Speech by DAP Secreatary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, when addressing members of Seremban DAP Branch on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 8p.m.
DAP calls for a government White Paper on “The Future of Malaysia’s 750,000 New Villages”
A month ago, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister proposing the establishment of a special government department or agency to take special charge of the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes which will transform the country’s 400 new villages into a genuine dynamic force for agricultural and economic development.
I suggested that such a special New Villages department or agency should be entrusted first with the task of drawing up a blueprint to revive the economy of the new villages, and develop them into flourishing new growth centres by modernizing their economy, the raising of their productivity and incomes, the generation of new employment opportunities through dispersal of industries to new villages, allocation of land to the landless, and the provision of modern social services as public housing, electricity, water, medical services, improved educational opportunities and recreational and community services.
I had stressed in my letter to the Prime Minister that for the last 20 years, the 750,000 new villagers in Malaysia had been excluded from the mainstream of economic and social development, and had seen economic progress passed them by.
The Second Malaysia Plan should therefore give the 750,000 new villagers a legitimate share of the government development funds, to check their economic drift, decay and death.
Tun Dr. Ismail, then Acting Prime Minister as Tun Razak was away on his United Nations trip, had replied with the assurance that the government would give due share of the government’s efforts and determination to eradicate poverty irrespective of race and to create a just and equitable society under the Second Malaysia Plan to the New Village.
I regret that Tun Dr. Ismail had scrupulously avoided committing the government whether it would set up a special department to look after the development of the new villages.
The DAP regards the preparedness or otherwise of the government to set up a special department to plan the economic upliftment of the 400 new villages and 750,000 new villagers as a test of the sincerity of the government in transforming the economic future of the new villages.
I shall press this matter when Parliament reconvenes in December this year.
The plight of the new villages is a very serious social and economic problem.
Recently, the Perak Mentri Besar announced that the overwhelming majority of the new villagers in Perak’s 96 new villages do not want to convert their T. O. L into permanent title as T. O. L. is cheaper, costing only $10 a year, while the premium payable for a qualified title ranges from several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on each state.
The economic reasons which made new villagers prefer the $10 a year T. O. L. than a title with an expensive premium are valid, and should not be disregarded by the government.
Every villager would like to acquire title to the land they occupy. But if the premium payable for such title is too high beyond their limited economic means, then however much they want to acquire title, they do not have the means to do so.
To dispossess new villagers and demolish their houses because they do not have the financial means to raise the premium is socially inequitable and economically unjust, and not the action of a government which really wants to uplift the lot of the have-nots and eliminate poverty.
The Federal and State Governments have a special responsibility to the 750,000 new villagers in Malaysia to give them title and confer them security, because 20 years ago, they were forcibly uprooted from their homes and farms and relocated in the present new villages by the authorities.
It will be the height of government irresponsibility and callousness if any State Government should dispossess new villagers of their land, demolish their houses, just because they are poor and do not have the financial means to find the money to pay the premium to acquire title for their land.
I suggest to the Government three guide-lines to be adopted in granting titles to new villagers:
1. Permanence and security. The government, in granting title, should confer on the new villagers a sense of security and permanence so that they could wholeheartedly develop their land. For this purpose, the government should not give short titles, like 21-year or 30-year leases, as in the case of Johore and Perak, but 60-year or 99-year leases.
2. Low premium for titles. The government should not impose high premiums for titles which is beyond the means of the new villagers, whose incomes are very low. Some states like Johore are demanding a few thousand dollars, for the granting of qualified titles. This is exorbitant and exploitation of the poor. For the poor, several hundred dollars is already too big a sum.
3. Special government loan to help poor needy, new villagers to acquire title.
The Central Government, together with State Government, should set up a special government loan to help poor and needy new villagers to acquire title. The loan should be repayable over 10 or 20 years on easy terms. This is what the government is doing in the case of FLDA land schemes, where settlers are given huge government loans not only to open and develop their land, but to acquire their title.
I have referred so far only to the problem of acquisition of land titles. But the other problems of unemployment, poverty, low incomes and productivities, poor social amenities as schooling, medical services, housing, electricity, water, community services, are acute and appalling.
I call on the government to show urgency and concern over the plight of the 750,000 new villagers in Malaysia. For a start, I call on the Government to produce a White Paper on the plight of the 750,000 new villagers in Malaysia, and on the government’s plans to uplift the economic standards of the new villagers.
Let the government prove by deeds, and not by words only, that it is concerned over the poverty and hardships of the 750,000 new villagers in Malaysia.