Business

Rebuffed alleged Melaka land acquisition attempt back on track

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Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR — May 24, 2019: In 2017, a Singaporean who claimed to be acting on behalf of then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan, proposed a land deal to the Melaka government but was rebuffed.

Today, that proposal is back on track.

The deal requires the state government to compel Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDP) to sell at below the market price 75 hectares of land in Merlimau. According to documents seen by The Mole, the land is valued at RM80 million but SDP was compelled to sell it at only RM35 million.

The developer, to which the land will eventually be awarded, is GIA Resources Sdn. Bhd.

What will be built on the land is however ambiguous as sources claimed that the supposed mixed development slated for the project was merely a front.

The Singaporean had allegedly made it known that included in it would be a zoo for the king’s exotic animals.

Since the state government had given the go-ahead to the project last September, SDP, a subsidiary of Permodalan Nasional Berhad, had been trying to thwart the acquisition.

The company’s representatives had two meetings with Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari and in the second one in January SDP,  was told that the acquisition process could not be stopped as the state government had already received a deposit of RM29 million.

It is believed that the deposit, which was supposed have been given to SDP as the land owner, had already been used by the state. This was the reason Adly had given for  his administration not being to not stop the deal.

Adly, however, was said to have asked SDP to bring the matter into discussion with GIA and had given the former an assurance that the deal would not proceed until an amicable solution had been reached.

On March 11, a company called Binsani Group Sdn. Bhd., believed to be affiliated with GIA and the Singaporean, sent an email to SDP that “His Highness” (Sultan Muhammad) disagreed with the suggestion to do the deal via open tender.

“As such, we will proceed with the land acquisition with the state government of Melaka,” read the email that was sent to an official of SDP.

In a discussion with GIA, SDP had proposed an alternative site to which the former rejected and on March 25, SDP wrote two letters — one to Adly and another to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, asking for their intervention.

Below is an excerpt of SDP’s letter to Dr Mahathir:

“Of late there has been higher number of proposals relating to compulsory acquisition of SDP’s land for economic purposes. SDP has adopted a policy of engagement with the State Government and interested parties so as to achieve solutions which are acceptable to all parties.

“In rare cases, such as the one above, SDP has not been able to reach an amicable solution with all parties. Upon checking the background of the proposed acquisition, SDP has been informed that certain personalities are interested in this transaction.

“SDP has written an appeal to Chief Minister of Melaka, requesting that an alternative plot of land be acquired instead of the land under the State Gazette as the land houses the residential complex and infrastructure facilities of Kempas Estate.

“SDP would like to appeal for Tun’s (Dr Mahathir) guidance in this matter in view that land held by a GLC seems to be the target for acquisition of this nature,” read the letter signed by SDP executive deputy chairman and managing director Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh.

Sources said Dr Mahathir and Adly had yet to respond to SDP’s plea. Last month SDP had filed a judicial review.

In the review application, SDP head of plan management unit Mohd. Razlan Mohd Rahim stated that the deal had violated Article 74 of the Federal Constitution as the palace, a federal institution, had been used to interfere in state affairs.

He cited a letter dated April 4, 2018 – furnished by GIA to the Melaka government – that purportedly bore the palace’s letterhead that was signed by Royal Comptroller Datuk Pengelola Bijaya Diraja, in support of the acquisition, as an example of a violation.

“This will also mean that the Jasin District Land Office’s move to issue a letter dated March 19 this year to acquire the land is ultra vires, as the palace cannot direct the state government to take an action that is wrong and against public interest,” said Razlan.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia today, SDP announced that a Melaka high court had granted the company leave to commence a judicial review.

The company further noted that the court had also granted SDAP a stay of all proceedings of the acquisition.

“Consequently, the land shall remain with the company until the final disposal of the judicial review,” it said.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]