Court suit queries palace letter in land acquisition

Sime Darby Plantation says its land was compulsorily acquired to benefit a foreign-owned company.

PETALING JAYA: A letter from Istana Negara has been mentioned in an action brought by the government-linked Sime Darby Plantation Bhd which seeks to overturn a compulsory acquisition of its land in Melaka.

The company alleges that a foreign-owned private company, GIA Resources Sdn Bhd, abused its relationship with the national palace to avoid an open tender sale of the land, thus enabling it to own the land at below market price.

The 75-hectare plot in Jasin, Melaka, has since been planted with oil palm.

Sime Darby Plantation seeks a judicial review of the actions of the Melaka government and three others for wrongfully acquiring the land, and an order to quash the acquisition.

The three other parties named are the director of Land and Mines, Melaka; the Jasin district land administrator; and GIA Resources.

Sime Darby Plantation also seeks an order for all correspondence between itself and the three others to be produced.

The court papers were filed in the Melaka High Court registry yesterday by Messrs Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill.

Sime Darby Plantation has to obtain leave from the court before the merits of the case can be heard.

In support of its action, Sime Darby Plantation challenged the validity of a letter from Istana Negara, which purportedly directed the state government to acquire the land. The company said the letter from Istana Negara, dated April 4 last year, was invalid, of no effect, and in violation of the Federal Constitution.

The company asserted that Istana Negara, or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as a federal institution, could not interfere in land matters which come under the purview of the state government.

The company also wants the court to declare that the Land Acquisition Act 1960 cannot be abused to compulsorily acquire its land to benefit GIA Resources.

It said the compulsory acquisition was void and unnecessary as GIA Resources could have sought to own the land through an open tender sale.

The company further said that GIA Resources was abusing its relationship with Istana Negara to avoid an open tender sale, thus enabling it to own the land at below market value.

Sime Darby Plantation said it was perverse, oppressive and irrational for GIA Resources to refuse to participate in an open tender sale and instead insist on a compulsory acquisition.

Sime Darby Plantation’s land management unit head, Mohd Razlan Mohd Rahim, who affirmed an affidavit in support of the application for judicial review, said although land acquisition was permissible for public purpose, it was not so in the current case.

Razlan said he had been advised by his lawyers that the acquisition is against Article 13 of the Federal Constitution, which states that no one should be deprived of property save in accordance with the law.

He said the district land administrator and the Melaka government owed a public duty regarding property in the state.

Sime Darby Plantation says it is the world’s largest oil palm plantation company by planted area and the world’s largest producer of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. The company was formerly the plantations division of the government-linked conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd.

Both companies form part of the portfolio of companies held by Permodalan Nasional Bhd, the national investment trust.