Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told the High Court here today he had not agreed to the compulsory acquisition of land for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project, even though he acknowledged such practices usually ended up saving money for the government.
The practice of compulsory acquisitions would have made him an unpopular politician, the former prime minister said when appearing as a defence witness for former transport minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, who is on trial for deceiving the Cabinet in the government’s purchase of land for the PKFZ project.
“No. Normally when government wants to acquire land, the valuation is very low to save government money; the government officers wants to help government to save money,” said Dr Mahathir to questions from defence lawyer Wong Kian Kheong.
“As a politician who depends on my popularity to stay in office, I would not like to undervalue land acquired by government. That would make me unpopular and my status depends on my popularity,” he said.
Wong had asked Dr Mahathir if he had favoured compulsory acquisition when he was the then prime minister, minister of finance and minister of special functions.
Dr Mahathir told Wong that he had been informed the government had wanted to compulsorily acquire the land in August 2002.
The government had finally decided to purchase the land on a willing-seller-willing-buyer basis in November 2002.
Earlier, the former PM told the court that neither he nor any minister had lodged any criminal complaint about the Cabinet being deceived into approving the purchase of land for the PKFZ project.
He also testified that a policeman told him that if investigators had taken his police statement first, Dr Ling would not even have been charged with any crime.
Dr Ling was charged in 2010 but Dr Mahathir said his police statement was only recorded within these two years.
Dr Ling, who served as transport minister for 17 years from January 1986 to May 2003, is charged with deceiving the Cabinet into approving the purchase of 999.5 acres of land for the PKFZ project, which had resulted in wrongful losses for the government.
The project, initially estimated at RM1.1 billion after it was mooted by Dr Ling in 1997, more than quadrupled in cost to RM4.6 billion by 2007.
A position review by top accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) revealed in 2009 that the total cost including interests from debt repayments could reach RM12.5 billion.
Since December 2009, six individuals have been charged in court including ex-MCA president Dr Ling, and his successor as transport minister, former MCA deputy chief Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy.
Both are accused of lying to the Cabinet.
Dr Ling also faces two alternative charges of deceiving the Cabinet into believing that the terms of the purchase — at RM25 psf plus 7.5 per cent interest — were acknowledged and agreed to by the JPPH despite knowing that there was no such agreement.
He faces a possible jail term of up to seven years, or a fine, or both, if convicted on the first charge under Section 418 of the Penal Code.
Worst politician Malaysia ever had in history! Used rakyat money to gain popularity making rakyat paid for mega hugh losses!
Apa nama, suddenly you remembered a lot of things . You can even remember how you witnessed a british soilder being killed by japanese troops in ww2 in the early 1940s WOW n WOW..
Oh Oh! Najib, he is talking about you. How can you allow the land in Pengerang being "compulsory acquired"!!! This will make you unpopular.
Quick, go and undo it!
"Forced Sale" depends on who is on the other side. We have seen a lot of forced sale transactions that happen so rampantly during his tenure
He is willing to sell the country to the dogs as long as this will make him popular. What a vile politician.