give Malaysians a crash course on how to compute it and implies MPSJ does not how. The MPSJ is wrong, his right, and the council put to pasture for contradicting him. This is the gist of what he has told so far of this episode, which turns messier with his explanations. He expects special consideration, as a Tan Sri crony of the establishment, who in any case should not have been touched. It was wrong for the press to tag along for it gave Country Heights a bad name, and could affect share prices and this, by implication, deprive Malaysians of a wonderful investment opportunity. He should have been treated with kid gloves.
The deputy minister of local government and housing is incenced the municipal council did not refer it to his ministry to amicably settle it. The deputy minister for culture and tourism takes it even further. She says "the way to enforce the law was not by punishing offenders", a statement which overrides centuries of judicial philosophy. Where was she when municipal councils send bulldozers, at the request of landowners, flatten squatter settlements with no consideration for those suddenly made homeless? The press is on hand, the enforcement, if you take her view seriously, indiscriminate. Tan Sri Lee is a business man who knows what he is doing. What his statements and actions show, since the matter broke out into the open, is his indefensible position. If he challenged the assessment, he should have paid what he thought he should, and negotiate for a change. Instead, he deliberately ignores three reminders and three warnings. Why?
Telling Malaysians how to compute assessment rates is to confuse the issue. The taxpayer and tax collector differ on how much tax is to be paid. When other companies have no problems with MPSJ, why does it have with it? That his companies upkeep Jalan Balakong, which he insists is the council's responsibiliy, is neither here nor there: if he wants crowds in his theme parks, he must ensure the roads are in good condition. If the municipal council would not do it, he had better. If he wanted special consideration for that, it should already have been negotiated. Why did he not? Why does he appoint a high level team led by his chief executive officer to resolve what should be a simple problem? Because his statements cast aspersions on civil servants doing their job, and his companies would have to continue to deal with them.
It is an attempt at power play. Tan Sri Lee thought he could frighten the MPSJ into admitting it is wrong if he pressurises it in public. The MPSJ president, however, holds his ground. More so with each press conference Tan Sri Lee holds to prove the indefensible. His explanations fall on deaf ears. Even his political friends cannot come to his aid without their own reputations put at risk. None of his friends in high places come to his aid. The minister of housing and local government sends his deputy minister, and the MCA president the woman's leader, to make Tan Sri Lee's predicament even worse. Tan Sri Lee is caught in this because the past catches up with him. He presumed an immunity, but politics this year is not what it was last year.
Now that he was made it public, one waits to see who would give in first. The municipal councils, generally, are amenable to reason when one challenges its rates. If this can be for individuals, certainly it would be the norm for a high flying business man, even if he does not now own a plane, with such enviable connexions. Tan Sri Lee has not told us the full story. The more he talks the more he damns himself. The most telling of his actions so far is that his chief executive officer and a high level team is to negotiate with the council. Why is that needed if his version of events is right and that of the council wrong?