ACA should step in immediately to investigate UMNO top leaders' role in the multi-million logging scandal in Pahang


Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): In an article titled "Rip-off: Umno Pahang logging on state land " (2003-07-25), Beh Lih Yi of Malaysiakini reported that UMNO Pahang has been logging on a vast plot of land - approximately 24 square kilometres in size - which technically still belongs to the state government.

When contacted by Malaysiakini this morning, Pekan district land office head Zainal Rahim Darus confirmed that the land in question is "state land as it has yet to be alienated to Umno Pahang".

However, Zainal refused to directly confirm that Umno Pahang has failed to meet an ultimatum notice served by his office which requested the party to clear a total of RM4.8 million land premium for the 10,000-acre (4046.66 ha) reserved forest by July 3 after four rare extensions were given.

The plot of land (PT 6959) is located at Nenasi, about 100km south of Kuantan, and falls under the Pekan district. Industry experts conservatively estimated that the logging proceeds from this concession is worth tens of million.

The controversial approval for Umno Pahang to own the 10,000-acre state land was recorded in the council's meeting minutes on Jan 7, 1998.

There are so many questions unanswered if one reads the Malaysiakini reports carefully. The ACA should have enough grounds to start investigation immediately.

1.        Was it not a conflict of interest when former Mentri Besar of Pahang Datuk Khalil approved 10,000 acre of land to his own political party?

2.        In a police report lodged in 2001, Umno's state assemblyman Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman alleged that Khalil, who is also information minister, had permitted areas larger than what was permitted under the national forestry policy to be harvested. What has happened to the police investigation?

3.        The legitimacy for Umno Pahang to log on the land is in question since the party never owned the land as it has repeatedly failed to pay the RM4.8 million premium. Why didn't the Pekan land office take stern action against the party, but instead allowed the company appointed by the party to continue logging on the land?

4.        To make the deal aboveboard, UMNO Pahang was required to pay RM4.8 million of land premium to the district land office so that Umno Pahang can begin clearing the land, ostensibly for oil palm plantation. Now that there is no plan for oil palm plantation or whatsoever, can the deal be still considered as aboveboard?

5.        Why has the ruling party repeatedly failed to clear the land premium despite given four unusual extensions - including two appeals from Umno Pahang - since June 2000?

6.        What has happened to the Umno internal inquiry on Khalil, launched three years ago?

7.        Adnan Yaakob, who took office from Khalil in May 1999, was quoted in news reports yesterday that he was in the dark over the deal since the land was approved by Khalil. But since he took over as the MB of Pahang as well as the UMNO Pahang chief in 1999, can he explain why the RM4.8 million premium was not paid until today?

8.        UMNO Pahang signed a deal with SGM ( Seruan Gemilang Makmur) in October 2000, giving its concession rights to the company for only RM50,000. Can Adnan Yaakob justify the extremely low transfer rights?

9.        Malaysiakini reported that so far 7,000 acres of reserved forest has been cleared. How much profit SGM and UMNO Pahang have made respectively?

10.        Is this concession just a tip of the iceberg of total logging concessions granted by the state to Umno Pahang as a mean to raise funds?

The silence from various top UMNO leaders on the logging land scandal is deafening.
We hope ACA will not stay away from this scandal simply because it is concerning the most powerful ruling party in the country.



* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP national publicity secretary