Gerakan man says no evidence Guan Eng acted solo in land deal

Jason Loo (left) with well-wishers outside the High Court in George Town, Penang today.

GEORGE TOWN: A former Gerakan leader today told the High Court here that he has no evidence that former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng had made decisions in silo on a 2017 land sale made through Chief Minister Incorporated, a statutory corporation which is the state investment arm.

Jason Loo, a former youth leader of Penang Gerakan said this when examined by Lim’s lawyer Mureli Navaratnam at the hearing of a defamation suit that Lim has brought against Loo and three local newspapers over accusations of improprieties in the land sale.

The land was sold by Chief Minister Incorporated at a cost of RM156 million to Island Hospital Sdn Bhd on a 99-year lease. The hospital was reported to have paid RM30 million so far, with the balance to be paid once a hospital licence was obtained. The land, originally held by the State Secretary’s Office, was alienated to CMI prior to the sale.

In his five-hour examination-in-chief today, Loo was asked a variety of questions, especially about how he had concluded that Lim had the full power of decision-making in CMI.

Loo agreed with Mureli that he had read the explanantions given by Lim that the Peel Avenue land sale was above board and made with the agreement of the state executive council.

He disagreed with Mureli’s assertion that Loo’s claim of Lim acting alone did not hold water, as it was reached through consensus of exco members. He also disagreed that his claims of impropriety were without basis.

Loo denied that his accusation against Lim had been made “for personal gain and to defame him” or that he was insincere in asking questions about the land sale at his press conferences, or that he had sensationalised the issue without any basis.

Loo disagreed with Mureli’s assertion that he had displayed malice by using language such as the words “full of crap” at one of his press conferences condemning Lim and the state government, or that it was unprofessional and unbecoming of a politician.

Loo testified that in making his accusations against Lim he had relied on the premise that the chief minister had been given full powers to do as he wished under the 2009 enactment incorporating the office of Chief Minister.

He reiterated that he was merely acting as a check and balance on the Penang government by scrutinising their every move.

The trial will resume tomorrow with sub-editors of China Press and Guang Ming Ribao giving their testimony before Justice Rosilah Yop.

Lim has filed separate suits against Loo and local Chinese-language newspapers, Kwong Wah Yit Poh, China Press and Guang Ming Ribao. The suit against Kwong Wah Yit Poh has been dropped from the suit following an open apology to Lim.

Loo and China Press Berhad were sued over an article entitled “Jason Loo: One man decides, Pakatan Harapan DAP-led state government run by rule of one man” dated May 29, 2017.

Loo and Guang Ming Ribao were sued over an article entitled “Jason Loo urges Lim Guan Eng to explain why Peel Avenue land was sold prior to gazette”, dated May 29, 2017.

Loo was sued over an opinion piece run by Kwong Wah Yit Poh on June 9, 2017.

Lim seeks damages and an order to prevent Loo or the newspapers from publishing articles related to the matter.