Kota Kinabalu: Tanjung Kapor Assemblyman Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat filed an appeal in the High Court here, Wednesday, against the Kudat Town Board's (KTB) withdrawal of an earlier approval to construct a multi-million ringgit statue of the Goddess of the Sea (Mazu) in Kudat. Chong, in his capacity as Kudat Thean Hou Charitable Foundation (Foundation) Chairman, named the Kudat Town Board (KTB) and the Central Town and Country Planning Board in the Local Government and Housing Ministry as the first and second respondents, respectively.
The originating motion was filed at High Court Registry at 11.10am by the former Chief Minister through his lawyer Haji Ansari Abdullah. In his motion, Chong is appealing for an order from the court: - That the letter of withdrawal of approval dated Nov. 15, 2007 by the first respondent be revoked, set aside and declared null and void; - That the letter of approval dated Feb. 8, 2006 be confirmed as valid and binding on all parties concerned; - The respondents pay compensation for loss suffered by the Foundation; - Costs for the two counsel be awarded against the respondents; - Such consequential further/or other orders and/or directions be made as the court deems fit and just.
His affidavit-in-support of the originating motion affirmed that the protem committee of the Foundation was established in early 2005 to take charge of the construction of the statue on 2.3 acres of private land in Kudat. TPM Konsultant Sdn Bhd as the technical and project management consultant of the project, who on instructions of the Foundation, submitted to the KTB the site layout plan and building plans of the project, together with a letter of consent from the registered owner of the land. Chong further affirmed that in December 2005, he came to learn that the plans had been approved by KTB and on Dec. 12, 2005, the Foundation held a ground breaking ceremony that was attended by, among others, Kudat Member of Parliament Datuk Rahim Bakri and Parliament Deputy Speaker Datuk Lim Chee Cheng. He certified that when the letter of approval was issued by KTB on Feb. 8, 2006 which was valid for two years, works on the project was commenced, including piling and construction of a 20 feet platform which was completed five months later at a cost of RM1 million.
Chong also affirmed that the Foundation made preparations for executing the project which include placing an order for the granite carvings of the statue through craftsmen from China. The granite carvings had been shipped from China and are now stored in a containers in Kota Kinabalu. The Immigration Department had also issued letter of approval of the application by Key Summit Sdn Bhd for visas to be issued to 11 craftsmen from China to assemble the granite carvings of the statue. Chong claimed that on May 25, 2006, he received a letter from KTB's Executive Secretary which stated that the Local Government and Housing Minister had directed that work project be temporary suspended pending further directive from the Chief Minister.
On June 6, 2006, the Local Government and Housing Ministry's Permanent Secretary Datuk Ujang Sulai, who is also chairman of the second respondent, issued a written directive to KTB to order suspension of works on the project pending approval from the Chief Minister. Chong affirmed that the directive (the heading of which wrongly described the site as being near to the Asy-Syarikin Mosque in Kudat) stated that the Ministry had received objections from various parties to the construction of the statue, as well as appeals for the statue to be sited elsewhere. He stated that on June 23, 2006, the State Secretary issued a letter to the KTB commissioner/executive secretary stating that the the government had, after considering all the circumstances, decided that works on the project should stop immediately.
Chong further affirmed that on July 7, 2006, the Mufti of Sabah purportedly issued a Fatwa (religious decree) advising that the construction of the statue would offend Islam and ordered that the construction be stopped in order to protect the sensitivities of the followers of Islam. On April 13, 2007, Chong affirmed that he tendered his resignation as a member of the Sabah State Cabinet. Chong further affirmed that by a letter dated Nov. 15, 2007, KTB withdrew the approval granted by their letter of Feb. 8, 2006, giving reason that the site layout plan and building plans had not been approved by the second respondent by reason of non-compliance with Section 15 of the Town and Country Planning Ordinance.
Chong affirmed that the Foundation, being dissatisfied with and aggrieved by the KTB's withdrawal of the approval appeals to the court that: @ The decision to withdraw the approval was made in breach of the rule of natural justice in that KTB in accepting the various directions of the Chief Minister, the second respondent and the Sabah Mufti, failed to give the Foundation an opportunity to be heard; @ The advice of the Mufti is bad in law because it was based on the wrong premise that the site upon which the statue was to be constructed was adjacent to Masjid As-Syarikin. It is unconstitutional and contravenes the provisions of Article 11 of the Federal Constitution; @ The respondents' conduct in withdrawing the approval in circumstances is mala fide, unconscionable and inequitable and that the second respondent has no legal authority to direct KTB to withdraw the approval. Meanwhile, speaking to reporters after filing the appeal, Ansari said that Chong would be taking further actions besides the appeal.
"He (Chong) will be taking action, he will inform, he will know when it come and what further actions to be taken but he will taking further action beside the appeal," Ansari said.