'It could take up to 100 days': Country Garden Danga Bay lawyer objects to slow progress of Malaysia court proceedings
- The defence lawyer representing Country Garden Danga Bay objected to the way evidence was examined in court
- He said that the trial could take up to 100 days to complete if this was done extensively for the 30-odd witnesses
- The case centres around a lawsuit filed by 41 property buyers over allegations that their apartments were not delivered as advertised
- The lawyer also objected to a Singaporean witness' "report", which was submitted as evidence, saying it was just a hodgepodge of materials mixed in with opinion
- The witness pointed to the materials to show, among other things, that there was no induction cooker and full-length wardrobe in his apartment, unlike what the sales gallery displayed
JOHOR BAHRU — After the same witness took the stand on Thursday (Aug 4) on the second day of a court hearing involving Country Garden Danga Bay, the lawyer for the property developer protested against the way the proceedings were being conducted.
Mr Leonard Yeoh of Malaysian law firm Tay and Partners said that if each of the 30-odd witnesses were to individually go through their evidence in the same way, the trial could take up to 100 days to complete. He was referring to the plaintiff's examination of evidence that was submitted to the court.
The case centres around a lawsuit filed by 41 disgruntled property buyers from Singapore, Malaysia and China over allegations that the condominium units of Country Garden Danga Bay in Johor Bahru, Malaysia were not delivered as advertised.
They also claimed that the developer made changes to their sales and purchase agreements after the buyers had signed them.
It is believed to be the largest case so far to be brought against the Johor developer, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of its parent company in China.
When the trial began at the Johor Bahru Civil High Court on Wednesday, much of the proceedings involved the marking of evidence for use in the trial.
One of the plaintiffs Soh Hup Ping, 54, a self-employed Singaporean, was called for examination by the plaintiffs’ lawyer Viola Lettice DeCruz and to identify documents to be produced before the court.
The trial resumed at 2pm on Thursday with Mr Soh returning to the stand to elaborate on the documents that he had presented to the court. Two hours later, the case was adjourned before Mr Yeoh, the developer’s lawyer, could cross-examine him.
Mr Yeoh then raised a point of order, saying that it would be very disruptive going forward if the hearings were going to be held for short periods of time.
In reply, Judicial Commissioner Noor Hisham Ismail said: “If it has to go up to 100 days, what can we do?”
The judge explained that he had to fix the trial on days when he has other cases to hear because he was instructed to complete this case soon, since it has been about three years from when the case was filed.
A short discussion ensued over whether the trial can be conducted differently, before the judicial commissioner called for the discussion to be held in chambers, that is, not in open court.
Mr Yeoh told TODAY afterwards that further dates have been fixed but the trial will continue with the witnesses being individually called to testify.
'ONE FEWER CAR PARK IN CONTRACT'
The trial on Thursday began with Ms DeCruz questioning Mr Soh over the alleged discrepancies that he found between a sales contract, which he had originally signed when he bought his apartment in 2013, and a copy of the same contract that he had received from the developer’s lawyer.
Mr Soh said that he made a police report after he found these discrepancies in the sales and purchase agreements.
He claimed that there were several discrepancies between the two copies of the 25-page contract except on the final page that he had signed.
For instance, one copy showed that there was to be seven car parks built in the condo complex whereas another copy stated that there would only be six.
“This is a very clear sign that they swopped the pages,” he charged.
There were also many staple holes on the last page of the contract that he received from the developer, which should not have been there, he claimed.
Mr Soh alleged that the scale models and displays in the developer’s showroom was “very different” from the constructed complex.
Ms DeCruz asked Mr Soh if what he saw at the showroom induced him to take up the contract and he said “yes”.
“All this is in the written submissions… I’ve given enough indulgence (to the questioning)... Is this, what, a media trial?Lawyer Leonard Yeoh, who is representing developer Country Garden Danga Bay”
At this point, Mr Yeoh raised an objection.
“All this is in the written submissions… I’ve given enough indulgence (to the questioning),” he said. Referring to reporters seated in the gallery, he added: “Is this, what, a media trial?”
In Malaysia, witness statements are submitted in written form and typically need not be read out during court proceedings.
The judicial commissioner allowed Ms DeCruz to carry on with the questioning after she said that she believes the witness has the right to explain his answers.
'NO INDUCTION COOKER, NO CLOTHES DRYER'
Ms DeCruz then questioned Mr Soh over a “report” that he had submitted to the court as evidence.
The document contained various photos that Mr Soh had taken when he visited the showroom in 2013, screenshots of the developer’s television advertisements in Singapore and photos of his own apartment, among other things.
Mr Yeoh objected to this document earlier, saying that reports tendered to court are typically written by experts and not a hodgepodge of materials compiled by a plaintiff mixed in with opinion.
Mr Soh proceeded to explain, page by page, what the materials in the report represented.
For instance, he claimed that while a display in the sales gallery showed a stove top with four induction cookers, the apartment that he received had only two gas burners.
Other items that he claimed were promised by the developer but were never delivered included a full-length wardrobe and a clothes dryer.
Mr Soh testified that one of the developer’s advertisements promoted the development as having “good, high-quality” design.
Referring to a photo of his home, he said: “I can’t agree that it’s a five-star (apartment) because it seems like it’s just a basic unit.”
The trial is set to resume on Sept 11 with the defence cross-examining Mr Soh.
Earlier on Thursday, a separate case involving Country Garden Danga Bay started at the Johor Bahru Strata Management Tribunal.
This revolves around a claim, which the developer filed against five Singapore members of the condominium management committee, regarding a recent change in property manager.