Liong Sik: Cabinet never complained about PKFZ land price
UPDATED @ 06:30:23 PM 18-07-2012
KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — No minister in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's Cabinet had ever complained that the price of land purchased for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project was too high, Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik told the High Court today.
Dr Ling, who served for 17 years as transport minister until 2003, also denied that the government had been willing to acquire land at whatever cost.
"No. If the price is too high and it is not viable, what for?" he told lead prosecutor Datuk Tun Majid Tun Hamzah during cross-examination today.
The former MCA president (picture) is on trial for allegedly deceiving the Cabinet into approving the purchase of 999.5 acres of land for the PKFZ project in 2002, which had resulted in wrongful losses for the government.
He also faces two alternative charges of deceiving the Cabinet into believing that the terms of purchase — at RM25 psf and 7.5 per cent interest — were acknowledged and agreed to by the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) despite knowing that there was no such agreement.
Dr Ling insisted to the court today that the issue of land price was never under his jurisdiction, pointing out that such matters were only for the Finance Ministry and its agencies to determine.
"I don't remember discussing price (of the land), price was always — in my mind — left to the MOF (finance ministry), the EPU (Economic Planning Unit) and the JPPH," he said.
"In Cabinet, did any minister ever say that the price (of the land) was too high?" Tun Majid asked Dr Ling.
Dr Ling said, "No."
When Tun Majid asked if he was certain, the retired politician said, "Yes."
About a half hour later, Tun Majid referred Dr Ling to Cabinet minutes dated October 2, 2002, where it was stated that Cabinet had “taken note” that the price of the land in question was “very high”.
He cast doubt over Dr Ling’s testimony earlier, pointing out that although the latter claimed that no Cabinet minister had ever complained about the price of the land, it had still made note of the fact at its meeting.
“Do you remember you told us just now that the land price was never an issue?” the lawyer asked.
Dr Ling did not answer the question but pointed out to the court that during all the meetings he attended at the time, his focus was merely on “taking the land”.
“As far as the Transport Ministry is concerned, we are not concerned about the price. There are other agencies looking after valuation and finance... nothing to do with us so my focus was not there,” he said.
Dr Ling repeated that at the time, no one in Cabinet had ever mentioned that the price of the land to be purchased was considered too high.
Referring to the Cabinet minutes, the soft-spoken former minister pointed out that the document was not like Parliament’s Hansard.
“So how true this is, how not true this is — I cannot be sure,” he said.
He repeated that it was the Finance Ministry, JPPH and EPU’s duty to determine if the price of the land was “too high” and if the purchase would be viable for PKFZ.
“So I do not know who said this — too high,” he said before he was cut off by Tun Majid, who said that he would bring up the matter again at a later time.
“Anytime,” Dr Ling retorted.
Dr Ling faces a possible jail term of up to seven years, or a fine, or both, if convicted on the first charge under section 418 of the Penal Code.
The alternative charges carry a lighter sentence of five years’ jail, or a fine, or both.
The trial before Justice Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi resumes on September 24.