Suit filed to stop political interference in Sabah land grab case

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew has hinted that the case may be settled amicably. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Two Sabah land development scheme smallholders are seeking a court order barring any settlement between two state-owned companies and three individuals including Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew.

In their originating summons filed at the Kota Kinabalu High Court earlier today, the two men Andurangan Tubay, 69, and Ettin Ali, 81, sought a court order that the state-owned firms Borneo Samudera Sdn Bhd (BSSB) and its subsidiary Bagahak Plantations Sdn Bhd, could not act unilaterally in entering into any settlement with Liew and the two others.

Andurangan, a retired police officer, and Ettin, a Customs Department pensioner, stated in their originating summons that both companies must seek the consent of all smallholders in the Bagahak land development scheme as well as that of a company, Ramapower Bhd, which they had a stake in.

Their originating summons filed by the law firm Gloria Legal, was centred around a Sept 30, 2014 High Court ruling against Liew, Siti Rahfizah Mihaldin and Samsuri Baharuddin.

High Court judge Justice Chew Soo Ho in his ruling ordered Liew, Siti Rahfizah and Samsuri to pay damages totalling some RM557 million to BSSB for inducing the Bagahak smallholders to breach their joint venture agreement with the state-owned firm.

In their originating summons, Andarungan and Ettin stated that any settlement between Liew and the two others with BSSB should be deemed invalid, null and void if it did not have the written consent of the Bagahak scheme, smallholders and Ramapower.

They also sought from the court an injunction barring BSSB and Bagahak Plantations from transferring land under the Bagahak scheme totalling more than 8,000 acres without the consent of the smallholders and Ramapower.

Andarungan and Ettin also sought a court order that any transfer of the said land to any individual or company without the approval of the smallholders would be in breach of a 1998 joint venture agreement between BSSB and the smallholders.

In his ruling after BSSB’s suit against Liew and three individuals in 2014, Chew held that the state-owned firm had proven in law that the trio had induced the smallholders to breach their agreement with BSSB.

The judge in allowing BSSB’s claim had also granted a declaration that the smallholders were relieved from all and every liability under the respective sale and purchase agreements which they had purportedly entered into with one of the three defendants.

In the suit, BSSB, a subsidiary of the state owned Sawit Kinabalu Sdn Bhd, alleged that the trio had unlawfully induced the 819 smallholders to breach the joint venture agreement.

The company had also alleged that Liew, who was the advocate and solicitor in preparing the alleged sale and purchase agreements, had conspired with the two other defendants, one of whom was her staff.

The court also found that the various sales and purchase agreements purportedly signed by the smallholders between 2006 and 2007 were prepared by the lawyer based on her unilateral legal opinion that the joint venture agreement had allegedly been breached or terminated and that the smallholders were entitled to sell their respective lots.

In his ruling, Chew held that Liew’s role in the scheme was not merely to give advice to the smallholders but she had taken active steps to get the smallholders to sell their lots to her employee knowing full well that the land had been pledged with BSSB through the joint venture deal.

Liew, who represented the smallholders and was in the opposition then, and her lawyers, had filed a notice of appeal following the decision that year, in their bid to reverse the judgement which was made in the Tawau High Court.

Yesterday, she hinted that the case might be settled amicably between her and BSSB saying that even judges always advise litigants to settle matters amicably.