Sunday, May 25, 2014

MPHB throws down the gauntlet to Johor

MPHB throws down the gauntlet to Johor

By Kamarul Azhar

Is it right for the Johor government to forcibly acquire private land and then resell it for a hefty profit?

That is the crux of the suit MPHB Capital Bhd has brought against the state government as the first defendent and national oil company Petronas as the second defendent.

MPHB's subsidiary Kelana Megah Development Sdn Bhd (KMD) filed the suit as the landowner on May 9.
In essence, the Johor government and Petronas are being accused of conspiring to unfairly and forcibly acquire seven parcels totalling 1,150 ha (2,841 acres), which is an abuse of the Land Acquisition Act.

Here are the salient points of the suit according to affidavits filed in court by Kelana Megah:

- The Johor government used the Land Acquisition Act to buy the land at 93 sen psf without granting KMD sufficient time to appoint an independent valuer to value the land. KMD was notified on Aug 9, 2012, and at a land enquiry conducted by the state land administrator on Sept 3, 2012, that the administrator had fixed the acquisition price at 93 sen after refusing a KMD request to delay a decision pending submission of an independent valuation.

- The state government proceeded with the acquisition at 93 sen on Oct 8, 2012, while it already had an agreement to sell the same land to Petronas at RM8 psf, which the national oil company needed for its Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project.

- KMD alleges that the RM8 psf price was agreed upon by the state government and Petronas in May 2012 - four months before the Sept 3 enquiry that decided that KMD was only to get 93 sen psf from the state.

- KMD further alleges that three of the seven parcels acquired were not on the original list of land that Petronas had asked for and needed for RAPID and so should not have been acquired by the state.

The  land administrator set the price at 93 sen psf despite KMD producing a receipt for the payment of stamp duty on one of the parcels, which had been valued at RM5.75 psf just a year before.

At RM5.75 psf, all seven parcels would have been valued at RM711.55 million, based on a back-of-the-envelope calculation by The Edge.

The price differential between the RM8 psf paid by Petronas to the state government and the 93 sen psf awarded by the land administrator to KMD means that the state government made a whopping profit of RM800 million.
"Why should the state get the difference between the RM8 and 93 sen?" sks a corporate executive. "If the acquisition was made in the name of national interest, surely, the state should not have made money at the expense of the private landowner?"

Landowners are watching the outcome of the court case with great interest, although this is not the first time one of them has taken both the federal and state governments to court (see accompanying story).
The RAPID project, announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in May 2011, is positioned to turn southern Johor into Southeast Asia's oil and gas and petrochemical hub.

Petronas plans to have the RAPID project commissioned by 2016. However, opposition to the project from the local residents and the complexity of acquiring individual parcels and relocating the affected people raised concerns that the project may not see the light of day.

Petronas then turned to the state government for assistance in acquiring 8,200 acres in Pengerang, including the seven parcels belonging to KMD.

According to KMD, it should have been given sufficient time to determine the valuation of its land since Petronas had said it would only make a decision on RAPID in 2013. In fact, it was only in April this year that a final investment decision was made by the national oil company on the project.

In its suit, KMD is seeking a declaration by the court that the acquisition of the land was illegal and of no effect and to order the state authority to take all necessary steps to revoke the acquisition.

It is also seeking an order that Petronas deliver vacant possession of the land within seven days, pay damages for trespassing on the land, general damages for cutting down trees and destroying its oil palm estate as well as interest at the rate of 5% per annum from the date of the acquisition.

(Re-produced without permission from the Edge Malaysia magazine, the week of May 26 to June 1, 2014. All rights belong to the author of this article and the Edge Malaysia magazine, i own no proprietary rights and am only re-producing it for the sole purpose of academic discussion)   

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

life and death

5 days ago, my world got turned upside down when my boss and partner died suddenly without a hint of warning to us all. One day he was in office and making phone calls as usual to lunch with his business associates and the next he was gone. Now we as his partners have to take care of his estate and the continuity of the partnership and firm. We have had to set aside personal sentiments and notions of loyalty and seek legal advice ourselves as to the legal implications of his untimely death, especially what now we, as his surviving partners, are to do. The problem is that my late partner's son is not a lawyer which rather complicates things. We cannot let him assume the reins of the practice and step into his father's shoes because of this, as much as we may personally feel obliged to do so. The assets capital and Good Will of the firm belongs to the estate of my late partner and it is up to us now as the surviving partners whether to buy over the Good Will of the firm to continue the practice in the same name and style as before or to dissolve the partnership and call it a day. Me and my 2 other partners have come up with an initial sum of RM20,000 each to keep things running but we cannot personally pick up the daily expenses of the firm indefinitely. As such, a meeting with the family of my deceased partner and the representatives of the state bar has been arranged over the next few days so that we could iron out the various issues we have to deal with on an urgent basis. 

I pray that God grants my late partner rest in heaven and mercy for his soul and divine guidance for us in managing his affairs and our partnership.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Drought


It's been almost a month since we last had a full good rain. Now everyday that passes without rain is a day to dread. The grass is yellowing and drying up and becoming tinder, fires are breaking out in more places and some states like in Seremban and Selangor have already begun rationing water supplies to residents. Some desperate residents have taken to protests and there are even reports of foreign workers hijacking water trucks. If this dry spell keeps up it won't be long before we are hit here. Already some people are stocking up on water containers and water tanks in anticipation of a last-minute rush for these items. At times like these, no amount of money you possess is good when water is scarce. It just goes to show how fragile we are - and what we have done to the environment has come back to bite us with a vengence!      

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bad

You never know who someone really is until you have walked a mile in their shoes. There was a bank officer who was a close acquaintance of my mum and he used to come over to our house to transact banking business with my mum. That is, until 2 days ago when he disappeared with another client's monies - over RM7 million in fixed deposits that were never deposited into the client's account. It is sad when these kind of things happen. It doesn't just reflect badly on him but it also shows how deeply flawed our culture can be. What we see on the surface as a kind, helpful, humble and hard-working intelligent young man of 27 years old has suddenly been replaced by the image of a con-artist. It was all just for show. His mannerisms didn't betray what he was planning to do all along. Everybody was fooled. He told my mum: "when i was small, my mother used to beat me the most of all her children because i was so naughty". Ominous words indeed. The amount of faith that our society places on money and getting money is such that a young man is willing to abandon all that he is familiar with and destroy his reputation and good name just to get money. False humility. false virtues. Is this what we want? Can we do better? Can we not emphasise so much on money but more on character and depth of character, qualities that no amount of money can ever buy or replace? Sadly, it doesn't look too bright for our young people. And i blame us for what has happened as much on that young man who has run away from family, life, and his future prospects for the sake of money.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

release the hounds

And so it has begun, the backlash against voters who voted for the opposition. The government has received a bloody nose from GE 13 and is sore about it. We are now witnessing a rising crescendo of verbal attacks against non-Malays from establishment figures such as a certain ex-Court of Appeal Judge, a Perak Mufti, an assortment of second-rate Malay NGOs and who-else-have-you-wannabe-race champions whose utterings range from the inane to the slightly insane. I predicted that there would be calls to abolish the vernacular schools for non-Malays and that has happened, notwithstanding what happened to the late MP Mark Koding in 1978 who lost his Parliamentary seat for sedition when he suggested the same thing but then again, that was under the saintly Tun Hussein Onn's administration, wasn't it? (Mark Koding subsequently rose to become the Sabah Deputy Chief Minister after PBS defeated Party Berjaya in the 1985 state elections). All of these calls would ordinarily have been deemed seditious if not downright incitement to violence against minorities but as it is now open season on the non-Malays and najib needs to appease the hawks in his party, expect that no one will be prosecuted. After all, it's not seditious if it's not against the government, right? Apparently now it's the non-Malays that are "bigots" and "racist" whereas a "Malay" (and that definition of who is a "Malay" is broadly understood in its widest possible sense) is free to voice his/her opinions on matters of race and religion without being tarred with the same brush. How lovely indeed. So apparently, in Malaysia if one votes against the government, that would be tantamount to usurpation of the political power of the "Malays" and treason. My question then is, why vote? I doubt very much that najib is intent on raising a race riot, but what we are now witnessing is a natural progression of what najib is all about all along. a race-baiter. no soul, no content, no substance, nothing more than a race-baiter. Not even a demagogue because najib is incapable of demagoguery which requires mass appeal. Just a common race-baiter. Which in Malaysian politics, is quite perfectly acceptable. Or is it now?   

Sunday, May 5, 2013

the stick or the carrot?

the results of the 13th general elections disappointed not a few and yet was quite typically Malaysian. People voted along racial lines, with the Malays mostly rooting for the government while the Chinese solidly behind the Opposition. A few thoughts on the aftermath of this elections. One, retaliation and punishment against the ungrateful Chinese by excluding yet more ministries from the new government line-up from ethnic Malaysian Chinese participation and the beginning of a more hardline policy against Chinese independent schools and other issues affecting the community. Or, on a more optimistic note, the government does a post-mortem of its failure to retain Chinese support and it reaches out even more to the Chinese community by accommodating Chinese concerns. I would be foolish to believe the latter. So, let's brace ourselves for the worst scenario. Hard ball time. I hope that this doesn't mean yet more ethnic Chinese migrating overseas.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

General elections blues

Top dog has finally dissolved parliament and the 13th general elections is due anytime by the end of this month or thereabouts. This time, campaigning is the in-your-face variety. I have so far received several sms-es from Najib's Barisan Nasional urging me to vote for Malaysia and hence, vote for Barisan Nasional. Fascist sms-es only annoy me. If i were a fence-sitter, this will cause me to swing AGAINST the government rather than to vote for them. First of all, they have gotten my handphone number from God knows where and then they messaged me several times equating the government to the country. Wrong in principal and oh, have we forgotten the Personal Data Protection Act 2010? Or is that just a nice piece of gloss to brag about. And all these promises of goodies from both sides of the political divide is disgusting. We want clean, transparent, efficient government, not goddamned hand-outs. It's our tax payers' money and the government has no right to use it to buy votes. Hopefully, people have grown smart enough not to fall for this Santa Claus bull shit. Last but not least, I'm sick and tired of reading the mainstream newspapers like the paid prostitutes that they so are.

I am weary. Let's vote and be done with the damned politics.