Change of mind not unusual at Cabinet meetings, says ex-minister

  • Nation
  • Friday, 14 Oct 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: It is normal for ministers to revise their decisions at Cabinet meetings after receiving more information from their officers, a former minister told the High Court.

This was a normal practice among ministers, said Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi, who was testifying in the trial of former transport minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik here.

“Ministers do this. When our officers give us further information, we tell the Cabinet we would like to discuss the issue again in light of the new information.

“We do that,” he said during an examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Manoj Kurup yesterday.

Effendi was the agriculture minister from 1999 to 2004.

He told the court that the Cabinet, at its meeting on Oct 2, 2002, did not have the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) valuation before it when it made a decision to buy a 404.5ha land in Pulau Indah for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project.

On Oct 9, the Cabinet put that decision on hold, pending the Finance Ministry's report based on a study by the Attorney-General's Chambers, to see if the purchase was legally feasible.

On Oct 16, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as Finance Minister, advised the Cabinet that the Attorney-General's Chambers had noted that there were encumbrances on the land and it was not appropriate to proceed with the purchase if the Government would be burdened with this problem.

The Finance Ministry was then asked to present the findings of the Attorney-General's Chambers to the Cabinet as soon as possible.

On Oct 23, the Cabinet made the decision, instead, to acquire the land.

However, on Nov 6, 2002, it reverted to its decision to buy the land.

JPPH deputy director-general Datuk Mani Usilappan had previously testified that a RM25 psf price consideration (for the land) could be used when read together with the 10-year repayment period with a yearly 6% interest and a 5% deposit.

Nett present value of the land was fixed at RM21 psf.

As long as any deferred payment scheme reflected the RM21 psf price when discounted back at a rate of 8.25%, it captured the essence of the JPPH valuation report.

In the sale and purchase agreement, the terms agreed to included the land being purchased at RM25 psf with a 7.5% interest rate for 15 years, with a 10% deposit.

Payment was to only start in the fifth year of the loan tenure.

Dr Ling has claimed trial to an amended principal charge of deceiving the Government by not exposing to the Cabinet an additional interest rate of 7.5% annually in the land purchase for the PKFZ project.

He faces two optional charges of cheating the Government by not revealing to the Cabinet facts pertaining to the interest rate, and deceiving it into believing that facts on the land purchased at RM25 psf and 7.5% interest were certified and agreed to by JPPH when he knew there was no such consent.

Dr Ling is said to have committed the offences at the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya between Sept 25 and Nov 6, 2002.

The hearing continues before Justice Ahmadi Asnawi tomorrow.

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