Chief Minister of Terengganu Samsuri Mokhtar is alleged to have decided on the sale of state government-owned land in Batas Baru to the Khairunnisa’ association for only RM 500 thousand, 58 times cheaper than its valuation of RM 29 million. Khairunnisa’ is an organisation whose members are wives of elected officials, both current and former – it is also affiliated to PAS, of whom Samsuri is a member and also currently serving as Vice President since 2019. The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) calls for the Chief Minister to come clean on this matter and provide a comprehensive explanation to the people of Terengganu. We further urge investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) due to the weight of allegations that conflict of interest and abuse of power were involved in the sale of land to Khairunnisa’.
Reports about the sale had emerged in mid-May 2023 about Khairunnisa’s acquisition of the land from the Terengganu state government, citing unverified documents from the Kuala Terengganu Land Registry that showed the valuation of the land at RM 29 million. These documents also show that between 2018 and 2019, the premium paid for the purchase of land had dropped from RM 5.87 million to RM 500 thousand. The sale of land was apparently not deliberated either, as it was gazetted for public use under Section 62 of the National Land Code on 28 April 2011.
These reports eventually gained traction, enough that Samsuri himself eventually commented on the matter, stating that it was a non-issue, that there was no problem with the sale as the transaction had adhered to the existing laws and processes of Terengganu, and that these claims were being sensationalised for election fodder as the Terengganu state elections were approaching. Samsuri notably refused to disclose the actual current market value of the land. Following this, the Terengganu PKR Youth wing urged Samsuri to halt all land sales and to provide justifications for the land sale. UMNO Terengganu Chairman Ahmad Said also challenged the land sale and said that he wished to debate the issue with Samsuri, who in turn responded dismissively. Aside from these instances, politicians and parties were deafeningly silent in their lack of outrage and call for accountability.
Samsuri’s admission that the sale of land did take place is damning enough – he made no attempt to conceal his knowledge of the sale, or that it was sold to Khairunnisa’, an organisation blatantly dedicated to support of his political party. This is a cut-and-dry case of conflict of interest as state governments have absolute control over land matters. Samsuri, being the Chief Minister, has a great degree if not complete power over the sale of state land, and has potentially abused his power and office in order to transfer land over to his political supporters.
However, these are no ordinary supporters – Khairunnisa’ is explicitly constituted by wives of elected officials, presumably almost if not all from PAS, guaranteeing that a valuable asset would be under the control and ownership of Samsuri’s political allies and cronies. This modus operandi is nothing new: previous research conducted by C4 Center compiled in the 2021 report “Foundations and Donations: Political Financing, Corruption, and the Pursuit of Power” outlines that foundations and charitable organisations have often been used by politicians in order to secure political funding and as an avenue for self-enrichment, especially by way of land sales.
Upon further searches conducted by C4 Center, this may not necessarily be an isolated case coming from the Terengganu government. Mention of the Batas Baru land sale to Khairunnisa’ can be found in the minutes of the Terengganu State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Meeting that took place from 15 to 18 November 2021. In that meeting, the attendee who raised concerns over the land sale to Khairunnisa’ also mentions land in Kuala Ibai transferred to Koperasi Kokhidmat Batu Burok Kuala Terengganu (KOKHIDMAT) Berhad. It was valued at RM 4.7 million, whose premium was set at RM 2.37 million at a 50% rate – this sum was later reduced by 90% to RM 237 000 by the Kuala Terengganu Land and District Office.
The meeting also mentions the purchase of property in Egypt valued at millions of ringgit, ostensibly used as student accommodations, as well as the sale of properties at a loss. Land transfers to Yayasan Terengganu were also mentioned multiple times, demonstrating once more that foundations are often used as a vehicle for the moving of assets. Samsuri Mokhtar was present at this meeting.
What is presently clear is that Samsuri Mokhtar has very possibly abused his position and power over land matters to ensure that land is owned and controlled by his party mates, in this current instance and in others, and concerns raised by ADUN going unaddressed. Samsuri’s shameless nonchalance in the face of being confronted by these allegations is a bitter reminder that there are some politicians attempting to normalise corrupt practices in Malaysian society, and attempting to desensitise us against corruption by brushing it aside as “non-issues.”
Hence, C4 Center strongly urges the following:
- The state government must come clean and provide explanations as to why the transaction was approved and why it was sold at such a low value to a politically-affiliated party;
- The MACC must investigate Samsuri Mokhtar’s dealings and approval of land sales, and if he is found liable for offences relating to abuse of power and corruption he must face the full force of the law;
- Institutional reforms must take place to ensure transparency in the ways in which chief ministers and state governments handle land transactions, and to regulate the absolute power that they, in particular, have over land matters.
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Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center)
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