Semantan Estates’ lawyer says Kenari Maluri should not be allowed to be intervener in land dispute with government

PUTRAJAYA (March 19): Semantan Estates (1952) Sdn Bhd's lawyer Ira Biswas said today Kenari Maluri Sdn Bhd, a company that claims to represent the majority of Semantan Estates shareholders, should not be allowed to be an intervener in Semantan Estates' land dispute with the government because Kenari Maluri has no right to intervene as the company is not a shareholder in Semantan Estates.

Biswas told a three-member Court of Appeal bench here that Kenari Maluri has no legal relationship with Semantan Estates and therefore should not be admitted as an intervener in the dispute involving a 106.7ha land along Jalan Duta in Kuala Lumpur.

"Kenari Maluri has no locus or right to intervene. The company is not even a shareholder in Semantan. Yet it claims to represent the majority shareholders (in Semantan Estates) to act on behalf of the company (Semantan Estates) against the government.

"We say that the government should deal directly with Semantan (Estates) which is the company that has a legal right in this matter and not Kenari Maluri.

"Our position is that only appellant (Semantan Estates) can settle with the government," she said.

The three-member Court of Appeal bench comprised Court of Appeal Judges Datuk Seri Kamaludin Md Said, Datuk Has Zanah Mehat and Datuk Ahmad Nasfy Yasin.

Kamaludin, Has Zanah and Ahmad Nasfy were hearing today Semantan Estates' appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court's decision on July 8, 2019 to allow Kenari Maluri to intervene in Semantan Estates' judicial review application in relation to the land dispute.

Today, Biswas, who cited case law, said not even shareholders are allowed to intervene in court matters in relation to companies and hence Kenari Maluri should not be allowed to intervene in Semantan Estates' judicial review application in relation to the land dispute.

Case law is law which is based on judicial decisions instead of constitutions, statutes, or regulations.

Biswas also said Kenari Maluri does not have direct interest in the land dispute and, as such, the company should not be allowed to intervene in the matter.

When Kamaludin asked Biswas whether Kenari Maluri can be considered "a busybody", Biswas agreed with Kamaludin's suggestion.

Semantan Estates' land dispute with the government dates back to 1960

The Edge weekly's edition of July 1-7, 2013 reported then that in 1960, the government paid RM1.3 million to acquire the disputed land under the then Land Acquisition Enactment for the purpose of developing a diplomatic enclave.

It was reported that the tussle between Semantan Estates and the government dragged on for more than 50 years for a number of reasons, including issues between the two families that started Semantan Estates and mistakes and delays caused by the Collector of Land Revenue.

It was reported that Semantan Estates first went to court in 1960 to seek legal remedy for the RM1.3 million compensation that the Collector of Land Revenue had paid for the land.

According to The Edge weekly, Semantan Estates in 1989 sued the government for "trespassing" on the grounds that it had taken possession of the land unlawfully.

Although the government initially succeeded in getting the High Court to strike out the suit, Semantan Estates went all the way to the then Supreme Court, which ruled in its favour and allowed the suit to proceed, according to the report.

But it was close to 20 years before the trespassing case was finally heard and decided by the High Court.

It was reported that in the High Court ruling of March 31, 2010, the High Court declared that the government had not taken the land lawfully and "hence has remained in unlawful possession of the said land".

The High Court also ordered the government to pay "mesne profits" as damages to Semantan Estate and that the Registrar of the High Court assess the amount, according to the report.

It was reported that "mesne profits" referred to any profit accrued during a dispute over land ownership.

It was reported that the attorney general, which represented the government, appealed the High Court's decision but lost in the Court of Appeal in May 2012 and finally, in the highest court of the land — the Federal Court — upheld the High Court's decision in November 2012.

Subsequent news reports indicated that on Nov 22, 2018, the Federal Court, led by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop, dismissed the review filed by the Malaysian government.

Following the Court of Appeal's decision in 2018, it was reported that Semantan Estates filed the judicial review, which involved several respondents including the Malaysian government.

Semantan Estates filed the judicial review because it wanted the ownership of the disputed 106.7ha land along Jalan Duta in Kuala Lumpur to be officially transferred to the company.

Today, senior federal counsel S Narkunavathy, who represented the respondents, did not make any submissions on the matter at the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, Kenari Maluri's lawyers Datuk Edward Ng Boon Siong and Jason Ng Kau told the Court of Appeal today that the High Court was right when it allowed Kenari Maluri to become an intervener as the company had passed the threshold rule of the right to be heard.

Edward said this is based on Order 53 (8) of the Rules of Court as Kenari Maluri is seeking a global settlement with all seven respondents including the government in Semantan Estates' judicial review application.

According to Edward, Kenari Maluri represents the majority of Semantan Estates shareholders who have entrusted Kenari Maluri group director and chairman Datuk Tun Hasnul Azam Tun Hamzah with the task of dealing with the government.

Edward said: “This was highlighted in the 2017 letter by the majority [of Semantan Estates] shareholders entrusting Tun Hasnul to deal with the then PM (prime minister) to resolve the matter. Hence, we have the right to be placed as an intervener.

“Kenari Maluri is no stranger to these proceedings as we did inform Semantan Estates of our discussion and we are not [a] busybody,” he said.

Edward said there had been no denial of these meetings with Semantan Estates.

Court of Appeal Judge Kamaludin said today that the court will deliver its decision on the matter on May 28.

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