In a briefing to the media yesterday at the UMNO Kuala Selangor hall, it was revealed that the settlers were forced to accept Daim & Gamany as lawyer to represent the PKPS settlers. They settlers were earlier represented by Dato Kamaruddin Ahmad for many years.
Following the global settlement, there was a condition in the Federal Court Order that insisted on the use of Daim & Gamany.
There were other conditions on the settlement - Mujur Zaman, Liputan Canggih Sdn Bhd and LBCN Development must withdraw their lawsuit and sell their 2,200 acrers land sold to Paragon Pinnacle Sdn Bhd, subsidiary of Eco World Development Berhad.
The issue of conflict of interest on the part of Sivarasa Rasiah was raised. Deputy Director of BN Strategic Communication, Dato Eric See To raised the issue in his Facebook HERE. There is also a complimenting article published by the portal Stories Behind Stories published an article: Politiciain-Lawyers and conflict of interest.
Sivarasa replied in Malaysiakini (append below) with praises of Dato Seri Azmin Ali and villifying Dato Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. Howeever his explanation is in conflict with what he claim to be i.e. the rerpresentative of the Peneroka or settlers.
Sivarasa: I was appointed by Ijok land settlers themselves
Eric See To claimed he has not represented the interest of the settlers.Read his Facebook HERE and HERE. Among others the issue of land value remain at old price and not at current rate. In addition, there is the issue of is ircAs po
In his reply to Sivarasa, he said:
Who paid Sivarasa Rasiah to represent the settlers? The so-called crony companies or the settlers? How much was he paid?
Sivarasa Rasiah, the PKR MP for Subang is not happy that I had questioned if there was a conflict of interest with him being appointed as the lawyer for the 980 settlers of the Ijok scheme in dealing with the developers and the Selangor Govt.
He said he is consulting his lawyers if I had defamed him as he said that there is no conflict of interest since he claims he was appointed by the settlers.
I do not think Sivarasa understands me. It does not matter if the settlers had appointed him or the Queen of England had appointed him to represent the settlers' interest.
What matters is that R.Sivarasa is a PKR member and a Member of Parliament in the state of Selangor whereas the Selangor Government who approved the settlement is run by PKR where the Menteri Besar is also the Deputy President of Sivarasa's party, PKR as well as a fellow Member of Parliament in Selangor.
Given these ties to the counter-parties, he should know that that there is possible conflict of interest and should have recused himself from representing the settlers.
Are there no other lawyers in Selangor other than PKR lawyers?
Here I enclose a 4-page FAQ distributed by Sivarasa's firm Daim and Gamany to the settlers as part of their settlement process.
You will notice that the value of their houses are just RM250,000 - not RM400,000 or RM500,000 as frequently claimed by the Selangor Govt. https://www.facebook.com/EricSeeTo/photos/a.1616864194992633.1073741828.1613712091974510/1882194731792910/?type=3
You will also notice that the legal fees (point 18, page 3) for the settlement agreements documents are to be paid by "akaun tuanpunya tanah yang terdahulu", which refers to the companies which the PKR Selangor Govt calls as "BN cronys" as defined in point 20 part b (page 4).
Perhaps Sivarasa Rasiah should now come clean and tell us exactly who appointed him as the settlers lawyers, who paid him and how much was he paid for his kind services to the settlers?
Did the settlers pay him or was he really paid by the so-called "BN cronys" as this FAQ suggest?
Did his law firm tell the settlers that their land was going to be sold for RM1.18 billion and that the two companies that have failed the settlers for 18 years will be getting RM880mil while the settlers will only get RM300mil?
Did the law firm inform the settlers that the buyer of the land intends to develop a RM15 billion Gross Development Value project on the settlers' former lands?
Such information would have helped the settlers - many of whom are old and less educated - make a more informed decision whether to take up the offer to settle.
Instead of threatening me with a frivolous law-suit, perhaps he should answer those questions above which he has artfully ignored.
A copy of the agreement was not provided to the settlers to refer and check with others. Only the Q&A was provided and already there were many unfair conditions that favurs the developer Paragon Pinnacle.
Apparently, Sivarasa's fee was paid by Eco World and rumour is it is more than the compensation each settlers get at around RM5 million. Obviously he did not reprersented the interest of the Peneroka but was favouring the interest of developer and the state.
Settlers are not allowed to caveat their land.
And, 1,000 acres of the original land taken over by the state was not return to the settlers but kept as MBI land. That should be the right of the original settlers and is estimated to value at RM500 million.
COMMENT | Over the last few days, BN strategic communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan, other Selangor Umno leaders and BN’s controlled mass media have been trying to paint the government of Selangor and Menteri Besar Azmin Ali in a negative light over the so-called Ijok land issue.
The timing of the one-sided attacks as GE14 nears shows the desperation of Umno and BN.
In fact, it is not just desperation but also utter hypocrisy because Azmin remedied a major injustice done by the BN - he fulfilled the failed promises made by BN to these settlers in 2000 when BN took away their land of three acres each and promised in return compensation of RM180,000 as well as a house worth RM180,000.
BN then gave the land to their cronies who enriched themselves but failed to deliver to the settlers. Until 2008, BN stood by and did nothing to solve the problem.
Rahman (photo) and other Umno leaders’ statements, as usual, deliberately present a mixture of half-truths, misrepresentations and raise false questions to mislead the public. Khalid Ibrahim and his former secretary Faekah Husin have jumped on the bandwagon too; perhaps for them, it is hit-back time over his sacking as menteri besar.
My firm Daim & Gamany were approached in late 2015 by the Jawatankuasa Bertindak Projek Terbengkalai Alam Mutiara and Alam Utama (settlers from Phase 2 and 3 of the original “Projek Revolusi Hijau”) representing about 980 settlers to act as their legal representative to protect their interest and to ensure that these failed promises made in 2000 by BN were finally fulfilled.
As such, I am quite familiar with what the state government and Azmin have done on this issue.
My clients have spoken out at a press conference on Tuesday together with the former member of Parliament for Kuala Selangor, Dzulkefly Ahmad. I wish to add some clarifications of the legal aspects and overall settlement in reply to the distortions spread by Rahman, other BN leaders and their proxies.
Background and origin
In 1987, a land scheme was created in Ijok for about 1,000-plus settlers. They were given three acres of agricultural land each. They leased their three acres back to the state agency, Perbadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Selangor (PKPS), which planted oil palm and managed it like Felda and gave them some returns.
Around 2000, the BN government took back the land and gave it with cheap premiums to their cronies to do mixed development – houses, shops, offices, etc.
Obviously, they and their cronies had seen that this land was gaining in value and greed prevailed over the settlers’ long-term interest. They promised each settler RM180,000 cash compensation and a house worth RM180,000 in return for their three acres land.
Three companies, controlled by one businessman, were given the biggest portions. BN failed to ensure that these companies who were supposed to develop the land delivered on their promises to the settlers.
Their cronies mortgaged the lands to several banks getting many hundreds of millions of ringgit in loans, paid a part of the compensation to the settlers, but failed to deliver the houses to most of the settlers and left behind abandoned partially-built townships.
One of these cronies was finally prosecuted for stock market manipulation in the Fountainview Bhd case and served a year in jail as punishment.
The settlers waited in vain for the BN government to solve their problem. Nothing effective was done. No houses or further compensation were delivered up to 2008.
Khalid Ibrahim’s approach
So, this was the mess that the Pakatan Rakyat government inherited in 2008. The settlers then wrote to and met with then menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim in 2009 and appealed to him to solve their problems. Khalid’s (photo) approach to resolving the matter was to use acquisition and also forfeiture powers under the National Land Code to get the land back from these companies.
He initiated acquisition notices on the lands and wanted to pay cheap compensation based on the valuation on an agricultural use basis although it was clear from 2000 that it was the intention of the BN government that the land was to be for mixed development and some development did take place.
Unfortunately for Khalid, new controlling shareholders were now in place in these companies who had also invested in them. They fought the acquisitions in court to stop them or, if unsuccessful, to claim the maximum possible compensation.
This fightback resulted in over 30 separate cases in court at all levels involving these companies, the state government and also banks and other creditors of these companies who filed claims for compensation.
This is where Rahman deliberately painted a false and misleading picture with his statements. He only talks about one acquisition challenge pending in the Federal Court case (without mentioning the case number) where the state government had won in the High Court and Court of Appeal and asks why Azmin had not proceeded to fight out the Federal Court case.
He does not mention all the other cases pending. He also asks what happened to the sale proceeds of RM1.18 billion as if it is the same land concerned in that Federal Court case that is being sold.
The following are the facts about the litigation that was taking place during Khalid’s time as MB over the lands that Rahman ought to know but pretends not to. These lands can roughly be described as two parts. The first is Alam Perdana owned by LBCN Development about 1,000 acres in size. The second part comprises Alam Mutiara and Alam Utama owned by Mujur Zaman and Liputan Canggih and is about 2,200 acres in size.
LBCN Development challenged the acquisition notice of the state government by judicial review (JR -25-170-2011) but failed in the High Court on a technicality – it filed its case too late.
However the High Court, in another case brought by Maybank Islamic Berhad (as a lender) against the state involving LBCN land, had ruled that compensation to the bank was to be paid on a mixed-development basis and to also take into account what the owners had invested in all infrastructure built.
The company lost again in the Court of Appeal and its appeal was pending in the Federal Court. Rahman’s story is correct up to here only. What he does not mention is that even if the state government had won the Federal Court appeal, it would still have to pay a huge amount in compensation. The acquisition is not free.
Khalid initially paid about RM3 per square foot based on agricultural use. The state could still have to pay up to another RM6 per sq ft, which would come to about RM260 million, and also face a claim by LBCN of about RM600 million for existing infrastructure, creating a total potential liability for the state of about RM860 million. This is for this part of 1,000 acres alone.
The LBCN land and acquisition court case has nothing to do with the sale of RM1.18 billion inked in 2015/6 which concerned the remaining 2,200 acres. That sale was an arms-length transaction between the owners - Mujur Zaman etc, and a reputable developer and did not involve the state government.
The spin of Umno/BN’s Rahman and their cohorts repeats a false statement that this 2,200 acres sold were “returned back” by the state to the owners. This land actually remained at all times as private land because the acquisition notices issued under Khalid’s government were successfully stopped in court by a judicial review challenge by the owners in the High Court case JR 25-5-11/2012.
There were also many other court challenges to the acquisitions initiated by Khalid brought by the banks who had lent hundreds of millions of ringgit to the original companies around 2000 after BN gave them the lands.
Apart from the case by Maybank Islamic Berhad mentioned above, there were claims by other banks such as Malayan Banking Berhad, Bumiputra Commerce Berhad (now CIMB), Malaysian Assurance Alliance Berhad, Zurich Insurance and others.
There were also claims by non-bank creditors who had lent money, such as Gaya Perkasa Sdn Bhd and Citarasa Sdn Bhd. All of them had protected interests on the land by way of caveats and charges. Some were also about to initiate foreclosure proceedings as well to protect their financial interests. All in, there were 30-plus cases pending in court resulting from the acquisition attempts by Khalid.
What Khalid achieved and did not
After six years in 2014, all Khalid had achieved was winning the acquisition challenge for the 1,000 acres of LBCN land but facing a potential liability of about RM860 million in compensation. The state was embroiled in over 30-plus cases from the landowners, lender banks and non-bank creditors either challenging acquisition or claiming compensation.
Both LBCN Development and Mujur Zaman had filed a “misfeasance in public office” or abuse of power civil suit against Khalid personally and the state government claiming a billion over ringgit in damages.
Apart from the settlers in Phase One of the original Rancangan Revolusi Hijau which concerned the 1,000 acres owned by LBCN, who were finally paid in full and received their houses during Khalid’s time as MB, all the 980 settlers involved with the 2,200 acres of Mujur Zaman were still waiting for their promised compensation and their houses.
There was no end in sight for them as all this litigation was clearly going to drag on for more years. As of to date, 358 of the original 980 settlers have already passed away! How long more were their heirs going to wait?
Even if Khalid’s acquisition strategy was finally successful for all 3,200 acres, the state would still face huge claims for compensation which could go up to about RM1.4 billion taking into account valuation at mixed development basis and the amount claimed for infrastructure on the land. In any event, so far, his acquisition was only successful for the 1,000 acres LBCN portion.
In short, Khalid’s strategy of acquiring the land, and then either developing it and/or selling it and using the proceeds to pay the settlers their compensation and give them their houses was a failure and frustrated by all the pending litigation.
It had also put the state at high financial risk of paying out huge amounts of compensation for the acquisitions.
Global settlement proposal
Representatives of the 980 settlers then met Azmin in 2015 and urged him to find a solution to correct the injustice inflicted upon them by the earlier BN government.
The new controlling shareholders of Mujur Zaman and LBCN Development then made a proposal for a global settlement to Azmin. They proposed that they had found a reputable developer to buy the 2,200-acre portion for RM1.18 billion.
From the sale proceeds of RM1.18 billion, they undertook to pay all debts due to the lender banks and to the non-bank creditors so that all caveats and charges and claims made on the state government for all 3,200 acres would be removed. They also undertook to pay all the balance compensation due to the settlers and build their promised houses.
Azmin (photo) was in principle agreeable. However, he insisted on the following conditions to approve the sale. Firstly, that the highest priority must be given to the payment of the balance compensation due to the 980 settlers and that their houses must be guaranteed and built by the buyer as a reputable developer. This was to ensure that there was no chance of the settlers not getting their houses.
Secondly, that the sale proceeds must also be used to settle all outstanding claims by the banks and other creditors and that all claims by the banks and these creditors for compensations from the state government in respect of the 1,000 acres of the LBCN land must be withdrawn. This would protect the state from pending compensation claims of about RM860 million.
Thirdly, that all further claims by the landowners to the 1,000 acres of LBCN land to be withdrawn so that the land would effectively be returned to the state. It could then be developed for the benefit of the people of Selangor.
Fourth, that the civil suit filed against Khalid personally and the state government for actions amounting to abuse of power during Khalid’s time were also withdrawn to ensure that there was no further liability for the state government. In so doing, Azmin’s demand also protected Khalid.
The landowner companies agreed to Azmin’s terms. Agreements were drawn up and inked. It is this global settlement that was recorded in a consent judgment before the Federal Court on May 17, 2016. The consent judgment makes reference to the 30-plus cases involving these lands which were all resolved collectively in a stroke.
In short, without a single sen further coming out of the state treasury, Azmin had successfully negotiated that the 980 settlers would get their compensation and homes immediately and recovered free of encumbrances 1,000 acres of land from the 3,200 acres which the BN government had given cheap to their cronies in 2000.
Compare this to what the corrupt BN government had done in 2000. They took back the settlers land and gave it all away to their cronies and left empty promises of compensation and houses.
Khalid attempted to solve the problem but embarked on a high-risk strategy which exposed the state government to substantial liabilities. His strategy was also going nowhere after six years of attempts to acquire and provided no solution in sight for the 980 settlers.
Lies and utter hypocrisy
It is utter hypocrisy for the likes of Rahman and other Umno types to now try to insinuate that Azmin and the state government have been compromised by settling the sole Federal Court case Rahman mentions. It was their corrupt BN predecessors that have caused so much misery to the 980 settlers.
The issue as to what happened to the RM1.18 billion is also easy to answer. RM250 million was retained by the buyer/developer to build the settlers homes. A total of RM45 million was used to pay all remaining compensation due to the 980 settlers.
Here again, Rahman has got his facts all wrong - he should know from earlier records that part of the compensation was in fact paid by the BN cronies when they got the land leaving behind an unpaid balance of RM45 million.
I am informed that about RM700 million was used to pay the banks and other creditors. This gives a total of RM995 million. The remaining RM185 million would presumably be used to cover all the investment cost of the current shareholders of LBCN Development and Mujur Zaman.
Whether the sale proceeds were sufficient to give the shareholders of these companies a profit or loss is not a concern for the state. As mentioned above, Azmin’s concern was simple and clear - it was the landowners’ responsibility to negotiate and pay off all debts due to the banks and other creditors in order for the state to approve the sale.
All claims for compensation for acquisition were to be withdrawn to ensure that the 1,000 acres taken back by the state were free of any claims whatsoever.
The allegations of a bailout for the landowner companies is also baseless. A bailout is the use of public funds or a public asset to benefit a private interest. Here the land sold were private land at all times. The buyer paid the RM1.18 billion for it.
No public money was involved. Further and above that, the state benefited from having all claims against it and against the 1,000 acres withdrawn. The settlement was obviously in the public interest.
The balance RM45 million compensation was paid to the 980 settlers by end of December 2016. No complaints were raised by BN leaders as it being done now even though the sale was by now public knowledge.
Azmin gave the 980 settlers certificates of entitlement for their homes in a public event in September 2016 - again no issues were raised by BN leaders. On Feb 1 this year, the settlers signed their individual agreements with the developer for their homes which on the open market today can fetch around RM500,000. When the settlers receive their keys within two years, these homes would no doubt be worth even more.
We can only conclude that it is the imminent general election that is driving Rahman and other BN leaders to desperately try to tarnish Azmin and the Selangor state government. I am sure that the 980 settlers and their families and friends understand the facts very well and will know who caused their problem and who solved it.
As usual, BN is abusing and manipulating agencies such as the MACC to try to create negative perceptions of what the Selangor state has successfully achieved for the 980 settlers and also for the state by getting back 1,000 acres free.
As a result, I had to deal with a team of MACC officers on Wednesday at my law office. The officers were polite and professional. We gave them whatever information they required to understand and deconstruct the lies and distortions in BN media spin.
I am certain they were also quite aware that their valuable time would have been much better spent investigating the blatant thefts of billions from 1MDB, Felda and other BN-run government-linked companies (GLCs).
SIVARASA RASIAH is MP for Subang and lawyer the 980 settlers for ‘Projek Rancangan Revolusi Hijau Fasa 2 dan 3, Alam Mutiara dan Alam Utama’.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.