Friday, February 06, 2004

Diriwan, Tambalang & Chong Kah Kiat

05 July, 2001
Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat said a decision must be made pertaining to the status and position of Diriwan Corporation, which has been paying rental to the State Government without fail for the Tambalang Race Course in Tuaran, despite its non-usage.

Chong said the State Government would have to make the decision as "we cannot just sit down and collect money, and not deciding. "A decision, whether popular or not, would have to be made and we just cannot pretend as if it doesn't happen," he said.

"Diriwan has been paying rental to the State Government but today it is not in operation, abandoned and left idle. And yet they still keep paying…what is their position?" he asked.

Chong said the question was whether they would be allowed to have an outlet and - if not what would happen to the rental collected.

"How can we be a responsible government if we just keep on collecting and then don't want to make a decision?"

Chong said many objections were received as well, but "how do we rationalise? We will hear and study when receiving the report, which we must do very very carefully and openly."

He also assured that whatever results (of the review) the State Government would be transparent and there would be no private deal.

Diriwan Corporation used to be among the gaming outlets in the State, but had to close shop when the State Government decided not to approve additional gaming licences in the Sabah.

Diriwan was embroiled in controversial and awkward circumstances when the Federal Finance Ministry approved the permit for its parent company Olympia Industries Bhd to continue operating the Lottery 88 in Sabah but the State Government refused to allow it a trading licences for the premises of its outlets.

Many quarters saw the State Government's 1997 decision as unfair and akin to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

They felt that any serious attempt to rid gambling in the State cannot be through denying operator while enabling another to enjoy a virtual monopoly of the business, though via reduced number of outlets.

21 September, 2001
Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat Thursday declined to comment on reports that Diriwan Corporation Sdn Bhd (DCSB), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Olympia Industries Berhad which used to operate the Lottery 88, will make a comeback in Sabah next month.

He said the State Cabinet would deliberate on the matter and make a decision on whether to issue a trading licence to the company to enable it to operate gaming outlets in the State again.

"A decision would probably be made by next week. We'll talk about it once it is decided, just wait…hopefully by next week," he said.

Chong responded similarly when asked if the State Cabinet would take into account a statement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1999 supporting the decision by the State Government not to increase the number of gaming outlets.

He also declined to comment on speculations that Everise Ventures Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Repco Holdings Berhad, would reduce its Sandakan Turf Club (STC) four-digit outlets in Sabah.

"Once the State Government has made the decision, we will announce it and this is very clear," he said.

It was reported on Thursday that Olympia Industries has received a letter from the Federal Finance Ministry approving the renewal of licence to Diriwan to conduct gaming operations in Sabah, beginning Oct 1.

However, the report said Diriwan is waiting for approval from the State Government for the trading licence, which is necessary for the resumption of its gaming operations.

Diriwan used to operate some 200 gaming outlets statewide through its subsidiary, Lotteries Corporation, before its trading licence was revoked in 1996 after being found violating Section 5 of the Pool Betting Act 1976 for operating an illegal lottery.

Controversies emerged a year later when the State Government under the then Chief Minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee upheld the decision not to give back Diriwan the trading licence despite having its licence reportedly renewed by the Federal Finance Ministry.

Yong was also reported as stressing that while the issuance of a gaming licence is the prerogative of the Federal Finance Ministry, the operations in Sabah such as relating to trading licence and building policies fall under the purview of the State.

Currently, there are two gaming companies operating in Sabah, namely STC and Sports Toto, while Magnum is operating in Labuan. Draw days are Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.

Altogether, there are 50 STC and 33 Sports Toto outlets in the State.

20 September, 2001
Olympia Industries Berhad said its wholly-owned subsidiary, Diriwan Corporation Sdn Bhd (DCSB), has received a letter from the Ministry of Finance approving the renewal of gaming licence to DCSB to conduct gaming operations beginning October 1, 2001, in Sabah.

DCSB is, however, awaiting approval from the Sabah State Government for the trading licence which is necessary for the resumption of its gaming operations in Sabah.

22 September, 2001
The Sabah Chinese Assembly Hall (SCAH) will support move by the State Government to allow Diriwan Corporation to resume its gaming operations in Sabah. SCAH President Datuk Sari Tan said SCAH is ready to support whatever decision taken by the State Government on the matter.

"I think the State Government wants everybody to be equally treated and let's not forget that Diriwan has been paying rental for the Tambalang race course." It is understood that the State Government has accepted some RM42 million from Diriwan in yearly payments despite denying it the right to operate.

Tan said, adding that the relocation of the race course from Tanjung Aru to Tuaran will help improve economic activity in that district.

Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat had indicated the Cabinet will decide next week whether to allow Diriwan, a subsidiary company of Olympia Industry to resume its "lotteries 88" operations in the State.

The company had earlier announced that Diriwan had received a letter from the Finance Ministry approving a renewal of the gaming licence Oct 1.

26 September, 2001
The MCA division in Labuan said it failed to understand the fuss over allowing Diriwan to operate gaming business in Sabah when the reports state that there is not going to be any extra outlet.

Its Chairman Roger Chua said there was nothing wrong in the BN-led Sabah Government allowing Diriwan, a subsidiary of Olympia Industry, resume its "Lotteries 88" operations.

"The State Government should however, ensure that existing operators reduce their outlets to make way for Lotteries 88 so that there would be no increase in the number of outlets in the State," he said.

When Lotteries 88 was in operation in Sabah, Labuan also had an outlet.

Roger noted that there seemed to be some "public confusion" deliberately being created by certain politicians suggesting that the Diriwan outlets would mean gambling was being encouraged.

He said any sincere attempt to curb gambling in the State can only be via total elimination of such activities and not favouritism on who should be allowed to operate.

"Otherwise it will be State hypocrisy," he said.

He said it also actually benefitted the regular punters because now they have an alternative instead of previously being forced to choose between Sports Toto or Sandakan Turf Club.

He also pointed out that it would be morally sinful for Sabah not to allow the Lotteries 88 outlets because the State Government had been gleefully collecting some RM42 million from them over the years.

"Such unethical business practice will deter other investors from talking business with the State Government."

Talk of Diriwin being allowed to operate in Sabah saw Olympia shares steadily climbing to 37 sen Tuesday compared to less than 20 sen months ago.

Meanwhile, ex-CM Datuk Yong Teck Lee expressed concern over the new gaming outlets and 4-D draws next month. He said the policy of the State Barisan Nasional (BN) Government since 1994 had been to reduce gaming in the State.

Due to the policy, a decision was made then to cut the gaming outlets of all the three gaming companies in Sabah and also to reduce the draw days and number of draws per week of all the companies, he said in a statement.

Yong, who is Sabah People's Progressive Party (SAPP) President, said the decision was made in consultation with all BN component leaders in the State.

27 September, 2001
Diriwan Corporation Sdn Bhd (DCSB) received a new lease of life when the State Cabinet concurred with the Federal Finance Ministry's decision to approve a trading licence to enable its digit forecasting agencies to make a comeback in Sabah.

Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat made the announcement after chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting at Wisma Innoprise here, clearing a week of debate and speculation fuelled by DCSB's parent company Olympia Industries Berhad's statement that the Federal Finance Ministry had approved their gaming licence for Sabah.

"The State Government agreed with the Federal Finance Ministry's decision to allow Diriwan to operate. The decision of the State Government is to respect what was decided by the Federal Government," he said.

The Federal Government has officially informed that it has granted 40 outlets for DCSB and reduced Repco-run Sandakan Turf Club (STC) outlets to 40 from 50 but none on Sports Toto, which currently has 33 outlets in Sabah, he said.

"But, as of today, we have not receive any information from Federal Government with regard to the existing 33 operated by Sports Toto, although we had heard that there is also a reduction," he said.

It was unclear whether DCSB would be able to commence operations on Oct. 1 but the Federal Government issued the licence to take effect on Oct 1. Also not known is the number of draws in one draw date – Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays – which it is regulating.

Nonetheless, whatever it is, the State Government would respect the decision because it is under the federal jurisdiction and to ensure equal opportunities for the operators.

Diriwan Corp, a unit of Olympia Industries Berhad, ceased its operations in January 1996.

At that time it had been operating "Lotteries 88" at 100 outlets in the State since 1988. Its bid to resume business had been blocked by successive Chief Ministers.

Chong made clear that it was not within the powers of the Chief Minister as well as the State to prohibit anyone wanting to operate legitimate gaming business.

He also said the approval was in anticipation that DCSB will maintain and manage the Tambalang race course properly by making full use of the facilities and perhaps hold international horse races or those related to equine activities.

"We hope this (Tambalang race course) will, hopefully, provide a good avenue for visitors to Sabah," said Chong who is also State Tourism, Environment, Science and Technology Minister.

Another condition was that DCSB had to update their RM250,000 monthly rental payment to the State Government which they had stopped some time last year.

According to Chong, so far the State Government has collected some RM41.9 million as rental fees from DCSB, although the firm had ceased operations in the State five years ago.

30 September, 2001
CHONG said the air has been cleared for the Sabah Umno Youth wing who earlier expressed objections to the resumption of gaming firm Diriwan Corporation Sdn Bhd's (DCSB) operations here.

"Everybody is against gambling but once the decision has been made…but I have been told that they now have a better understanding," he said.

He said they now understood that it was not a decision made by the State Government alone as it has been approved by the Federal Government as well.

07 October, 2001
No trading licence has been approved yet in the state capital to Diriwan Corporation which was allowed to run 40 4-D outlets following a Cabinet decision to allow it to resume its operation beginning Oct 1.

Mayor Datuk Abdul Ghani Rashid said City Hall has not received any application for a trading licence to run 4-D outlets.

He said City Hall would study and recommend to the State Government on the number of 4-D outlets that should be allowed in the city.

03 November, 2001
The Federal Government has no choice but to reinstate the gaming licences of four-digit betting operators that had been revoked earlier in order to curb illegal gambling in the country.

The Finance Ministry, in a reply to Datuk Yong Teck Lee (Gaya-BN) in Parliament earlier this week, however stressed that this would not mean that the Government would revive all cancelled gaming licences indiscriminately.

"Renewal of gaming licences could only be allowed after a thorough study has been conducted on the issue," it said.

24 May, 2002
Diriwan Corporation Sdn Bhd has been paying a monthly rental of RM250,000 to the State Government from the beginning of this year, the State Assembly was told Thursday. Assistant Finance Minister Datuk Hajiji Mohd Noor said the company had also agreed to pay its rental arrears amounting to RM4.25 million by instalments.

"In view of this, the State Attorney-General has been asked to draft an additional agreement pertaining to Diriwan's monthly instalment payments," he said in reply to a question by Likas Assemblyman Datuk Yong Teck Lee (SAPP-BN).

Diriwan was allowed to resume its operations in December last year with the condition that it settles all the rental arrears.

On the proposed upgrading of the Tambalang racecourse in Tuaran, Hajiji said the Local Government and Housing Ministry had held two meetings with Diriwan and was told that the company would submit a proposal to the Public Works Department soon.

"Diriwan has also been requested to submit a proposal on the long-term development plan of the racecourse to the Finance Ministry, including the concept that should cover the tourism element as suggested by Malaysia Totalisator Board," he added.

According to him, the upgrading project is expected to be completed by year-end.

To a supplementary question by Api-Api Assemblyman Dr Yee Moh Chai (PBS-BN, Hajiji said the Government presently does not have any policy to allocate some of the rentals from gaming corporations for social and welfare purposes.

"However, my Ministry will study the proposal and give due consideration," he added.

12 August, 2002
Royal Sabah Turf Club (RSTC) Deputy Chairman David Chong Ket Sui said the club has no jurisdiction over the abandoned Tambalang racecourse in Tuaran. "It is for this reason I wish to clarify that the onus is on Diriwan Corporation which operates the 88 lottery games in Sabah, in accordance with the permit issued by the State Government," he added.

According to him, RSTC had been receiving numerous complaints for its inability to renovate the race course, now overgrown with tall grass and trees.

Local residents there, who aspire to improve their socio-economic status through horse racing, should direct their complaints to the relevant authorities for appropriate action, he said.

He pointed out that Diriwan had been operating lottery games in Sabah for almost a year now but no effort had been made so far to renovate the Tambalang race course that has been described as a "white elephant".

The Tambalang race course was built of international standard by the Berjaya State Government in the early 1980s at a cost of some RM40 million.

Consequently, pony racing was transferred from the Tanjung Aru course which was then described as too small for the much bigger imported horses.

When the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) took over after 1985, pony racing was returned to Tanjung Aru and the Tambalang complex has since been abandoned.

31 January, 2004
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Lajim Ukin dismissed claims that the State-owned Tambalang Racecourse in Tuaran had been sold as it is still being leased out to gaming company Diriwan Corporation Sdn Bhd for RM250,000 a month.

“No, we did not sell. We are just leasing it out to Diriwan. The land still belongs to the District Office,” he said Friday.

Nonetheless, he warned Diriwan that the State Government would have to take action, as stipulated in the contract agreement, apart from under provision of relevant laws, if it continues to leave the racecourse idle.

Lajim said Diriwan had been offering excuses for not keeping its end of the bargain. Among these excuses was that their four-digit business was not profiting, besides from feeling the brunt of the economic downturn.

Lajim said Diriwan was supposed to start work to develop the racecourse six months after commencing operation but it stopped halfway due to the recession.

But, he said the firm was allowed to continue operating because the State Government had given due consideration to their appeal.

He was asked to comment on statements by several quarters like Royal Sabah Turf Club (RSTC) Deputy President Datuk David Chong, Umno Tuaran Youth and Upko Kiulu Youth that the racecourse as sold for RM10 million before Datuk Seri Musa Aman took office as Chief Minister.

Lajim who is also Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, said Diriwan’s 10 plus five-year contract with the State Government was still intact.

He assured the people living around the 147-acre racecourse in Tambalang that the State Government would protect their rights.

“We also agreed that we will alienate any portion of the area for local community usage. But, so far there is no appeal from them for the State Government to do so,” he said.

In fact, their Assemblyman Datuk Hajiji Haji Noor had requested for State Government assistance to develop the area into a major tourist attraction, he said.

Diriwan was renting the racecourse on the hope that it would be able to turn it into an international class course and, in return, be allowed to run the four-digit gaming outlets known as Sabah 88 in the State.

LAJIM said Diriwan had been a “good tenant” by paying the RM250,000 monthly rent without fail. He also said the proposed joint-venture between RSTC and Diriwan met a stumbling block.

Lajim said Musa, following receiving a courtesy call by the RSTC group last year, had directed him to look into the matter as the State Government felt it was a waste to let the racecourse idle.

“We believe that it would be good if RSTC and Diriwan can enter a joint-venture to develop Tambalang racecourse. But, Diriwan wanted to charge rental fees…so it is still under negotiation,” he said.

Lajim then discussed with Musa for the issue to be placed under the Local Government and Housing Ministry (MLGH), which was the appropriate authority to handle it.

“As for me, I am only in charge of City Hall. So this problem is best handled by the Ministry of Local Government and Housing. So far there is no report yet from the Minister Datuk Salleh Tun Said on it,” he said.

“I believe they are currently drawing up the plan on how best Diriwan and RSTC can co-operate so that (activities at) the old racecourse (owned by RSTC in Tanjung Aru) can be relocated to Tuaran,” he said.

Lajim said the racecourse was initially constructed during the Berjaya time with the view to relocate the RSTC activities from Tanjung Aru to Tuaran but only operated there for a few years.

“The RSTC management at that time cited they had to shift back to their original venue because they could not afford the rent paid to the Government and were not convinced that people will come to Tuaran,” he said. This was also repeated during the Parti Bersatu Sabah government time, said Lajim, while pointing out that RSTC was partly to be blamed for the failure of the Tambalang racecourse to grow as planned.

“It showed weaknesses on the part of the RSTC management. They should have consulted the Government but they chose to make their own decision to move back to Tanjung Aru. Perhaps the State Government could have given them some incentive if they stayed on,” he said.

Now with the presence of several resorts and golf courses nearby Tambalang has potential to be developed, he said. On the proposal by David Chong for a “land swap” whereby the RSTC is willing to swap its present land to the government for the extension of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport for Tambalang racecourse land, Lajim said “it was only mere talk in the newspapers”.

“There’s nothing concrete received by the State Government (from RSTC). Even if it is affected by the airport upgrading work, RSTC would have to deal with the Federal Government, which is implementing the project for compensation among others,” he stressed.

Lajim said RSTC had also applied to get a land in Kinarut to relocate their activities but the State Government did not approve since it was on a reserve land.

THE State Government is considering an application for RM2.5 million by the City Hall to buy garbage collection equipment, in addition to its present fleet of 15 garbage refuse trucks.

Lajim believed City Hall would be able to carry out their duties efficiently if the money was approved. On the overall garbage collection situation after City Hall took over from Pacific Garbage Management Services (PGMS), Lajim said it had improved greatly.

“In fact, everyday I read the papers especially the Hotline column in the Daily Express and note that complaints were not that great anymore. There were still some but we will continue to make the effort for it to be better,” he said.

Lajim said Mayor Datuk Abdul Ghani Rashid had been instructed to see to it that City Hall work hard to ensure that isolated places in rating areas and those needing urgent attention would not be neglected.

He was also confident that the zoning system to complement the garbage collection system done by City Hall would be able to help and give a positive impact to the people.

LAJIM added that the collection of parking charges in the city had been suspended indefinitely because based on the report by the car park management firm, the operations cost was more than revenue With the new parking rate and charges announced by CM Musa on Wednesday, Lajim hoped that “the city dwellers and especially the Chinese community would be able to accept it with an open heart as well as appreciate what the Government is doing”.

“This also clearly showed that the State Government is very sensitive to the problem of the people.”

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