Call on Minister of Primary Industries, Datuk Musa Hitam, to investigate into the 11-year claim and payment to Kulim Group Ltd.

Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, at a Press Conference held at DAP KL Office, 63-D Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 20.10.1977. at 12 noon

Call on Minister of Primary Industries, Datuk Musa Hitam, to investigate into the 11-year claim and payment to Kulim Group Ltd. for replanting cess amounting to $600,000 for Central Paloh Estate when the Estate had been sold to 180 smallholders: Demand for Ministry action to reclaim this $600,000 for payment to the 180 smallholders

I have with me the DAP National Treasurer and DAP State Assemblyman for Kluang, Sdr. Lee Kaw. I have called this Press Conference to take up on behalf of 180 smallholders in what was formerly Central Paloh Estate, Kluang, their long-standing grievance involving some $600,000 of replanting cess which should have been paid to them, but not done so.

On 8th January, 1966, the owners of the Central Paloh Estate, KULIM RUBBER PLANTATIONS LIMITED, entered into a sales agreement to sell the entire Central Paloh Estate.

I have here a relevant extract from the Directors’ Report and Statement of Accounts for the year ended 31/12/67 of the Kulim Rubber Plantations Ltd, which reads:

“As announced in the Interim Report issued on 15th December 1967 the Company has contracted to sell one of its properties, comprising 1,761 acres of pedigree rubber, for a price equivalent to £343,833. Instalments totalling £136,479 have been duly paid to date and it has now been agreed that payment of the balance is to be brought forward to 17th July 1968, on which date the purchasers will take possession of the estate.”

The 1,761 acres of Central Paloh Estate was sold to some 180 smallholders, most of whom took possession in1968. However, although Kulim Rubber Plantations Limited had sold the 1,761 acres of Central Paloh Estate, from 1966 to 1976, it claimed and was paid replanting cess for an estate which it did not own.

The particulars of the cess which RISDA paid annually to Kulim Group from 1966 to 1976 was given in an official letter by Incik Osman bin Mohd. Said of Bahagian Estet, b.p. Pengerusi/Ketua Pengarah, RISDA, to Sdr. Lee Kaw in a letter dated 5 h.b. Julai 1977, in reply to Sdr. Lee Kaw’s inquiry.

The relevant passages read:

“Bahagian ini tidak mengetahui bahawa Estet di atas (Central Paloh Estet) telah dijual kepada Pekebun-Pekebun Kecil sehinggalah perkara ini tuan bangkitkan dalam mesyuarat Dewan Negeri pada 28 h.b. Mei, 1977. Berikutan dengan berita ini sata akan menulis kepada Syarikat Kulim Group Ltd., meminta pengesahan samada Estet di atas telah dijual kepada Pekebun-Pekebun Kecil yang tuan nyatakan itu.

“Geran-geran estet diatas telah diperiksa oleh Bahagian ini pada 27 h.b. Mac.1976 dan didapati bahawa nama Kulim Group Ltd. masih tercatit diatas geran-geran itu. Berdasarkan penyemakan ini adalah nyata bahawa setakat 27 h.b. Mac. 1976 pemilik Estet di atas geran-geran itu. Berdasarkan penyemakan ini adalah nyata bahawa setakat 27 h.b. Mac. 1976 pemilik Estet di atas masih Kulim Group Ltd.

“Wang ses yang telah dikembalikan kepada Kulim Group Ltd., dalam tahun 1966 hingga tahun 1976 adalah seperti berikut:-

Tahun Jumlah ses yang telah dibayar
1966 $54,897.82
1967 $72,448.69
1968 $63,685.53
1969 $64,397.20
1970 $60,813.40
1971 $56,771.67
1972 $60,245.68
1973 $60,348.82
1974 $67,476.87
1975 $56,797.15
1976 $66,814.19

“Bagi tahun 1977 belum ada apa-apa pembayaran wang ses yang dibuat kepada Syarikat Kulim Group Ltd.”

I am shocked that the RISDA is unware that Central Paloh Estates has been sold by Kulim Group to smallholders, when this is not only publicly acknowledged by the Company in its Directors’ Report in 1967, but a public knowledge. For it is clearly impossible to hide the fact of a sale of 1,761 acres, unless RISDA is living in a completely different world of its own.

It is not good enough that the cess for 1977 have not been paid. In paying some $600,000 of replanting cess of Kulim Group when it was no longer owner of the 1,761 acres of rubber estate is clearly a colossal act of irresponsibility, especially as as far back as 1972, one of the smallholders had written to the RISDA Government Replanting Authorities that the Central Paloh estate has been sold to smallholders.

KULIM Group clearly has no right to claim, and to receive, some $600,000 as replanting cess for the Central Paloh estate for these 11 years when it was no longer owners of the Estate. This money belong to the smallholders, and should be paid in toto to them.

There are many questions raised by this $600,000 Central Paloh Replanting Cess Scandal. I call on the Minister of Primary Industries, Datuk Musa Hitam, to make a through investigation into this scandal, how RISDA end its predecessor continued to pay KULIM Group replanting cess when ownership had been transferred (although there had been no transfer of t itle yet), how KULIM could claim and receive replanting cess when it is no more owner, and to take immediate action to reclaim the $600,000 from Kulim Group and to pay them to the 180 small holders. I suggest that the NBI be also asked to investigate into the claim and payment of replanting cess – for such a colossal mistake cannot be made by responsible RISDA officials.

Kulim Group has been restructured, and is now known as Kulim (Malaysia) Bhd, with shareholding by the Johore SEDC exceeding 40%. The Chairman of the Board of Directors is still the same person, namely P.B.L. Coghlan, and other directors are the same, expect for the entry of two Johore SEDC nominees, Bahaudin bin Pasok and Datuk Haji Basir Ismail. Kulim (Malaysia) Bhd, as a responsible corporate citizen of Malaysia, has also a responsibility to give a full explanation to the public as to why it claimed and received replanting cess amounting to some $600,000 when it has ceased to be owners. It should act responsibility and undertake to pay the $600,000 to be smallholders involved.

I propose to meet Datuk Musa Hitam to discuss this matter further.