AN OPEN LETTER TO DATUK TAN CHENG SWEE, MALACCA STATE EXECUTIVE COUNCILLOR AND STATE ASSEMBLYMAN FOR KOTA UTARA FROM LIM KIT SIANG, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR BANDAR MELAKA
Datuk Tan Cheng Swee,
Malacca State Executive Councillor and
State Assemblyman for Kota Utara,
The compulsory government acquisition of eight acres of Kampong Bukit China and the plight of the 1,500 persons who will be affected by it
I write to you in connection with the compulsory government acquisition of eight acres of Kampong Bukit China, and the displacement of some 1,500 persons who are presently staying there as tenants and owner-occupiers, some for decades and others for generations. I feel that you, as Malacca State Executive Councillor and State Assemblyman for the are comprising Kampong Bukit China, a special responsibility in this matter.
The Chief Minister, Haji Abdul Ghani Ali, has said that the government would use only a small part of the eight acres to be requisitioned by the government for government purpose, and the rest would be used for private purposes.
I am shocked by this disclosure for it is clearly wrong in principle and highly improper that the government should compulsorily acquire land at low prices, only to re-sell them later to private individuals or groups for private development. This will give room for considerable abuse of power, corruption and malpractices in public life.
Private land acquired by government should never be resold to private persons. If for special reasons, land acquired by the government from private persons are no more required by the government, the original owners should be given the first choice of re-purchasing back the land at the price requisitioned by the government. This will be a sure deterrent and safeguard against indiscriminate acquisition of private land by government to re-sell to private syndicates.
Furthermore, before the tenants and owner-occupiers are forces to vacate land compulsorily requisitioned by the government, the government should pay them adequate compensation and get them re-housed, so that they would not suffer from such governmental acquisitions. This is all the more important in view of the fact that the majority of the tenants and owner-occupiers in Kampong Bukit China are hawkers, petty, traders, workers and those from the low income groups. This has not been given serious through by the Malacca State Government, for I have come across cases in Kampong Bukit China who have already been served with quit notices as a result of government acquisition.
The Chief Minister, Haji Abdul Ghani Ali, has said that the people in Kampong Bukit China and other areas affected by government developments can apply for low-cost housing flats to be built in Mata Kuching.
This is not a solution of the problems of the people who will be affected by the government land acquisition, but in fact an evasion by the Malacca State Government of its responsibility to them.
The Mata Kuching low-cost housing project is still very much in the air, and ground clearance for the projects has not even started. By past standards, it would be many years before the Mata Kuching low-cost housing project becomes a reality. In fact, some of the people in Kampong Bukit China who have written in to the State Government to apply for Mata Kuching low-cost housing flats on the ground that they would be evicted from Kampong Bukit China following the government land acquisition have been told that reservations or applications for low-cost houses in Mata Kuching and other areas are not open yet.
Where are the 1,500 people who will be displaced from Kampong Bukit China going to find a shelter over their heads in the meantime?
In the interest of ensuring a clean and honest government, and in the interest of the poor and low-income groups who need special government protection and assistance, the Malacca State Government should draw up clear-cut guidelines in all cases of government acquisition of land, which should include the following:
Firstly, the government should acquire land only for government developmental purposes, and only in cases where specific public development projects are finalised details of which are made available to the public examination and scrutiny;
Secondly, the government should pay adequate compensation and provide alternative low-cost housing in the vicinity so that the livelihood of the tenants and owner-occupiers would not be greatly disrupted and dislocated; (In other words, the government should not evict tenants or owner-occupiers from land it had acquired unless it has built low-cost housing flats to offer them accommodation);
Thirdly, to cushion the disruption and dislocation of life of the tenants and owner-occupiers who come from the low income groups, the State Government should provide low-cost housing free of rent for the first six months.
You are a Malacca State Executive Councillor, a member of the State Council which decides major government policy in this State. You are a State Assemblyman for Kota Utara, which orders the Kampong Bukit China area.
You can, and you have a double responsibility, to see to it that the people of Kampong Bukit China get full justice. This can be done by opposing and stopping the government acquisition of the eight acres of Kampong Bukit China if the government needs only a small area; and that those who are to be affected will be amply compensated and provided with alternative low-cost housing flats dree-of-rent for the first six months.
Lim Kit Siang
(Lim Kit Siang)
Member of Parliament, Bandar Melaka