Suspend e-Lelong pending further discussions, says council

Mustafa Osman.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Council of Auctioneers Malaysia has called for the e-Lelong system to be suspended pending further discussions with stakeholders.

Its president Mustafa Osman said the implementation of the web-based platform, which has been extended to the Ipoh, Taiping and Temerloh High Courts, had resulted in job losses for some 2,000 auctioneers, affecting 20,000 family members.

“We are not needed anymore,” he told FMT. “We are finished. They are giving this to a third party and we are now completely jobless.”

Since 1929, he said, auctioneers had assisted the court in auction matters without receiving a single sen from the government or the courts.

“The fact is this: the government is not losing a single sen. We do not ask the government to pay us anything (for acting as auctioneers),” he added.

Mustafa urged de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong to address the issue, saying he would be able to uncover the details of the situation.

He added that the sale of properties through e-Lelong was illegal.

“We believe the court has no power to conduct auctions or sell real estate. Why are they ignorant about this?

“This is why we are appealing to Liew to abolish the e-Lelong system because the sales are illegal. We would also like to ask him to suspend e-Lelong until further discussions are held,” he said.

He said a formal letter had been sent to Liew and the council was now awaiting a response for a meeting.

The e-Lelong was conducted as a pilot project at the Kuantan Court Complex in July last year.

Raus Sharif, who was chief justice at the time, said then that the bidders’ identity would be kept confidential to encourage more bidders to participate in the public auction.

The system allows public auctions to be conducted online in real time. It is expected to increase the public’s chances of owning fixed assets, especially residential properties, at real value without price manipulation.

However, Mustafa said the law was very clear that when an order for sale is made by a judge, it should be carried out under the supervision of an officer of a court with the assistance of an auctioneer.

“It is very straightforward and in simple English, yet they read it as saying when an order for sale is made, it shall be carried out by the senior registrar. It is completely different.

“They have no right to sell. They merely supervise or oversee the process of an auction. Selling should only be done by a licensed auctioneer,” he added.

Under the Auction Sales Enactment 1929, he said, the onus was on the auctioneers to conduct sales, prepare notices and make public advertisements.

“All these have to be done by the auctioneer. If you take us out, it means you’re throwing the auction law into the dustbin.”

The council’s deputy president R Raj Yogan Pillai meanwhile raised concerns over a possible conflict of interest in the procedure.

“The court is not a real estate agent,” he said. “They are not auctioneers. They should be focusing on giving judgments.

“A court is a place where the plaintiff and defendant come to get justice. Say the defendant’s house is being auctioned off. The plaintiff comes and gets an order from the court, the bank gives the order, and it favours the plaintiff here.

“So I feel there’s a conflict of interest by the court in promoting e-Lelong. A serious conflict of interest. They should be neutral. Who is the neutral party? In this case, the court will try and sell as many properties as possible on the platform to enrich its coffers.

“The more they sell, the more money the court makes and so does the third party.”

Raj said former chief justice Arifin Zakaria had said the idea of e-Lelong was mooted to eliminate syndicates and touts but claimed that to date, no laws had been enacted nor any action taken.

“They did not manage to kick out these touts. It is still rampant. The law clearly says that anyone with a 10% bank draft can participate in the auction.

“It was supposed to address the issue of touts. But in the end, we are the ones who have been eliminated.”