By V. Anbalagan | Free Malaysia Today

Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd’s RM13.5 billion suit against former Selangor menteri besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and the state government will still be pursued four years after it was filed, a lawyer said.

“We have instructions to proceed with the suit. The status quo remains,” Puncak Niaga’s lead counsel, Gopal Sreenevasan, told FMT.

He said the High Court in Shah Alam will hold a case management on July 22.

Gopal was responding to queries on whether his client would discontinue with the action due to the change in circumstances since the suit was filed in 2017.

On June 23, the Federal Court dismissed the application by Khalid and the state government for leave to appeal a Court of Appeal decision made four months ago.

On Feb 11, the appellate court had allowed Puncak Niaga’s appeal to set aside a High Court ruling allowing Khalid and the state government to strike out the suit.

Federal Court judge Vernon Ong Lam Kiat said the High Court did not have the opportunity to decide whether the suit was time-barred under the Public Authorities of Protection Act 1948.

“Since the High Court has not made a ruling, the threshold of Section 96 (on granting leave) under the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 had not been met,” he said.

“The leave questions are a mixture of facts and law and need to be properly ventilated during trial.”

Edmund Bon, who represented Khalid, had submitted that the suit was time-barred as his client left office on Sept 23, 2014 while the suit was filed on Oct 27, 2017.

Under the Public Authorities of Protection Act, a claim against the government needs to be filed within three years.

Gopal conceded that Khalid vacated his office in 2013 but pointed out that the sale and purchase agreement was completed on Oct 10, 2015.

He said the three-year limitation, therefore, came into effect in October 2018.

Meanwhile, lawyer Michael Cheah, who appeared with Bon, told FMT that the decision on whether the suit should be struck out took time as parties were waiting for the outcome of a Federal Court ruling.

On Nov 19, 2019 the apex court ruled former prime minister Najib Razak was a public officer and could be sued for allegedly abusing his power while in office in the 1MDB case.

That ruling applied to heads of government, Cabinet members and executive councillors.

In the 2017 suit, Puncak Niaga claimed that Khalid and his successor, Mohamed Azmin Ali, abused their powers by threatening to cause the federal government to invoke the Water Services Industry Act 2006 to force the takeover of the water services industry in Selangor.

The company is seeking damages, interest and costs over the loss of business opportunities in the country and abroad, totalling RM13.5 billion.