Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dr M: Dr Ling is honest, incapable of cheating government

Mahathir told the court that as far as he knew, Dr Ling is an honest person. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told the High Court today he believed Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik was not capable of cheating the government, in a sterling defence of the character of his friend and former colleague who is facing trial for deceiving the government over the cost of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project.
The former prime minister told the court that “as far as I know he (Dr Ling) is an honest person”.
Yesterday, Dr Mahathir had 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.
Questioned by defence counsel Wong Kian Kheong today, Dr Mahathir repeatedly pointed out that no minister under his charge had ever complained about the proposed price of RM25 per square feet for the PKFZ land.
Asked if he Dr Ling “misled, deceived or cheated” him in relation to the PKFZ land cost, Dr Mahathir replied: “Personally I don’t think so.”
Wong: How long have you known the accused?
Dr M: I have known him since he was in MCA before he became minister.
Wong: Can you describe the accused? Is he an honest or dishonest man?
Dr M: I know that he did his job as Transport Minister, especially with regards to the development of Port Klang.
At this point the judge interjected and tells Dr Mahathir that he did not answer the question.
Wong: Is Dr Ling an honest or dishonest man? Is he capable of cheating the government?
Dr M: He is not capable of cheating the government.
At this point, lead prosecutor Datuk Tun Majid Tun Hamzah objects to jeers from Dr Ling’s family and friends seated in the gallery.
“How can the ex-PM know if the accused is capable of cheating the government? Only he (Dr Ling) would know,” said Tun Majid while pointing to Dr Ling.
Wong then asked Dr Mahathir to repeat in his own words if the he thought the accused was an honest man.
Dr M: As far as I know, he is an honest person.
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 404.5-hectares 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.

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