Mind your words, please!


The colour orange: Oren refers to the orange colour of the T-shirts that those arrested by the MACC have to wear when they are brought to court.

 

THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been in the news almost daily with its arrests of politicians and businessmen, many carrying the Tan Sri and Datuk Seri titles.

This has become the subject of conversation among Malaysians.

To help foreigners, especially those doing business here in Malaysia, below is a compilation of terms that are often used to denote corrupt practices. To the clueless, these words could easily be misunderstood.

Worse, it could land unsuspecting expatriates in serious trouble with the law, especially with the MACC, if they use these seemingly innocent terms without realising their implications.

Here’s a list of everyday words and how they are used.

Jalan – this is a Bahasa Malaysia word for “road”. On the surface, it sounds simple and straightforward. Every road sign begins, mostly, with this word to denote, well, road. If only it was that simple. In reality, it could be the beginning of a corrupt offer.

If someone asks you: “You got jalan ah?” It doesn’t mean seeking assistance for a road direction. In the Malaysian context, it probably means “is there a way to resolve a complicated situation?” Some may argue the word need not necessarily be “illegal” as it could also mean finding a clever way out of a problem.

Kabel – the Malay word for “cable”. Cables are strong, thick wires, which are usually twisted or braided together. Well, in Malaysia, it also means someone in position – a very powerful person, often a politician in high office, or a senior government officer, who is able to help secure a big contract or deal. So, if someone asks whether “you have kabel?” you shouldn’t look puzzled or confused.

It simply means you need to have the support of an influential figure who is as strong as a cable. It’s no longer good enough to “pull strings” but you must be able to “pull cable” for your plans to get off.

Lubang – it literally means a hole. Most Malaysians grumble about lubang or the numerous pot holes along our badly maintained roads. The vulgar ones uses this word with a sexual connotation.

But in the more sleazy world of bribery, lubang means an opportunity, usually an illegal way, to make money. It has nothing to do with holes, as the word suggests.

Kau tim – this is a Cantonese word, which has actually become a Malaysian word, used by all races. It means finished, done or resolved. As simple as that.

But it is also a way of expressing agreement, or to settle a problem with bribery. For example, if you are stopped by a traffic cop for a traffic offence, you may say “boleh kau tim ah?” or the policeman may suggest “macam mana mau selesai, mau kau tim kah?

Lu tak mau kau tim, mesti susah punya. Nanti kena pi balai, pi court.” (If you do not wish to settle, it can be difficult. You may have to go to the police station or even the court.)

Ta pau – I always thought that this Chinese word means to pack food or a take-away, but it has come to mean a greedy corrupt person who wants to take away the entire loot all for himself without sharing with anyone, as in “he wants to ta pau everything, how can? So greedy one.”

So, no expatriate who has just arrived in town should go around telling everyone that he wants to “ta pau” everything he can lay his hands on. He can be sure of getting strange, hostile stares.

Selesai – it means to end or the end. It could be the end of a movie, the end of a meal or the end of a relationship. It’s a really simple word but in the Malaysian context of corruption, it means “how to resolve this?” or “it has been settled.”

Usually, the act of corruption will begin with a simple question – “So, macam mana mau selesai?” or “how do we settle this?”. For sure, it won’t be a challenge to a fight or a gentlemanly end to a problem with a handshake. Don’t be stupid. It’s an invitation to begin negotiation for, errr, a bribe.

The English version is also often used, as in “can settle ah?”

Lesen kopi – This has to be the Corruption 101 lesson for our young drivers. It is the first step into the world of corruption in Malaysia. Nobody wants to admit it but going by hearsay and unsubstantiated remarks, many Malaysians taking their driving test believe that they need to bribe the examiner in order to pass the very first time. Lesen kopi means bribing to get a driving licence.

So, they earn what is known as “lesen kopi” or licences obtained via corrupt ways, or duit kopi. Small gratification for “coffee” for the testers. Coffee, not tea. Strangely, there is no such term despite our fondness for teh tarik.

It may sound terribly confusing to tea drinking foreigners but please don’t think that this is the reason why so many Malaysians kill themselves or each other on our roads.

Ikan bilis – it refers to anchovies, those tiny fish, usually fried, found in our national food, the nasi lemak. But it also means small fry. So when low-ranking government officers are arrested for corruption, the MACC is often criticised for just going after the ikan bilis and not the bigwigs, known as sharks in the Malaysian context.

Makan duitMakan essentially means to eat. There’s no way, literally, that a person can eat a ringgit note. But it is synonymous with taking a bribe. It may be confusing to a foreigner as it may seem impossible to eat stacks of ringgit notes but this is Malaysia. We are versatile as well as adaptive. Many people will tell foreigners that they are able to, well, makan duit. Can one, who say cannot?

Oren – It’s not orange juice. It refers to the colour of the round-collared T-shirts that those arrested by the MACC have to wear.

This is the dreaded colour for all suspects, in handcuffs, being led to court in full view of the press.

You can be in red or yellow but orange is a no-no. The new term now is “jangan oren” or “don’t be in orange.”

On The Beat by Wong Chun Wai, The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) needs strong finishing


Biggest seizure: A case that caught the attention of the nation was the seizure of cash, jewellery and other expensive items from the homes of two former top Sabah Water Department officials in October last year.

ONE need not go far to see how effective the Government can be when dealing with highly problematic issues involving people who blatantly do not comply with the rules.

After the National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN) issued a warning to loan defaulters that they would be blacklisted and may not be able to travel abroad, the repayment of their loans increased. There is almost a 300% jump in withdrawals from the Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) account for education purposes – rising from RM578mil in 2015 to RM1.48bil last year.

According to officials from the EPF, the bulk of the money withdrawn has been channelled toward the repayment of loans owed to PTPTN.

Clearly, the prospects of being blacklisted – a record that will remain forever – and the possibility of being stopped at the airport before leaving overseas for a holiday are reasons enough for them to repay their loans.

The lackadaisical attitude of those who have taken student loans is just another sign of apathy. The former students who are now young working adults know very well that they have an obligation to repay the loans.

However, they do not bother to do so until measures are put in place to hit them hard where it matters.

On a larger scale, corruption is a big problem in Malaysia. It is a major problem that has reached a state where most companies set aside a certain amount to “grease” key people to get jobs.

Everybody knows the danger of getting caught but the practice continues. Towards this end, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has, in recent months, been on overdrive to nab those suspected of corrupt activities.

But has the message that the MACC means business been drilled down?

In South Korea, former president Park Geun-hye was detained on April 1 ahead of her trial. Prosecutors said the allegations against her were grave and the other suspects in the case, including her confidante Choi Soon-sil and Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, have already been arrested.

In that country, it’s clear that corruption will not be tolerated. Those being investigated will be put behind bars even before the trial starts.

In the last few months, a regular feature in newspapers is the string of high-profile personalities who have been arrested for allegations involving bribery or money laundering.

They include politicians, civil servants, heads of government-linked funds and businessmen. Those who solicit bribes and the parties that give the money or even facilitate bribery have been arrested and remanded.

Some of them have been charged before being let off on bail.

Pictures of the persons involved are all over the newspapers and social media. In some cases, names are mentioned.

The “shaming and naming” of the people hauled up and being investigated is damaging. It is the talk of the town – especially among the private-sector businessmen.

However, there are some reservations on whether the efforts by the MACC would pay off.

At the end of the day, what would matter is seeing how many get prosecuted successfully; how many are handed down custodial sentences.

And most importantly, the speed in which these cases are disposed of by the courts.

For now, most of these MACC cases are already being filed in court and some have been charged. But the trial proper is a process that is likely to take a long time.

And the danger is the momentum will slow down when there is no speedy end to the cases.

There is also the issue of managing perception when there are delays in the outcome.

For instance, two senior officials of the Federal Land development Authority (Felda) were charged with criminal breach of trust involving RM47.6mil for a sturgeon-breeding project in March this year. The offences were allegedly committed between January and July 2014. The hearing will probably start in a few months.

In the meantime, Felda continues to fight the battle to improve its perception on improving governance and returns on its investments.

The share price of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd is a far cry from the valuations it fetched during its listing in 2012. The returns from the RM2bil that Felda has invested in Felda Investment Corp is nothing much to shout about.

One case that has caught the attention of the nation was the seizure of cash, jewellery and other expensive items from the homes of two former top Sabah Water Department officials in October last year.

According to reports, it took 30 MACC officers and 15 hours to count the cash of more than RM53mil that was seized.

The display of the stacks of bank notes seized from the homes is still an image that is popular on social media. The case, touted as the nation’s biggest corruption case involving RM61.4mil in cash and other assets, has been fixed for hearing in July and August this year. According to reports, some 200 witnesses will be called for the case.

When the case will be concluded is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, it leaves many wondering if the MACC would be successful in its efforts.

Corruption affects the country as a whole. It is estimated that there is a leakage of about 20% of the annual spending for projects and procurement. For instance, the Federal Government development expenditure for 2016 was about RM50bil and 20% is easily RM10bil.

Larger sums are budgeted for government agencies that are not part of the Federal Government balance sheet. This includes the likes of Mass Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd that handles the rail infrastructure projects running into 10s of billions of ringgit. The government-linked companies are another set of entities with big budgets.

What the MACC needs now is a speedy end to such high-profile cases.

Whether the prosecution is successful or otherwise, a quick closure to such cases will help MACC instil public confidence in it. A strong finish to the investigations is much needed.

By M.Shanmugam The Star

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Johor’s biggest corruption cases: land and housing scandal, slapped with 33 counts of graft


TWO IN COURT: Abd Latif (right) being brought to the Johor Baru Sessions Court by anti-graft officers. He is alleged to have abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud (left) in the land development scandal.

After weeks of investigation, state executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi is finally brought to court to face 33 counts of graft. The land and housing scandal – one of Johor’s biggest corruption cases – is however set to widen as graft busters warn of more suspects to be charged soon.


MACC expected to haul up more people in land and housing scandal

JOHOR BARU: One of the state’s largest corruption scandals is about to get bigger as more people are expected to be hauled up to court in the coming weeks.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said they might be charged with the case involving Johor executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi either this month or next.

Among those to be charged, he said, were those who had been arrested previously.

However, he declined to reveal their names so as not to jeopardise MACC’s investigation, saying that no VIPs were involved.

“We are in the midst of completing our probe with the Deputy Public Prosecutor before charging them in court soon,” he told reporters after meeting MACC investigation director Datuk Simi Abd Ghani and Johor MACC director Datuk Azmi Alias here yesterday.

Azam said it was also possible for Abd Latif, who was jointly accused with property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud of committing 33 counts of graft yesterday, to face another round of charges then.

It was reported that eight suspects, including Abd Latiff ’s eldest son as well as his special officer, were nabbed by the MACC on Feb 24.

Anti-graft officers detained them after sifting through stacks of documents seized from the state government and developers.

They also seized luxury goods, including 21 cars such as Bentley, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, five high-powered motorcycles and 150 handbags.

On its probe into the purchase of real estate in Australia by Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd, Azam said MACC called up 24 witnesses and visited seven premises, including a law firm, the offices of both Mara Inc and an appraiser, and their associates.

“All related documents have also been seized. We have gathered more new information, and it is a continuous investigation from the previous case in 2015,” he said.

“We need more time to complete this case as it involves another country.

“We have put in a request under a mutual legal assistance with the Australian AttorneyGeneral’s office but have yet to receive any response.

“We will also prepare the documents to be sent to Australia,” he said.

MACC had previously recorded the state- ment of suspended Mara chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa over the same investigation.

Annuar also handed over several documents relevant to the case.

The issue came to light after Australian newspaper The Age claimed that several senior Mara officials and a former politician had spent millions of Malaysian Government funds to buy an apartment block, known as Dudley International House, in Melbourne

Azam said his officers were also in the midst of preparing a report into alleged match fixing by football players from the Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysia Indian Football Association.

“We expect this case to be completed within two to three weeks after we hand over the report to the deputy public prosecutor for charging.

Source:The Star headline news

Slapped with 33 counts of graft

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JOHOR BARU: State executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi has been charged in the Sessions Court here with 33 counts of graft, the earliest of which stretches back to just six months after he assumed office.

TWO IN COURT: Abd Latif (above) being brought to the Johor Baru Sessions Court by anti-graft officers. He is alleged to have abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud (below) in the land development scandal.

Abd Latif, 51, was sworn in to his post as Johor Housing and Local Government Committee chairman in 2013 and according to the list of charges, he allegedly abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud on Nov 13 that same year to convert bumiputra lots into non-bumiputra lots.

Yesterday, the court interpreter took about 15 minutes to read the list of charges to each of the accused in the case, considered one of the biggest corruption scandals in the state.

In total, Abd Latif is said to have abetted Amir, 44, to convert 1,480 houses.

He is also accused of helping to reduce the quantum of payment that developers had to contribute towards the Johor Housing Fund for converting these lots.

The offences, the last of which supposedly took place on Sept 13, 2016, involved payments of between RM100,000 and RM3.7mil.

Totalling some RM30.3mil, this involved development projects in Kota Masai, Tebrau, Kulai, Kempas, Nusajaya and Johor Baru.

Among the converted lots were apartments, double-storey terrace homes, cluster houses, cluster industrial lots, semi-Ds and bungalows.

Abd Latif was charged under Section 28 (1) (c) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act for abetment, which was read together with Section 16 (a)(B) for accepting bribes.

Amir was charged with 33 counts under Section 16 (a)(B) for accepting bribes for himself and Abdul Latif.

Judge Mohd Fauzi Mohd Nasir set bail at RM2mil in one surety for each of the accused and ordered their passports to be surrendered until the trial was over. He also fixed May 23 for mention.

At press time, only Amir posted bail while Abd Latif, who was unable to raise the amount, was sent to the Ulu Choh detention centre.

Earlier, 15 minutes after Abd Latif and Amir were ushered into the packed courtroom, a defence lawyer stood up and asked for their “Lokap SPRM” orange T-shirts to be removed.

Both Abd Latif, who took time to hug and shake the hands of several people, and Amir then changed into long-sleeved shirts.

Abd Latif was represented by a six-man legal team led by Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican while two lawyers, headed by Azrul Zulkifli Stork, stood for Amir.

The case was prosecuted by MACC director Datuk Masri Mohd Daud, with assistance from Raja Amir Nasruddin.

Source: The Star by Nelson Benjamin and Norbaiti phaharoradzi

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Datuk Adam Rosly amassed so much wealth under scrutiny by corruption agency


Anti-graft investigators looking into the case of Ampang PKR Youth chief Datuk Adam Rosly’s “unusual” wealth are trying to determine how the 29-year-old amassed a substantial amount of cash and property at his age.

Officers who went to Adam’s house, dubbed by many as “Disneyland castle” in Ampang, seized five cars – a Mini Cooper, a BMW 5 Series, a Mercedes C200, an Audi A6 and a Toyota Vellfire.

Eight accounts under Adam and his wife’s name, with money amounting to RM212,461.41, were frozen.

Adam, who was detained after his statement was recorded at the MACC headquarters on Thurs

day, has been remanded for five days to allow the commission to investigate him.

He arrived at the court complex at 9.30am yesterday, clad in the MACC orange lock-up attire and smiled to the waiting cameramen.

Lawyers Nik Zarith Nik Moustapha and Asyraf Othman, as well as his mother, wife, baby daughter and a group of friends were waiting for him in the courtroom.

Magistrate Nik Isfahanie Tasnim Wan Ab Rahman granted prosecutors’ request for him to be remanded until April 18.

The MACC is investigating the case under the Anti-Money Laun­dering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

Adam’s wealth came to the public’s attention after his political opponents questioned how he was able to afford his castle-style bungalow which they claimed cost RM7mil.

The special officer to Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin, however, said he bought the house for RM1mil at an auction.

He also claimed that his money came from business ventures and family inheritance.

A source said the big question was whether Adam was actually involved in “proper” business ventures that brought him that much profit.

“Does he really have a business, did he really inherit a substantial amount of money or did he obtain it from ‘brokering’ or some kind of borrowings. We are sure there are ways for MACC to get to the bottom of this,” said the source.

MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Azam Baki said officers were still investigating the case.

“They are still finding more evidence and going through documents.

“Let them probe and we will see what comes out of it,” he added.

Source: The Star/ANN

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N Korean envoy declared as ‘persona non grata’ in Malaysia


Kang Chol

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KUALA LUMPUR: North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol, who has accused Malaysia of colluding with foreign powers in the murder of Kim Jong-nam, must leave the country within 48 hours.

Kang Chol, who was summoned to Wisma Putra at 6pm yesterday, failed to turn up.

And in a turn of events, the ministry sent a diplomatic note to the embassy at about 9.30pm to inform the North Korean government that Kang Chol had been declared persona non grata.

Kang Chol has to leave by tomorrow.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the Malaysian Government had demanded a written apology from North Korea for the ambassador’s recent accusations against the country over Jong-nam’s assassination at KLIA2.

That demand, he said, had been made du­ring a meeting between Wisma Putra officials and the North Korean high-level delegation on Tuesday.

“The officials, led by deputy secretary-general for bilateral affairs Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin, met the delegation headed by Kim Song on Tuesday.

“The delegation was informed that should there be no response by 10pm that day, the Malaysian Government would take measures to best protect its interest.

Here you go: A North Korean embassy official (left) accepting a letter from Muhammad Haidas Muhammad Sharif Song, an assistant secretary of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry’s East Asia Division, at the North Korean Embassy in Bukit Damansara. 

“Almost four days have passed.

“No apology has been made and neither has there been any indication that one is forthcoming.

“For this reason, the Ambassador has been declared persona non grata,” said Anifah.

Persona non grata, in Latin, means one who has been declared so by the receiving state and barred from entering or remaining in the country.

It is the most serious form of disapproval that the country can apply to foreign diplomats and is often used to express displeasure at the conduct or policies of the sending state.

In his statement, Anifah also gave details leading to the move.

He said he had instructed his officers to summon Kang Chol, but neither the ambassador nor the embassy’s senior officials came to Wisma Putra.

“For this reason, the ministry – via a diplomatic note sent to the embassy this evening – informed the North Korea government that His Excellency Mr Kang Chol is declared persona non grata by the Malaysian Government.

“He is expected to leave Malaysia within 48 hours from the scheduled time of the meeting, which is 6pm on March 4 (yesterday).”

Malaysia, vowed the minister, would strongly act against any insult made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation.

“It should be recalled that the ambassador has alleged that the conduct of the investigation into the death of a North Korean citizen on Feb 13 indicates that the Malaysian Government had something to hide and that it colluded with outside powers to defame his country,” he said.

However, recent events, including the release of North Korean Ri Jong-chol due to the lack of evidence, was proof that the investigation was carried out in an impartial, fair and transparent manner, said Anifah.

This, he added, as “befits a country that practises the rule of law”.

Kang Chol, 64, began his diplomatic career as an assistant officer in the Middle East Department of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

His previous postings were in Somalia and Ethiopia and he had also served as the ministry’s director-general of administrative affairs.

Kang Chol, an alumnus of the Pyongyang University of Foreign Language (1972-73) and Somalia National University (1973-76), has two children.

Source: The Star by mergawati zulfakar, farik zolkepli, qishin tariq, jo timbuong, neville spykerman, royce tan

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Protecting house buyers’ interest


I REFER to the reports “Court: No power to grant extension” and “A fair and right judgment, says housing developer” ( The Star, Feb 28 – Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says).

The High Court decision declaring as ultra vires (beyond one’s legal power or authority) the Housing and Local Government Minister’s granting of a one-year extension of time (EOT) to developers to complete a delayed housing project and thus denying house buyers liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD) provided for under the sale and purchase agreement is timely, sound and indeed meritorious. It is hoped that the decision would be maintained should the minister decide to appeal it.

The Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 was enacted for the protection of home buyers.

The long title of the Act (paragraph stating Parliament’s intent for the Act) says: “An Act to provide for the control and licensing of the business of housing development in Peninsular Malaysia, the protection of the interest of purchasers…” This makes clear that the housing development business is regulated to ensure that the protection of home buyers’ interest is paramount.

Two eminent judges, the late Tun Mohamed Suffian, former Lord President of Malaysia, and the late Tan Sri Lee Hun Hoe, the longest serving Chief Justice of Borneo, stated this in two landmark cases respectively.

Suffian LP (Sea Housing Corporation v Lee Poh Chee): “To protect home buyers, most of whom are people of modest means, from rich and powerful developers, Parliament found it necessary to regulate the sale of houses and protect buyers by enacting the Act.”

Lee Hun Hoe CJ (Borneo) (Beca (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd v Tan Choong Kuang & Anor): “The duty of observing the law is firmly placed on the housing developers for the protection of house buyers. Hence, any infringement of the law would render the housing developer liable to penalty on conviction.”

Respectfully, it is submitted that the decision to grant the developer of a housing project extension of time and thus deny the home buyers’ statutory rights to LAD ought to be exercised with diffidence. The decision, if any, ought to be made with the Act’s long title in mind, namely, “for the protection of interest of purchasers”.

In doing so, some aspects to consider are:

> In granting EOT, how will home buyers’ interest be protected?

> LAD is agreed monetary payment for home buyers’ losses for delay in completion of a housing project. Is denying home buyers’ the LAD by the EOT tantamount to protecting their interest?

Although Section 11(3) of the Act states that the developer under “special circumstances” may apply to the Controller of Housing for EOT, it is submitted that Parliament and the long title of the Act surely did not intend LAD to be wiped out by “a stroke of a pen”.

To avoid doubt, “special circumstances” would mean act of God or natural disaster, for example earth quake or tsunami, and not business or economic related challenges or hardship.

The above view would make legal sense of Section 11(3).

Again, the High Court decision is lauded.

Home buyers’ interest is of paramount importance under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966. The Controller of Housing’s or Minister’s decision, although seemingly made “by a stroke of a pen”, must materialise or recognise this intent. Failing to do so would be ultra vires the Act.

May the redeeming light of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) 1966 continue to shine effervescently and protect effectively home buyer’s interest for many years to come.

This letter is dedicated to the National Housebuyers Association, its great team of lawyers, professionals and volunteers for their sterling and pro-bono efforts to speak up for and preserve home buyers’ interest.

Source: ROBERT TAN,  Home buyer and author of Buying Property From Developer: What You Need To Know And Do, Petaling Jaya

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Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says


 

 
Take them to task: According to the liquidated damages clause, condo buyers can claim 10 per annum of the purchase price for the delay

KUALA LUMPUR: The Housing Controller has no power to grant an extension of time to developers who delay the completion of housing projects, the High Court has ruled in a landmark judgment.

This means a housing developer has to pay compensation to the affected buyers for delays in the delivery of vacant possession.

High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Hanipah Farikullah also held that the regulation which empowers the Controller to modify terms of the contract of sale was ultra vires the Housing Development, Control and Licensing Act.

The judge said this in allowing an application for judicial review by 71 buyers of the Sri Istana condominiums in Old Klang Road against the Housing Controller and Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister.

Their lead counsel Datuk Wong Kok Leong told The Star the judge held that the minister’s decision to grant the developer an extension of time to complete the project via a letter dated Nov 17, 2015 was invalid.

In the letter, the minister had granted the developer a 12-month extension to complete the project.

“This means that the Housing Controller has no power to grant an extension of time to housing developers for any delay in completing their projects,” Wong said.

“Now, the developer has to pay the liquidated damages (a pre-determined sum) for late delivery of vacant possession of those condominium units.”

Wong called the decision a landmark judgment as many project developers seek extensions to complete their projects in Malaysia.

“This is a victory for all house buyers. With this ruling, the housing developer can’t just go to the Housing Controller for an extension of time to complete the project in order to avoid paying the liquidated damages to house buyers.

“This is because if an extension of time is allowed, house buyers lose their rights to claim damages for late delivery of vacant possession,” he added.

Wong explained that according to the liquidated damages clause, the condo buyers can claim 10% per annum of the purchase price for the delay.

In their application for judicial review, the condo buyers stated that they wanted to quash the decision allowing BHL Construction Sdn Bhd an extension of time for the delivery of vacant possession from 36 months to 48 months.

They also asked the court for a declaration that Regulation 11(3) was ultra vires of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) Act.

Wong said the judge has ordered the parties to address the issue of costs on the next date for case management.

When contacted, SFC Mohamad Rizal said the judge also allowed a similar application involving another group of condominium buyers involving the same developer and project.

Source: By  m. mageswari, royce tan, thean lee cheng, eugene mahalingam, The Star

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