Sime Darby unit cries ‘conspiracy’ as gears keep turning in alleged Melaka land-grab despite lawsuit

Sime Darby Plantation Bhd is currently using the Melaka land as an oil palm plantation, with one of the five residences being a valuable colonial-era bungalow that is 66 years’ old. — Reuters pic
Sime Darby Plantation Bhd is currently using the Melaka land as an oil palm plantation, with one of the five residences being a valuable colonial-era bungalow that is 66 years’ old. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) has alleged a “conspiracy” in which a land authority in Melaka is aiding the forced acquisition of the government-linked company's (GLC) land for the benefit of an ultimately foreign-owned company.

After recently filing its court challenge to stop the alleged land grab in Melaka for below market price, SDP asserted that the relevant land authority in Melaka still went on to issue a document to proceed with the compulsory acquisition three days after the lawsuit was filed.

In a court affidavit, SDP land management unit head Mohd Razlan Mohd Rahim pointed out that the lawsuit was filed on April 29, producing news reports to show that the lawsuit was widely reported as early as April 30.

SDP judicial review application sought for the Melaka courts to stop and cancel the compulsory acquisition of its 75.07 hectares land in Merlimau in Melaka's Jasin district for a mixed development project.

SDP also asked the courts to suspend the entire land acquisition process until the courts give a final decision on the matter, in order to preserve the status quo of the land while the acquisition itself is being challenged.

“In such circumstances, it is appropriate that the respondents do not take any action that can change the status quo. Changing the status quo deliberately which may affect this case is not only an act of mala fide (bad faith) but can be a contempt of court,” Mohd Razlan said in a court affidavit sighted by Malay Mail.

The lawsuit was filed against four respondents, namely the Melaka Land and Mines Department director, the Jasin land administrator, the Melaka state government and private company GI A Resources Sdn Bhd that is allegedly foreign-controlled.

Mohd Razlan noted that the Jasin district land administrator had on May 2 — three days after the lawsuit was filed — issued a Borang H over SDP's land.

The Borang H offered SDP a total of RM37.4 million in compensation, including RM35.28 million for the land and the remaining sum for six houses and a guardhouse on the land.

SDP is currently using the Melaka land as an oil palm plantation, with one of the five residences being a valuable colonial-era bungalow that is 66 years’ old.

Effectively, the Jasin land administrator had — by issuing the Borang H — proceeded to take yet another step in the land acquisition process that SDP sought to have suspended until the courts' decision.

“The swift reaction of the second respondent (Jasin land administrator) to issue Borang H after controversy over this matter arose shows the second respondent's conspiracy to help the fourth respondent (GI A Resources) to conclude the acquisition process quickly.

“The purpose is none other than bad motives so that the grabbing of GLC land can be finalised for foreign-owned interest,” Mohd Razlan said, alleging to signs of a conspiracy involving Jasin land administrator and GI A Resources.

Mohd Razlan also claimed the form the Jasin land administrator issued was not meant to fulfil legal requirements but, according to him, meant to conceal alleged abuse of the Land Acquisition Act 1960.

“The second respondent's actions are also intended to oppress the applicant's rights to cause the applicant (SDP) to lose the land for the interests of GI A Resources Sdn Bhd,” he said, asserting that the alleged conspiracy for the purported continued oppression of SDP should not be allowed to go on.

Mohd Razlan urged the High Court in Melaka to ensure that those sued by SDP would not carry out “mischief to divert the course of justice” and affect the status quo of SDP's land.

“Unless the respondents are blocked and an order for interim suspension is given by the court, the respondents will continue to act hurriedly to grab the land owned by the applicant and cause irreparable loss and damages to the applicant,” he said.

Previously in court documents, SDP said it had no choice but to file this lawsuit against the state authorities, as it received no replies from three written appeals to Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahar within the period of October 29, 2018 to March 25, 2019 to have the compulsory acquisition process cancelled.

Adly, who heads the Melaka state government now under Pakatan Harapan's administration, also leads the coalition's Melaka chapter and its component party Parti Amanah Negara in Melaka.

Foreign-controlled GI A Resources used Kelantan ruler Sultan Muhammad V's name when saying the ‘Agong’ purportedly intends to proceed with the land acquisition. ― Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali
Foreign-controlled GI A Resources used Kelantan ruler Sultan Muhammad V's name when saying the ‘Agong’ purportedly intends to proceed with the land acquisition. ― Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

In previous court documents, SDP had alleged that the compulsory acquisition process was rushed through after the foreign-controlled GI A Resources wrote an email on March 11, where the latter used Kelantan ruler Sultan Muhammad V's name when saying the “Agong” purportedly intends to proceed with the land acquisition.

By that time, the Kelantan ruler was no longer the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a position which he held from December 13, 2016 until his unprecedented abdication on January 6, 2019.

Mohd Razlan said the Jasin land administrator allegedly rushed to end the enquiry for the land acquisition by orally awarding on March 27 a sum of RM35,282,900 as compensation to SDP, arguing that this sum does not reflect the land's current market value and is a depressed value.

Mohd Razlan also cited multiple other instances of GI A Resources' alleged attempts to use the Kelantan ruler's name or Istana Negara's name in communications and meetings regarding the land acquisition.

In its judicial review application, SDP is seeking about 26 court orders, including the quashing of the compulsory acquisition, as well as declarations that the compulsory acquisition is an abuse of power, made in bad faith, tainted with procedural impropriety and breached both the Federal Constitution and the Land Acquisition Act.

Malay Mail understands that the High Court in Melaka will hear on May 23 SDP’s application for leave for judicial review, as well as its bid to freeze the land acquisition process.

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