Sarawak DAP believes Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud will not take legal action against the London-based NGO Global Witness, as this could open up a can of worms.
“What has been exposed so far is just the tip of the iceberg,” said state party secretary Chong Chieng Jen (right).
He was commenting on Taib’s statement last Saturday that the state government is mulling action in relation to an undercover investigation by Global Witness that exposed an attempt to sell land licences held by relatives and individuals claiming to be close to the chief minister.
The expose, which was covertly recorded on video, “has brought great disrepute to the state”, said Chong, a lawyer.
“Taib will have to take legal action, otherwise his failure to act could be held as an admission to the allegations made,” he noted.
“It is up to Taib to decide. However, my view is that Taib will not do so because such legal action will only open up a can of worms.
“In a court of law, it may be difficult to prove the intention of ‘enriching one’s siblings’ in the process of alienation of land. However, it is undeniable that several hundred thousand acres of state land have been alienated to companies owned by Taib’s family.
“If Taib were to commence action against Global Witness, he may be compelled by the court to disclose all the state land that has been alienated to companies owned by (members of) his family.”
At the same time, he challenged Taib to sue his cousins Fatimah and Norlia Abdul Rahman Yakub, for their claims.
Call for open disclosure
Chong said regardless of whether legal action is instituted, Taib is duty-bound to publicly disclose:
1. How many acres of land the state government has alienated to companies belonging to members of his family;
2. Why the land was alienated to these companies without going through an open tender process;
3. Where the land is located, along with relevant particulars such as the lot numbers; and
4. How much premium was paid by the companies concerned.
“So far, Taib’s administration has been very reluctant to disclose the actual acreage of state land that has been alienated to companies owned by members of his family,” said Chong, who is also Kota Sentosa assemblyperson.
“I have, on many occasions, submitted questions in the state legislative assembly, asking for full disclosure, but did not get answers. The ministers were evasive…”
Searches carried out at various Land Registries have, however, revealed that “about 200,000 acres of plantation land and several hundred acres of prime town land have been alienated to the companies owned by the Taib family”.
“A conservative estimate of the market value of the land … is approximately RM1 billion, and yet the government has alienated the land at less than 20 percent of the market value,” Chong alleged.
“For plantation land in particular, the alienation price is less than 10 percent of the market value of the land. That is also why I dare say that Taib (left) will not take action against Global Witness, for fear of the requirement to make full disclosure of such information in court.”
Chong further called on the Sarawak United People’s Party to make a stand on whether they agree the plan to sue Global Witness.
If the allegations are true, he said, it would mean that Sarawakians have lost billions of ringgit through “malpractice”. – Mkini
The writer, who uses a pseudonym, is based in Sarawak.