Ijok land: Why bail out ‘BN cronies’, See-To asks Selangor government

eric-see-toKUALA LUMPUR: The Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications (BNSC) team today dismissed the answers given by the Selangor menteri besar’s aides and others over the Ijok land issue as weak attempts at a cover-up.

In a statement, its deputy director Eric See-To said the replies to the RM1.18 billion “Ijok land scandal” raised by BNSC director Abdul Rahman Dahlan a week ago made no sense.

He was responding to remarks by the strategic communications director at the Selangor menteri besar’s office, Yin Shao Loong; the menteri besar’s political secretary, Shuhaimi Shafiei; and the parliamentary coordinator for Kuala Selangor Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad from Amanah.

Rahman had reportedly asked Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali why the state government had “hastily” returned a piece of disputed land in Ijok worth RM1.18 billion to two housing developers in 2016, especially when the High Court and Court of Appeal had, in 2013 and 2014, ruled that the land belonged to the Selangor government.

Yin said Azmin’s “decisive action” had solved the Ijok land settlers’ 18-year dispute with the state government.

The land in Ijok was initially given to a group of settlers in the state in 1998 by the then-BN state government. The settlers later agreed to allow two companies, Mujur Zaman Sdn Bhd and LBCN Development Sdn Bhd, to develop the land in exchange for compensation and housing. The land was then sold to a third party.

It was reported in 2015 that ECO World Development Group Bhd had bought a 889.5ha parcel of land in the northwestern Klang Valley corridor for RM1.18 billion to develop three property projects, worth an estimated RM15 billion in gross development value.

See-To said Yin had called the two private companies crony companies which had failed to deliver, but had then gone on to defend the return of the land “to these two failed crony companies”.

Similarly, he said, Shuhaimi had referred to the two companies as BN cronies.

“So, if both Shao Loong and Suhaimi said they are BN cronies dating to the Tun Mahathir-era of the years 1998-2000, why did the Selangor government bail out the ‘BN crony’ that had failed and now allow them to win – and in fact, ‘win’ much more than the settlers?”

He said Dzulkefly’s figures showed that BNSC’s calculations of RM421 million given to the settlers were “too generous” since only RM300 million out of the RM1.18 billion went to the settlers.

“The remaining RM880 million went to the two ‘crony companies’ to settle their outstanding bank loans, creditors and for them to retain a bonus of RM210 million for themselves.

“This means that out of the effective price of RM12.34 per square feet (psf) paid for the settlers’ land by the public company to the two ‘crony’ companies, the settlers themselves were only paid a price of RM3.12 psf for their land while the two companies pocketed the rest.

“In their haste to try and blame BN for their scandal, the three persons have also neglected to state that it was the previous BN government which gave the land to the settlers.”

See-To said their replies also opened up questions such as:

  1. Was it fair that the settlers were compensated at a rate of only RM3.12 psf for their land – a price that would have been the market price 18 years ago – given that the listed company paid RM12.34 psf to the two “crony” companies and that agriculture land in the Ijok region was now listed for sale at between RM30 psf and RM65 psf?
  2. If they are BN crony companies, why bail them out with RM810 million out of the RM1.18 billion?
  3. What would be the price if the state government had sold the land via open tender instead?
  4. The listed company had publicly announced that its property project on the land would have a gross development value of at least RM15 billion. Wouldn’t it be better for the Selangor government to develop the land itself or in joint-venture with developers so that the profits could be used to benefit the settlers and the state government?
  5. If the reason for the settlement was to ensure settlers get their compensation quicker, shouldn’t the state government have used part of their RM3 billion reserves to pay the RM300 million directly to the settlers?

See-To said the state government should have continued the fight to keep the land it had seized from the two companies at the Federal Court, seeing that it had already won at the High Court and Court of Appeal.

“The state government could then sell the land to the listed company directly for RM1.18 billion and retain the RM810 million for itself, instead of benefiting the two companies. Or it could have practised transparency by selling the land via open tender so that it can get a higher price.”

He also urged the Selangor government to reveal its final settlement agreement with the two private companies.

Ijok land: Umno caught on back foot over settlement, says Azmin’s aide