DAP calls for a Commission on Good Governance which could investigate failures of Ministries and government departments to deliver efficient services – such as the JHOEA for its negligence and irresponsibility resulting in the scandal of the “Orang Asli millionaires living in poverty”

Speech (2)
 on the 2003 Supplementary Estimates
by Lim Kit Siang

(Dewan Rakyat, Tuesday): Here, I wish to refer to a great scandal from the standpoint of good governance. During the debate on the Royal Address in Parliament in May, I said something was very wrong with the policy and approach to uplift and ensure the socio-economic and educational advancement of the the Orang Asli in the country, the real "bumiputras" of the land, when there is little substantial to show to raise the Orang Asli to the higher echelons in the various fields of national life. 

I asked why 46 years after Merdeka, there had not been a single Orang Asli represented in the Dewan Rakyat, why no Orang Asli had ever been appointed Director-General of the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA),  and called for Orang Asli to be appointed to the posts of Director-General and State Directors of Orang Asli Affairs Department by the end of the Eighth Malaysia Plan next year. 

I did not get any proper answer from the Minister for Rural and Regional Development whose portfolio covers the JHOEA, but the scandal of the “Orang Asli millionaires living in poverty’” which surfaced  over the weekend is an indictment on the Ministry as well as the  JHOEA, which must also  bear responsibility for the scandal as it highlights its failure and breach of trust to protect  the interests and improve the quality of life of the Orang Asli. 

Last Monday, 5th July 2004, an Orang Asli in Sungai Linggiu, Kota Tinggi, Johore, Saling bin Lau Bee Chiang  lodged the following police report on behalf of 36 Orang Asli (Police Report: BT Ampat/000807/04 – Penerima repot: Roslan bin Jemi R148129): 

“Adalah saya mewakili seramai 36 orang plaintif dalam kes number 24-828-94 di mahkamah Kota Tinggi Johor berkaitan wang pampasan tanah tapak pembinaan empangan di sg. Linggiu Kota Tinggi yang mana tuntutan telah dibawa ke mahkamah oleh peguam bernama En. S. Kanawagi dari Tetuan Khana & Co di Kuala Lumpur. Di dalam kes ini kami telah dimaklumkan oleh peguam mengatakan pampasan diterima sebanyak RM25juta dan dipegang sebagai Trust. 

“Kami telah diberi wang permulaan sebanyak RM2500.00 seorang seramai 401 orang telah diterima dan pampasan kedua kami terima RM100.00 dan dibayar 3 bulan sekali sebanyak RM300.00 dan pembayaran terakhir dibuat pada November 2001. Selepas itu kami seramai 52 orang menerima pampasan RM900.00 sebulan.  Mengikut maklumat terbaru yang kami  terima bahawa mahkamah sebenarnya mengarah sejumlah RM38 juta sebagai wang pampasan di mana RM26.5 juta wang penghakiman dan RM11.5 juta sebagai wang faedah. Dan kami juga mendapat tahu hanya RM22 juta sahaja yang dipegang oleh Trust di sebuah bank yang kami tidak ketahui, dan kami tidak tahu baki sebenarnya wang yang masih ada. Yuran peguam ialah RM500,000.00 sahaja. Kami tidak pernah membuat apa persetujuan membenarkan apa-apa potongan dan pengeluaran lain dari wang tersebut. 

“Saya membuat laporan ini kerana kami percaya ada berlaku penipuan dan penyelewengan mengenai jumlah sebenar wang pampasan dan wang yang kami terima.  Di mana di dalam akaun Trust hanya tinggal RM22 juta sahaja bakinya sebanyak RM16 juta tidak tehu ke manakah hilangnya. Saya datang balai membuat repot supaya siasatan dijalankan ke atas kes ini.”  

Johore police chief Datuk Mohd Amir Sulaiman told The Malay Mail on Saturday that the allegations by the Orang Asli were serious and involved a great deal of money and it is being investigated by the Commercial Crimes division. 

When contacted by The Malay Mail, the Johore State Orang Asli Department director Mohamed Bakhtiar said he is aware of the allegations by the Orang Asli but at this point, consider it a dispute between individuals and their lawyer. 

In his opinion, the money should be spent to improve the community. He said the department however did not have the authority to intervene as the lawyer had taken a court order making him the trustee of the money. 

Mohamed said: “In order to intervene, we need to get another order from the court but to date we have not gotten any official complaint from the Orang Asli”. 

This is a shocking evasion of responsibility of the JHOEA to look after the welfare and interests of the Orang Asli, as well as misrepresentation of the facts,  especially when in the Court Order by Justice Datuk Haji Mokhtar bin Haji Sidin dated 5th June 2000 constituting the RM22 million trust under the name of Linggiu Valley Orang Asli (Jakuns) Trust, it was specified that “The Director General of Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur for the time being, shall be appointed the additional trustee of the Trust” – i.e. the fourth trustee after  two batins of the Orang Asli, Adong bin Kuwau and Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah and lawyer Kanawagi a/l Seperumaniam. 

The Trust Order by Justice Mokhtar Sidin  stated: 

“6. The balance of the judgment inclusive of accrued interest (other than the said sum of RM22,000,000 and accrued interest thereon under paragraph 5 above) shall be paid forthwith to the Plaintiffs’ Solicitors, Messrs Khana & Co, Kuala Lumpur to be distributed to the Plaintiffs after the deduction and payment of all legal fees, costs, consultation fees and expenses incurred for the purpose of, and in connection with, the prosecution of this Originating summons all subsequent and related proceedings.” 

JHOEA cannot plead ignorance about the scandal of the  “Orang Asli millionaires living in poverty” eking out a living as odd-job labourers in scrap-metal yard and chicken-farm jaga, as the JHOEA Director-General was not only named as one of the trustees of the Linggiu Valley Orang Asli Trust, but had been an active party in  the court proceedings resulting in the RM38 million judgment in favour of the Linggiu Valley Orang Asli – as the  then Johore JHOEA Director Daud Hassan had submitted an affidavit in the case. 

As for the unaccounted  RM16 million, the lawyer concerned Kanawagi has denied to Malaysiakini that there was any fraud or embezzlement, claiming that he had given RM3.6 million to the Orang Asli headmen to distribute among the plaintiffs, RM2.2 million to the middleman who introduced him to the plaintiffs, with the balance of RM10.2 million retained for legal fees and costs – for “a team of seven very high class lawyers and some were even international professors”. 

The Police are investigating the police report lodged last Monday, and I understand that a report is being lodged with the Bar Council today.   It is for the Police and the Bar Council to get to the bottom of the legal outrage, where the real beneficiaries of the RM38 million award for the Linggiu Valley Orang Asli are the millionaire lawyers and the tout  rather than the purported Orang Asli “millionaires”. 

What Parliament is entitled to know, however,  are firstly, why the JHOEA had been so negligent and irresponsible in failing to protect the rights and interests of the  Linggiu Valley Orang Asli, in particular with regard to their RM38 million award, when the JHOEA Director-General is named by the Court as one of their trustees; and secondly, why the Anti-Corruption Agency which had been brought into the picture as far back as 2001 about financial improprieties had failed to act promptly to avoid the scandal of the “Orang Asli millionaires living in poverty”.

DAP calls on the Prime Minister to establish  a Commission on Good Governance which could investigate failures of Ministries and government departments to deliver efficient services – such as the JHOEA for its negligence and irresponsibility resulting in the scandal of the “Orang Asli millionaires living in poverty”.



* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman