KOTA KINABALU: More than 200 buyers of the abandoned Star City shopping mall project in the downtown area continue to suffer amid feelings of betrayal as the Sabah government had failed them.
Yong Teck Lee, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president said most buyers of the Star City mall project units comprised small and medium entrepreneurs.
“Almost all borrowed from banks to buy the units and they are now saddled with loans and in the meantime their properties are decaying in front of their eyes,” he said in a statement Monday.
“It is a structure that would look not out of place in Aleppo,” said Yong, referring to the bombed out city in the civil war ravaged Syria.
“Many of the buyers face difficulty in servicing their loans and exhausted their life savings as well,” said Yong who recently met representatives of the Star City Buyers Association representatives.
He said the Sabah government should have stepped in and intervened when the mall project began to falter more than a decade ago.
“This is a joint venture project between the Sabah Urban Development Corporation, a state-owned government linked company and private sector interests,” said Yong who is contesting the Kota Kinabalu Parliamentary seat.
“On that basis alone, the state was duty bound to see the project to its completion,” he said in adding many buyers made the decision to purchase the Star City units on the expectation that the state government would guarantee its completion.
“Instead the state government has shown no sense of urgency to resolve this issue,” added Yong, a former chief minister.
Construction on the Star City mall began in 2005 but was suspended year later following disputes between the developer and the contractor.
The project resumed in 2007 but was halted again two years due to financial difficulties faced by the developer.
It has been reported that the developer had been facing winding-up proceedings from its bankers and creditors with amount due in excess of RM70 million.
The mall project comprised a total of 575 shop units of which 109 remain unsold.
Those unsold units is key to Star City’s revival, said Yong whose term as Chief Minister between 1996 and 1998 saw the Sabah government reviving various abandoned housing projects.
These include Taman Seputeh in Kota Kinabalu and Taman Wiseland in Kudat.
“It is not impossible. All it takes is government that really cares and has the willpower to resolve the problem,” Yong added.