By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Bukit Bintang Plaza (BBP) tenants are now lobbying for a change in building ownership, claiming today that UDA Holdings Bhd had laid down arms too quickly in discussions with MRT Corporation over construction plans for the upcoming My Rapid Transit (MRT) project.
The tenants accused government-owned UDA Holdings of “lying” when it reportedly claimed it did not want to redevelop BBP for fear of having to raise rental rates.
“It’s a lie to say we cannot afford higher rental. We have been contributing RM25 million annually to UDA’s coffers... it is not cheap. We have always been paying market rates,” trader Hassan Saad told a press conference earlier this morning.
Encouraged by the roomful of fellow traders who cheered him on, Hassan even lamented about the poor conditions at BBP, which he said was a clear indication that the welfare of traders was not a priority to UDA Holdings.
“If you go to the toilets, you pay 30 sen but while you ‘buang air sini’ (urinate here), water drips on you from above,” he said.
Later in the afternoon, the traders emerged fuming after their maiden dialogue session with UDA Holdings, alleging that the firm’s representatives had as good as surrendered their fates to MRT Corp without putting up a fight.
Hassan, who leads a group of some 150 traders in the newly-formed Bukit Bintang Plaza Traders’ Association (BBPTA), told reporters after the meeting that UDA had clearly “washed their hands” of the matter.
“They’ve left it up to MRT Corp, they repeatedly said that this is MRT’s issue but we want UDA to look out for us,” he complained.
Hassan was flanked by a large group of angry tenants, representing the 167 from BBP, 60 per cent of whom are Bumiputeras.
“We cannot accept their explanation,” he continued.
They’ve left it up to MRT Corp, they repeatedly said that this is MRT’s issue but we want UDA to look out for us. — Hassan Saad
During the meeting, it is believed that UDA Holdings had clarified to the traders that by year-end, they would have to clear out of the nearly four-decade-old BBP, which has grown into something of an icon in the tourist haven of Bukit Bintang.
But the future of their businesses would still hang in balance as neither MRT Corp nor UDA Holdings intend to redevelop the 1970s-built mall.
The Malaysian Insider understands that the firms, both owned by the Finance Ministry, have their KPIs to meet and are intent on keeping their purse strings tied.
At a press conference today, UDA Holdings group managing director Ahmad Abu Bakar said while there are plans to redevelop BBP, UDA was presently still trying to clean up its balance sheets.
There is also the possibility that the nearly RM500 million building may be sold off to Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s Tradewinds Corporation Bhd (TCB), but this would leave the traders again in a lurch as it is not immediately certain if they would be included in the tycoon’s future plans for the prime property.
“We want UDA to discuss with the ministry and the MRT and come up with the best resolution to this issue.... because at this point, this arrangement is the best for MRT but not for us,” Hassan said.
He also appealed to MRT Corp to postpone its plan to kick-off “pre-works” on the sidewalk outside BBP’s main entrance, claiming this could slash the businesses of the mall’s tenants by at least half.
BBP’s tenants are expected to submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tomorrow.