Sunday, June 23, 2013

Negotiate, not quarrel, over water

The Sunday Star
Legally Speaking by Roger Tan

Penang and Kedah must sit down and work out an agreement that’s mutually beneficial to both states and their people.

IT is interesting to read Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s statement that Kedah’s proposal to charge Penang for raw water was “unreasonable” and akin to “asking money for nothing” (“Penang not getting raw water from Kedah”, The Star, June 17).

It is equally interesting to read Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s response that both state governments should negotiate the raw water payment issue. But this is not a new issue. The previous PAS-led government too had made a similar request.

To understand the issue, it is good to look at the diagram. Basically, there are three major river basins in Kedah – Kedah River, Muda River and Merbok River. The Muda River basin is the largest in Kedah covering a total area of about 4,150 sq km. (A river basin is an area of land drained by a river and its tributaries.) There are two dams in this basin – Muda dam and Beris dam. The Beris dam is located at Muda’s River’s tributary, Beris River. The Muda dam is located upstream of the Muda River covering an area of about 985 sq km. When necessary, the Muda and Pedu dams complement each other via the 6.6km Saiong tunnel.

The Pedu and Muda dams are located together with the Ahning dam in the Ulu Muda forest reserve, which includes the water catchment area – the size of which is larger than Penang state.

In 2003, a Barisan Nasional-led government had planned to log thousands of hectares of forest in this sprawling catchment area. In June 2008, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak had also threatened to fell trees near this catchment area unless the Federal Government paid RM100mil to the Kedah Government.

Fortunately, no major logging took place, otherwise silt from logging would not only pollute rivers but also clog up dams and water treatment plants. Large-scale cutting down of trees too would increase the salinity level, causing the water in the reservoirs to turn salty. Hence, whatever happens to this area will adversely affect the lives of the people of Kedah and Penang. The reservoirs here irrigate our country’s main rice bowl and supply most of the water to the two states.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The stink of injustice

Justice not served: Cousins Piya (left) and Prithep Sosothikul with a picture of their late grandmother, Boonsom Boonyanit.
The Sunday Star
by Roger Tan

The police have to explain their tardiness in investigating the most infamous land forgery case in Malaysia.

This is a heart-rending story, a story about an incessant quest for justice by three generations of a Thai family.

It all happened on Dec 12, 1956 when a Thai of Chinese origin, Sie Guan Tjang @ Sie Hang Bok, purchased two pieces of land for investment – Lots 3606 and 3607 of Mukim 18 at Tanjung Bungah, Penang (“the said lands”).

During his lifetime, Sie visited Penang very often with his Thai wife, Boonsom Boonyanit, also known as Sun Yok Eng. They loved Penang and her people so much that they had intended to build their retirement home on the said lands. On Jan 18, 1967, the two lots of land were transferred to Boonsom by way of a memorandum of transfer (“Form 14A”).

Under section 81(3) of the National Land Code (Penang and Malacca Titles) Act 1963 (Act 518), Form 14A was then treated more or less as proof of ownership over the said lands. Section 92 of Act 518 also provides that pending the issuance of a final title, an advance certificate of title (“ACT”) would be issued. Since Jan 18, 1967, Boonsom had been at all times in possession of the Form 14A apart from faithfully paying all the quit rents and assessments due on the said lands.

Some time in June 1989, Boonsom’s eldest son, Phiensak Sosothikul, chanced upon an advertisement in a Thai newspaper, Thairat, dated June 11, 1989, which was inserted by a law firm from Penang, Messrs Khor, Ong & Co (“KOC”). The advertisement requested that any person who had any right to the said lands or any heir to Boonsom residing at a house No. 87, Cantonment Road, Penang, Malaysia to contact KOC. The court was later told that when Boonsom’s accountant did contact KOC, the latter could not give any useful information.

Boonsom then engaged the law firm, Messrs Lim Kean Siew & Co (“LKSC”) to conduct investigations which revealed that the said lands had been fraudulently transferred by an impostor claiming to be Boonsom to Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd, then known as Calget Sdn Bhd (“Adorna”) on May 24, 1989.

Boonsom then sued for the return of the said lands. The Penang High Court ruled in favour of Adorna on April 28, 1995. On appeal, the Court of Appeal in its judgment dated March 17, 1997 reversed the High Court’s decision. Adorna then appealed, and the Federal Court comprising Eusoff Chin, Wan Adnan Ismail and Abu Mansor Ali allowed Adorna’s appeal in its judgment dated Dec 13, 2000 and pronounced in open court on Dec 22, 2000 (“Adorna Judgment”). Sadly, Boonsom had already passed away on May 23, 2000.

Boonsom’s second son, Kobchai Sosothikul, being the representative of her estate, soldiered on and filed two separate motions to the Federal Court for review of the Adorna Judgment.