Convicted lawyer being cross-examined in Orang Asli breach of trust case
Published: 16 July 2014
The cross-examination of Kanawagi a/l Seperumaniam began on Monday (14 July 2014) in the Johor Baru High Court and continued the next day. Many of us were waiting for this moment to see how a former lawyer (and the Trustee of millions of Ringgit belonging to an Orang Asli community) talks his way out of the many scenarios and conspiracies he has put forward to argue his innocence.
In 2000, the High Court awarded the Jakuns of the Linggiu Valley area in Kota Tinggi, Johor a gross compensation of RM38 million for the loss of use of their customary lands. These were the Jakun’s subsistence forests – 53,000 acres in total – which the Johor government ‘gave’ to Singapore to construct the Linggiu Dam to supply water to the island state. Mr. Kanawagi was the solicitor for the Orang Asli in this case.
Over time, at least RM12 million have not been satisfactorily accounted for, or had been illegally transferred for other purposes. The Orang Asli beneficiaries are seeking the return of these monies and for the removal of the trustees, among other declarations. For the background of the case, please go to: http://on.fb.me/Ubjd2I
Convicted and De-Barred
Mr. Kanawagi has since been convicted of an offence for dishonesty, forgery and fraud in another non-Orang Asli case, and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. He has also been struck off the rolls as an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya. And has been convicted for criminal breach of trust with respect to dealings with the Orang Asli Trust and the Constructive Trust in the current case, where he was also slapped with charges under the Anti-Money Laundering Act. He is appealing all these decisions.
The current suit began in 2009 and went through many legal hurdles and obstacles thrown at the Orang Asli plaintiffs in an apparent attempt to delay the substantial case.
In the process, it appears that Mr. Kanawagi has given himself more rope to hang himself.
Or as the Orang Asli say: “Pasang banyak jerat sampai lupa mana, pasti kena sendiri.”
That is, "If you set too many traps you are likely to forget where you set them, and so get trapped yourself."
The cross-examination continues on 6-7 August 2014 and it promises to be interesting if the defendant’s testimony in the first two days is an indication.
16 July 2014
The lead lawyer for the Orang Asli plaintiffs, G. Ragumaren, briefing Saling, the first Plaintiff on the outcome of the day's proceedings (28 April 2014). Lawyer Renu, seated, represents the Receivers & Managers who have been sanctioned by the court to manage the Trust while the case is being heard.
Batin Hamdan conversing with Senior Lawyer Christopher Leong outside the Johor Bahru High Court in February 2013. On the left is his assistant Kenneth.
Renu gesturing to Kenneth as to which boxes of files were to be brought back to the hotel after the close of the first day of Mr. Kanawagi's cross-examination.