There’s still quite a bit of unfinished business in this saga.
Why is it so important? First, land which is now said to be worth RM80-100 per sq ft was alienated to the Koperasi for RM10psf or RM3.2 million by the previous BN administration. Millions of ringgit that could have gone to the people of Penang were effectively handed over on a silver platter to the Koperasi-Nusmetro in exchange for peanuts. The big issue is, could the Pakatan state government have stopped the deal in its tracks?
Was the new state government in Penang unaware of the Kg Buah Pala crisis during the crucial period from when they came into power on 8 March 2009 until the land transfer was effected on 27 March 2008? Let’s zoom in on this period.
8 – Opposition parties sweep to power in Penang.
13 – Buah Pala villagers meet the new Penang Chief Minister and inform him about their situation.
14 – But the very next day, the state government accepts final payment of RM2,247,000* for the Buah Pala land, nearly a year after the last payment, and almost 10 months after the Land Office asked for final payment.
15 – The villagers are tipped off that final payment has been made.
16 – The villagers alert their lawyer that final payment has been made.
17 (or thereabouts) – Their lawyer meets a senior DAP national leader.
21 – The villagers meet the Penang Chief Minister again. They alert the state government that final payment was made and are informed that a panel of inquiry would be set up to look into such dubious deals. They are given assurances and they come away from both meetings feeling euphoric.
22 – Penang state government announces a special panel to investigate land scams comprising deputy chief minister I Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin, deputy CM II Dr P Ramasamy and exco member Phee Boon Poh.
27 – The Land Office registers the transfer of Buah Pala land to the Koperasi giving it a temporary title, which prohibits transactions with third parties.
* First payment of RM642,000 made on 16 March 2006, second payment of RM321,000 on 22 March 2007
The state government says by the time it took over, it was a done deal and it couldn’t do much. Really?
It is obvious the state government was already aware of the deal in March 2008. Did it try to delay the final land transfer? After all, the issue of compensation to the villagers had not been settled and the Koperasi had received a RM3 million discount mainly for this purpose. Moreover, two high-level state investigative panels were set up to probe the deal, one in March 2008 to probe land scams in general and the second one this year to probe the Buah Pala case. What are the outcomes of those investigations? Had the investigative committees done their work, they might have found out that the land was not the Penang state government’s to sell, as the High Court later indicated. In which case, could the deal have been aborted – before the transfer of ownership was registered with the Land Office – on the grounds that the BN exco’s approval was null and void?
And did the last payment (on 14 March 2008) require exco approval – as some have claimed – as it was received so late? A full disclosure of the Pakatan state government’s exco minutes would help to clarify some of these lingering questions. In the interests of transparency, that’s the least the administration could do.