RM30 mil donation rejected, philanthropist puzzled

 I called a press conference today to refute the statement made by Ipoh MCA politician Thong Fah Chong a few days ago. He said that I wanted a seat on the Utar (Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman) Council and because of that the university cannot accept my RM30 million donation to build hostels within the university campus in Kampar. I have never wanted a seat on the Utar Council and what Thong said is not true.   

The Ipoh Echo and the Centre of Policy Initiatives carry an advertisement of my offer of scholarships to help poor students whose family income is less than RM2,000 per month. In the last three and half years, I have given scholarships to about 70 really poor students and most of them are studying in Utar.

Scholarship recipients do not need to pay me back the money I gave to them nor they need to work for me, but they have to promise me that when they are financially solvent, they will help other poor students. In this way, I believe many who have benefitted from my charity, will continue to do charity after I die.

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Before the end of the year, my first scholarship holder will be graduating as an accountant. This student had 10 A1 for his SPM but failed to receive a scholarship from anywhere.  Moreover, his father died soon after he completed his SPM. He is one of many thousands of bright but poor students who do not have the resources to continue their higher education.

There are currently 12,500 students in Utar and 2,100 students in TAR College. The student population is increasing by 2,000 a year and is expected to hit well above the 20,000 mark soon. As reported, the Perak government has allocated 520ha of land and Utar has so far utilised less than 100ha.

After receiving confirmation that Utar has no plans to build hostels last year, I offered a RM30 million donation to Utar to build hostels with all the net profit to go towards building more hostels. I have openly declared that my intention is to help the students and I do not want any part of the profit for myself.

The following is my original donation offer written on Aug 18, 2009:

I wish to donate RM30 million to Utar for a hostel development within the campus on the following conditions:

1) I solemnly declare that all the benefits derived from this hostel development is only for Utar in Kampar and not for my personal gain.

2) A foundation to be set up under the control of a board of directors with me as chairman and four directors to be appointed by Utar Council with my approval.

3) The main objective is to provide suitable accommodation with recreational facilities for Utar students within the campus.

4) The rental rate must be sustainable and competitive. The return from the investment must be able to generate a profit of at least RM1 million a year for scholarships to help poor students and additional funds for maintenance and new development.

Reasons for proposal:

1) To help students especially new ones to solve their immediate accommodation problem.

2) Hostel environment is more conducive for learning and the development of human relationship.

3) Currently all the 9,500 Utar students are scattered all over Kampar and the university has practically no control over them after lectures. They are free to drink and gamble. Moreover, they have the constant worry of their landlords kicking them out or they have to find new accommodation before the start of the new semester.

Can you imagine living with this constant fear while you are burdened with lectures, examinations and financial difficulties? This situation cannot continue if Utar Council has a good alternative.

4) University students are always burdened with a lot of difficulties and some students will develop irreversible psychological problem. Studies have shown that living in hostel have many advantages, including the reduction of dropouts.

5) Living in university hostel is the most pleasurable period of a student’s life. The hostel facilities will generate happiness and comradeship among fellow students. As a result, students are better prepared to face the competitive world after graduation.

Final donation offer

After having waited more than six months for Utar’s acceptance of my donation, on March 1, 2010, I met Lau Yin Pin, chairman of Utar Board of Trustees and professor Chuah Hean Teik, president/CEO of Utar Council at Utar, Kampar and I gave them in writing my final donation offer as follows:

My mission is to help Utar students, especially the poor students in their access to university residential accommodation and scholarships.

1) All the RM30 million donation and the profit from the rental and other income must be used for building hostels and other associated residential buildings for the use of students within the campus of Utar, Kampar.

2) All construction contracts exceeding RM10,000 must be open to competitive tenders.

3) The task force is to be composed of seven members – four members to be nominated by Utar and three members to be nominated by myself or by my nominee.

4) I will be appointed by Utar as adviser to the task force. The role of adviser must be spelt out and agreeable to me. This position will be a life-long one. Any change to be made to the position has to be sanctioned by me or by the executors of my estate.

5) Utar will utilise a team of people to manage the hostel on a commercial basis. The rental rate must be competitive and profitable, but at the same time it should not burden the students.

6) Koon Yew Yin and his estate reserve the right to authorise Utar to use a portion of the net income to create a Koon Yew Yin Charity Foundation to help poor students by offering scholarships or loans to Utar and other needy students.

7) In honour of his donation, Koon wishes to have a tablet prominently displaced with these words inscribed:

“Recipients of Koon Yew Yin’s scholarships and residents of Koon Yew Yin’s hostels have promise him that when they graduate and are financially solvent, they will help other poor people.”

The whole residential village is to be named Koon Yew Yin residential complex. Each hostel block should be named after the fundamental rights of citizens such as liberty, justice, equality, fraternity, freedom, integrity, etc.

From the start of the negotiation, Utar insisted on having full control over the spending of my money. This seems so ridiculous and I was willing to accept and inserted clause three above.

Donation offer withdrawn

For the last one year, it is a puzzle why the Board of Trustees and Council of Utar have such difficulty in accepting my donation offer. Any reasonable donor, in anywhere in the world, would have lost patience and given up much earlier.

It is with deep regret and disappointment I wrote to all the members of Utar Board of Trustees and Council yesterday to withdraw my donation offer.

As a result of Utar’s rejection of my donation, thousands of students will miss the advantages of living in hostels within the university campus and thousands of parents will suffer in paying higher cost for accommodation for their children.

It is now up to the public, Utar students and parents to push for the building of the residential colleges using Utar’s own resources. The public has the right to ask the MCA president the true reason why Utar cannot accept my donation offer.

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