KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — The country’s biggest Malay business organisation wants a guarantee from MRT Corporation that Bumiputera trade won’t be affected with Bukit Bintang Plaza’s planned redevelopment for the city’s new rail link.
The Malaysian Insider reported last week that MRT Corp’s plan to connect an underground train station with BBP would place Malay businesses at risk come 2013 once the multibillion ringgit rail project takes over the mall then.
According to a source, the city train project owner would first take over the frontage of BBP and the adjoining Yayasan Selangor building before moving on to their basements to construct the underground station.
By mid-2013, all mall occupants would have to clear out, claimed the source.
“We want MRT Corp to guarantee, make sure Malay traders are not affected by this programme,” Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia (DPMM) secretary-general Hanafee Yusoff told reporters today.
Hanafee said the onus was on MRT Corp to ensure that the profits of Bumiputera businesses were not jeopardised with BB Plaza’s redevelopment plan.
Once the redevelopment was done, he said MRT should accord Malay businesses “premium” areas within the shopping mall.
“If it is possible, we want Malay traders sitting in premium areas. We do not want to be known as third-class businessmen anymore,” Hanafee added.
He said DPMM was “ready” to meet MRT Corp as well as UDA Holdings Bhd over the matter.
But MRT Corp has insisted its plans would open up opportunities to redevelop the 1970s-built mall instead of relying on “cheap rental” to boost Bumiputera businesses.
According to MRT Corp CEO Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid, this would enhance and elevate the Bumiputera agenda rather than — as UDA had claimed — put it at risk should the construction plans proceed.
Through the redevelopment of BBP, which he said could potentially become the new “icon” of the Bukit Bintang shopping district, Azhar said Bumiputera businesses could then move up to become entrepreneurs.
Azhar had said the days of providing cheap rental to promote Bumiputera trade were no longer feasible.
He also denied that MRT Corp planned to acquire the mall, but said discussions on the proposed plans to link its station to the mall were still ongoing with the Finance Ministry, which owns UDA Holdings.
UDA Holdings chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed told The Malaysian Insider last week that it would bow to the city project owner MRT Corp’s plans but warned that this would place the Bumiputera agenda at risk.
BBP houses a majority of Malay businesses in the iconic city shopping district while Chinese businessmen run their companies in the adjoining Sungei Wang Plaza and nearby shophouses, opposite several modern shopping malls and hotels carrying major international luxury labels.
Despite a development notice about the work to BBP tenants, The Malaysian Insider understands the traders are still in the dark about compensation for having to leave before their leases expire as UDA Holdings wants the Treasury or MRT Corp to underwrite the payments.