Sunday, July 19, 2020

Let justice be seen to be done

The Sunday Star
by Roger Tan
Cousins Piya (left) and Prithep Sosothikul with a picture of their late grandmother Boonsom Boonyanit. — Filepic
I JUST recently learnt from an international arbitration news site that the Malaysian government had reached an amicable settlement with the estate of Boonsom Boonyanit, a Thai national, some time in October 2018. 

This news hitherto is not known to the Malaysian public. Neither is there any information available to the public on the exact settlement sum and whether the same has been paid. 

Be that as it may, the Malaysian taxpayers have obviously ended up once again having to fork out a sum probably in millions of ringgit to compensate for the criminal acts of the perpetrators who are still at large. There may be a requirement for confidentiality in the settlement agreement, hence the non-disclosure. 

Apparently, the October 2018 settlement had been reached with the Pakatan government after the estate issued a notice on July 31,2017 addressed to the then Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister and Attorney General, accusing Malaysia of contravening her treaty obligations under the 1987 Asean Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of Investments in not according fair and equitable treatment and providing full protection for Boonsom’s investments. 

The treaty has been signed by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Under the treaty, if any dispute cannot be settled within six months after its being raised, then the affected party can choose to submit the same for conciliation or arbitration. 

But has justice been done or rather has justice been seen to be done to Boonsom? To quote the oft-repeated 100-year-old words of Lord Chief Justice Hewart in R v Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy [1924] that “it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.” 

Sadly, Boonsom had already passed away on May 23,2000. She was a victim of land scam in 1989. All in, three generations of her family had carried on with this fight for justice with sheer grit and tenacity. But this long and arduous journey has also taken them some 30 years. 

It all started when Boonsom’s two beachfront lots in Tanjung Bungah, Penang (the said lands) were 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 for RM1,865,798.