Hari Raya light-up organisers under CAD probe

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Hari Raya light-up organisers under CAD probe
(Main, from left) the vendor Mr Salleh Sam, Mr Zakaria Abdul Gapor, secretary-general of Majlis Pusat, and Mr Saharuddin Kassim, president of Majlis Pusat, during a press conference on April 2. (Top left) The dismal decorations in 2013. (Top centre) The decorations in 2012. (Top right) Mr Zulkifli Mohammed, former MP and president of Majlis Pusat.

SINGAPORE - The Commercial Affairs Division (CAD) is conducting a probe into Majlis Pusat Singapura, the Malay-Muslim non-governmental organisation (NGO) believed to be the organisers of the annual Hari Raya light-up at Geylang Serai. CAD confirmed that investigations are ongoing, but did not provide further information.

Malay-language daily Berita Harian (BH) reported that CAD's investigations involve several main executive committee members of Majlis Pusat, also known as Central Council of Malay Cultural Organisation.

According to a BH report, CAD recently raided the Majlis Pusat office in Toa Payoh Central and seized several documents and computers.

When approached by BH, Majlis Pusat confirmed that investigations are ongoing.

In a press statement released Wednesday night, they said: "Majlis Pusat is assisting the CAD with investigations on the light up projects for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

"To ensure the effectiveness and transparency of the proceedings, the executive committee of Majlis Pusat has collectively agreed to be relieved of all duties and responsibilities until investigations have concluded.

"For the duration of the probe, Majlis Pusat will be under the administration of an advisor and ex-president, Mr Zulkifli Mohamed."

According to Majlis Pusat's statement, the current executive committe was appointed in July 2012.

Mr Salleh Sam, the owner of MCC Events & Production, the vendor for the light-up, was also reported to have been questioned by the CAD.

When BH contacted him on Wednesday night, Mr Salleh Sam confirmed that he had been summoned to provide information to CAD regarding the light-up projects. According to him, his company had won the tender for the project for 2013, 2012 and 2011.

"I was questioned for around four hours and I co-operated with CAD. If they need further information, they can contact me again," said Mr Salleh Sam to BH.

Problems between the vendors and Majlis Pusat were first known to BH on March 15. BH learned that the MCC has not been paid in full by Majlis Pusat for the Hari Raya light-up project in 2011 and 2012.

Outstanding payments owed to MCC amount to around $125,000 for the project in 2012 and more than $20,000 for the project in 2011.

President of Majlis Pusat, Mr Saharudin Kassim, later explained that he had told the MCC that the remaining balance owed will be paid when Majlis Pusat receives their grants from funding agencies.

However, the two funding agencies, the Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Tote Board, later confirmed to BH that they had released all of the grant money. BH learned that Majlis Pusat had also received grants from other funding agencies.

In a joint press conference with Majlis Pusat and MCC on March 30, Mr Saharudin said he agreed to pay arrears to the MCC in stages until August.

Despite the payment issue that has not been resolved, Majlis Pusat still gave the tender to MCC to do the light-up project this year.

Yet, the decorations and lights at Geylang Serai this year disappointed a lot of people who visited, as well as many Berita Harian readers who wrote complaint letters to the Forum. Some described the light-up as lifeless, unattractive and embarrassing.

Responding to feedback, Majlis Pusat said that two years ago they decided to focus more on the activities and content of the event, and less on decorations. They described this as a middle approach to meet the diverse needs and tastes of the local Malay-Muslim community.

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