Hajiji Acted Lawfully, Within the Limits of His Powers: High Court

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KOTA KINABALU: The High Court on Wednesday dismissed Idris Hydraulic (M) Sdn Bhd’s judicial review application against the Chief Minister and the State Government, related to the termination of its Sustainable Forest Management Licence (SFMLA) for Forest Management Units 8 and 13 (FMU 8 and 13).

FMUs 8 and 13 encompass approximately 238,000 hectares of timberland.

In his detailed 78-page verdict, High Court Judge Leonard David Shim determined that Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji Bin Haji Noor, acted lawfully and within his jurisdiction as defined by Section 24A of the Forest Enactment 1968, when cancelling Idris Hydraulic’s SFMLA on public interest grounds.

Upon scrutinising the judicial review application, affidavits, and the submissions presented by both parties, Judge Leonard concluded that the applicant couldn’t validate that the SFMLA cancellation on public interest grounds was illegitimate, irrational, or disproportional.

He did not perceive any indication that the respondents considered irrelevant factors or neglected to take into account pertinent factors in issuing the said notices.

Thus, he deemed the letter of cancellation, issued in line with the law, valid.

Judge Leonard found that the Chief Minister, having heard Idris Hydraulic’s arguments, rightfully decided that it was not in the public interest for Idris Hydraulic to be owned by not one, but two insolvent shareholders.

The implication of Idris Hydraulic being under the ownership of insolvent parent companies is that the firm, along with the SFMLA, would be sold to the highest bidder.

“This would mean the State Government loses control over the management, exploitation, and development of Sabah’s natural forest resources, a situation that is clearly not in the public interest,” Tengku Datuk Fuad Tengku Ahmad, the representative for the Chief Minister and Sabah Government, stated.

Fuad further mentioned that Idris Hydraulic had been unsuccessful in obtaining an approved Forest Management Plan over the past decade or so, terming this significant failure as contrary to public interest.

Idris Hydraulic (M) Sdn Bhd was represented by Peter Lee Kong Chung, whereas the Chief Minister and Sabah Government’s representation was led by Fuad.

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