Land Acquisition Amendment Act will deprive Malaysians of their constitutional right to property and be the mother of all corruption, abuses of power, conflicts-of-interest and unethical malpractices


Speech by Parliament Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill on Tuesday, July 30, 1991

Land Acquisition Amendment Act will deprive Malaysians of their constitutional right to property and be the mother of all corruption, abuses of power, conflicts-of-interest and unethical malpractices

The Land acquisition Amendment Bill is one of the most unpopular, unacceptable, divisive and iniquitous Bills ever to be presented in this house in the 34-year history of Malaysia.

When it becomes law, it will destroy the constitutional right to property enjoyed by Malaysians for 34 years since Merdeka, and become the mother of all corruption, abuses of power, conflicts-of-interest and unethical malpractices in Malaysia under the National Development Policy and the Second Outline Perspective Plan 1991-2000.

It is for these two reasons that the DAP has taken a clear and unambiguous stand to oppose the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill. I want to declare at the outset – before irresponsible politicians including Barisan National Minister and MPs distort the DAP stand – that we are not defending the interest of the rich landowners against the poor, or speaking on behalf of any communal group against another communal group.

DAP has taken a clear and strong stand to oppose the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill because we are speaking for all Malaysians and all races who would be adversely affected by the Land Acquisition Amendment Act.

This is because all Malaysians who own land, whether those with large landholdings or the ordinary Malaysian, whether a kampong Malay, a Chinese new villager or an Indian wage-earner, could be deprived of their constitutional right to property under the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill.

DAP does not speak for the large landowners but the ordinary Malaysians, whether Malay, Chinese or Indian, who would be made landless by this Bill

In fact, the large landowners are more than capable of looking after themselves and their own interest through their political and monetary influence with the power-that-be and they don’t need the DAP to speak for them.

The DAP is speaking up for the ordinary Malaysians, whether Malay, Chinese or Indian, who own a plot of land whether as tanah pusaka or had acquired it as the fruit of their life-long toil of tears, sweat and Land Acquisition Bill, who could be made landless by this Bill for they would be completely helpless when the Barisan Nasional government moves in to acquire and dispossess them of their only land to profit favoured groups or companies owned or controlled by ruling parties or their political leaders in the name of ‘development’.

I hope that UMNO Minister and MPs would not try to communalise this issue and accuse the DAP of trying to fan Chinese feelings against the Malays in our opposition to the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill.

The first victims will be Malays who will be deprived of their tanah pusaka for the Johore Second Link, Kuala Lumpur Kampong Baru and Langkawi tourist development projects

In fact, the first victims of the Land Acquisition Bill will be the Malays. When the Bill becomes law, the first victims will be the 10,000 people in 52 kampongs in Tanjung Kupang, West Johore, covering 26,000 hectares who will evicted from their tanah pusaka nears Malaysia (UEM) for the $2 billion Second Link between Johore and Singapore and the building of a new township.

According to a top Cabinet source, reported in the local press, two other projects top of the priority list once the Land Acquisition Amendment Act is in force are the development projects for Kuala Lumpur Kampong Baru and Langkawi promotion of tourism – where it will be Malays who will be dispossessed of their tanah pusaka.

The Barisan National Government must have a long shopping list of private land not only of individuals, but of schools whose land are privately owned (like mission schools, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools, Chinese primary schools), charitable organisations, religious institutions and trust whose land could be acquired once the Bill is in force.

Call on Dr. Mahathir to make public the ‘shopping list’ of land of individuals, schools, societies, trust and religious organisations targetted for acquisition once the Bill becomes law

So far, only the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Suleiman Mohamed, had inadvertently let slip of the Government’s intention to take over prime land belonging to Sekolah Rendah St. Mary in Bukit Bintang and Sekolah Kebangsaan Convent Bukit Nanas after the Bill had been passed by Parliament and relocate them for development by private companies. Datuk Suleiman Mohamed had also revealed that two companies, Lions Group and Ipoh Garden Bhd. Have expressed interest in buying the land of Sekolah St. Mary for $40 million.

I call on the Prime Minister, DATUK Seri Dr. MAHATHIR Mohamed, to make public its proposed shopping list of the land of individuals, schools, societies, trusts and religious institutions which are being targetted for acquisition once the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill becomes law.

O r is the Barisan National Government pretending that there is no such ‘shopping list’?

Is MCA supporting the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill because it has been promised some crumbs from the fortunes that could be made from wholesale acquisition of land for the benefit of politically-favored and controlled companies?

Once the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill becomes law, it will radically change property rights relations in the country and open the floodgates for wholesale acquisition of urban areas for ‘development’ and profiteering by individuals and politically-favoured and controlled companies which could not be challenged in a court of law.

The MCA, through its Youth and Wanita wings as well as its MPs and leaders, had expressed their strong opposition to the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill when it was tabled for first reading. However, they have now all been ‘tamed’. I want to know the reason for the ‘taming of MCA by UMNO’ on the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill. Is it because MCA been given the promise that it will be able to enjoy some of the crumbs from the fortunes that could be made from the wholesale acquisition of land for the benefit of politically-favoured and controlled companies.

Land Acquisition Amendment Bill unconstitutional as it extinguishes the fundamental liberty of Malaysians to their Constitutional right to property in Articles 13.

The Land Acquisition Amendment Bill removes the constitutional right to property enshrined in Part II of the Malaysian Constitutional on ‘Fundamental Liberties’ in Articles 13, which reads:

“Rights to property.

13.(1) No person shall be deprived of property save in accordance with law.

(2) No law shall provide for the compulsory acquisition or use of property without adequate compensation.”

The Land Acquisition Amendment Bill is constitutional, as it in effect extinguishes Article 13 and destroys the fundamental liberty of Malaysians as to their Constitutional right to property.

The Land Acquisition Amendment Bill proposes two amendments. The First proposal is to amend Section 3(b) of the Land Acquisition Act 1960 which will empower the State Authority to acquire any land which is needed by any person or corporate for any purpose which in the opinion of the Sate Authority is beneficial to the economic development of Malaysia or to the public or any class of the public.

The second proposal is to introduce a new section 68A which purports to save an acquisition of land from being rendered invalid by reason of any subsequent disposal or use of, or dealing with, the land.

Section 3(b) of the present Land Acquisition Act 1960 reads:

“ 3. Acquisition of land
The State Authority may acquire any land which is needed –
(a)for any public purpose:
(b) by any person or corporation undertaking a work which in the opinion of the State Authority is of public utility; or “

The proposed new Section3(b) reads:

“(b) by any person or corporation for any purpose which in the opinion of the Sate Authority is beneficial to the economic development of Malaysia or any part there of or to the public generally or any class of the public; or”

The new Section 68A reads:

“68A. Where any land has been acquired under this Act, whether before or after the commencement of this section, no subsequent disposal or use of, or dealing with, the land, whether by the State Authority or by the Government, person or corporation on whose behalf the land was acquired, shall invalidate the acquisition of the land.”

The net effects of these two new amendments to the Land Acquisition are:
(1) Removal of the ‘public purpose’ and ‘public utility’ test for government acquisition of private land;

(2) Empowering the government acquisition of private land for the benefit of individuals or groups of individuals or politically-favoured and controlled companies;

(3) Removal of Court jurisdiction to strike down unlawful acquisition, even where there is palpable bad faith, because the new Section 48A would save it from being rendered invalid by reason of any subsequent disposal or use of, or dealing with, the land.

This is why I say that the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill, to borrow the words of Saddam Hussein, would become the ‘mother’ of all corruption, abuses of power, conflicts-of-interest and unethical malpractices under the National Development Policy and the Second OPP 1991-2000.

The DAP supports government land acquisition for public good, to serve a public purpose of for a public utility, for building schools, hospitals, highways, airports, harbours or for industrial and economic development of the country.

New section 68A is to legalise all future illegalities in land acquisition by Barisan Nasional Government for the benefit of favoured individuals or politically controlled companies.

There must however be a clear and fine line and distinction between public good and private benefit. In other countries, there is an elaborate machinery providing for the necessary safeguard particularly in the interest of the dispossessed landowner and generally in the interest of the public at large. Statutory powers are exercised only foe the purpose for which they are intended and land cannot be acquired ostensibly within the terms of the enabling statute but for an ulterior motive.

In the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill, the Barisan National government wants to have the power to acquire land ostensibly for one purpose, but actually for an ulterior motive, which could not be challenged in a Court of Law. This is the reason for the new Section 68A, which is the legalise all the future illegalities of the Barisan Nasional in land acquisition well in advance!

In such circumstances, how can the Malaysian public be assured and convinced that land acquisition would definitely be for public good rather than private gain of favoured individuals or politically- controlled companies?

Once the government can acquire land without meeting the test of public purpose or public good, the such powers can be misused in favor of certain individuals or politically-controlled companies without at the same time conferring any public benefit.

At present, there is a mania of building golf courses in Malaysia. In1974, there were only 45 golf courses in Malaysia compared to 80 now, and with about 20 more golf clubs under construction. By the year 2000, there will be more than 180 golf and country clubs.

The dispossession of the tanah pusaka or land of the ordinary Malaysians, to make them landless, so as to build golf courses and country clubs for the rich and wealthy, is clearly not conductive to the public good.

Land Acquisition Amendment Bill would promote the ‘golf’ culture of the Barisan National at the expense of the sustained development of the resources of the people

Alternatively, if precious land as in Kuala Lumpur is given alienated for golf and country clubs as disclosed by the DAP MP for Bukit Bintang in his speech on the Sixth Malaysia Plan on 15th July 1991, resulting in the necessity for the government acquisition of the land of ordinary Malaysians for economic development, this is again not serving the public good.

When this Bill becomes law, Malaysians will be made landless so that there will be more golf courses and country clubs for the local rich and wealthy and expatriates to lead a high life.

Ordinary Malaysians will not benefit at all from the building of such gold courses and country clubs.

Bayaran untuk manjadi ahli di kelab-kelab golf di negara ini ialah ntara $27,00 (AS$10.000) hingga $81,000 (AS$30,000). Dua puluh lima peratus daripada ahli Kelab Golf Taman Templar adalah orang-orang Jepun. Di Kelab Golf Rahman Putra, 30 peratus ialah orang asing, kebanyakannya dari Jepun.

Dari aspek sosio-ekonomi, baik oun di Langkawi atau Pulau Redang, pembinaan padang golf telh memesongkan keutamaan pembagunan nasional dengan memihak kepada golongan kaya daripada memenuhi keperluan tanah dan perumahan gologan majoriti yang kurang berada.

Semakin banyak tanah-tanah di negara kita diambil untuk membina resort-resort golf yang baru. Tanah yang dahulunya dikerjakan oleh petani dan peladang, kini digunakan untuk golongan elit tempatan dan pelancong asing untuk bermain golf dari pagi higga ke malam. Air yang dahulunya menyalirkan tanam-tanaman, kini digunakan untuk memastikan pdang golf sentiasa hijau.

Pembinaan padang golf dilaporkan menyebabkan implikasi buruk atas alam sekitar semasa pembinaan dan pengurusannya.

Dan kini, sebuah kelab golf berhampiran ibu kota bercadang untuk memperkenalkan kedi wanita yang selain datipada memberi nasihat di padang golf, juga akan dididik dengan ‘seni etika yang halus’ (the finer arts of etiquette).

The Land Acquisition Amendment Bill would promote the ‘golf culture’ of the Barisan National development at the expense of the sustained development of the resources of the people.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Ghafar Baba, had given a long interview with RTM to justify the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill but he had failed to convince Malaysians of the need for the
Land Acquisition Amendment Bill or to allay their fears about its great potential for the corruption and abuses for individual and private benefit.

Has Malaysians parliamentary democracy regressed to such a primitive level that the government’s standard answer to criticism is “If the people do not like it, vote us out in general elections”?

In justifying the ousting of the jurisdiction of the courts apart from the quantum of compensation, Ghafar said that government should be the final authority on development and on land acquisition.

He said that if the people act unjustly, the people can reject the Government during an election.

I want to ask whether Malaysian Parliamentary Democracy had regressed to so primitive a level after 34 years since Merdeka that the Barisan National government’s answer to criticism about the government’s unfettered powers of land acquisition and to all other criticism is the crude one:’ If the people do not like it, they can vote us in the next general elections.”

If this is the primitive state of Malaysian Parliamentary Democracy, then there is no need for Parliament to meet to pass laws or even for the courts to check abuses and illegalities or for any commission of inquiry to expose corruption, because they could all be dismissed with the omnibus answer:” If the people do not like it, they can throw us out in elections”?

If this is the case, there is no need for any checks and balances in the system of government at all, leaving the people to decide at every elections whether to endorse or to reject the government.

This is a deterioration in the evolution and maturity of institutions of parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, where the Government of Man and Political Parties is replaced by a Government of Laws.

If we are serious in our commitment to the values and system of parliamentary democracy, we cannot accept the argument that the government knows best and if the people do not like it, they can vote it out in the general elections.

Arrogance of Power of Barisan National government is reaching dangerous degree

This is the arrogance of power of the Barisan National government which is reaching a dangerous degree, where democracy and the people’s rights would soon become casualties.

Furthermore, everybody knows that the electrocal system in Malaysia is ore-rigged to favour the Barisan National with its control of the 3M – namely mobilisation of government machinery, manipulation of media and money – as illustrated in the last general elections and the recent Prai by-election, where it is difficult for the people’s real will and wishes to be heard.

I will just give one instance of such manipulation of the media. In Utusan Malaysia today, it reported me as saying that :DAP menerima keutusan pengundi tetapi parti itu tidak akan menggugurkan Projek Tanjung Tiga walaupun sekiranya ia kalah dalam pilihanraya kecil yang lain di Pulau Pinang.”

In my press conference yesterday, when I responded to Dr. Mahathir’s challenge and said that to fulfil his wish and dream to see me disappear from Malaysian politics, I am prepared to resign as Assemblyman, MP and Parliamentary Opposition Leader as well as DAP Secretary- General if he makes ten radical policy changes for the interest of the people, I did not say anything about “pilihanraya kecil yang lain di Pulau Pinang”.

This is Dr. Mahathir’s ‘free press’ for Malaysia!

The Barisan Nasional Government’s assurances that its unfettered powers under the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill would not be abused and that it would act with responsibility and accountability is unconvincing, because the history of the Barisan National Government is not one remarkable for the political integrity, morality, responsibility and accountability of its leaders.

For instance, if the Barisan Nasional Government is serious about political integrity, morality, responsibility and accountability, it would have commended the DAP for being the first party to be prepared to lose a Sate Assembly seat by having a Prai by-election to stand up for the great principle of political integrity, morality, responsibility and accountability.

Furthermore, it would have asked Tan Sri Osman Aroff to resign both as Kedah Menteri Besar and Assemblyman for Jitra for his involvement in the $72 million Masjid Tanah ammunition depot scandal.

With such a poor record on political integrity, morality, responsibility and accountability, how can Malaysians feel safe when such unfettered powers to acquire land is vested in the Government which could not be challenged in court?

Establishment of Lands Tribunai can expeditiously deal with land acquisition cases

One reason advanced by Ghafar Baba for the need for the amendment Bill is the inordinate delay of land acquisition cases in court. This problem can be easily overcome with the establishment of a specialised Lands Tribunai which can expeditiously deal with all land acquisition cases.

The long court delays cannot be an excuse for the ousting of the jurisdiction of the courts. I f this argument is accepted, the government can similarly come to the House one day and similarly propose that the Attorney-General should single-handedly decide the fate of all persons charged with criminal offences to overcome the problem of long court delays.

Malaysians fully concur with representations that have been made that the statutory powers of compulsory acquisition cannot be invoked for other than for public purposes, and that what constitutes “public purpose” should be specifically defined.

In fact, there should be more safeguard and protection to the individual land owner under the law. Before any major protect involving acquisition of land is implemented, there should be a public inquiry to hear objections from interested parties. Such objections should not be restricted to the inadequacy of compensation but as to the social, economic, cultural and ecological loss to the community caused by such an acquisition.

In such cases, interested bodies other than those directly affected should be permitted to object; and there must be specific provision in the Act to allow the Lands Tribunai to set aside an acquisition should it be proved that the loss to the community caused by the acquisition is greater than any gain to the community resulting from the compensation.

In addition, statutory recognition should be given to the owner’s right to repossess the acquired land from the acquiring authority where it is not subsequently required by the acquiring authority. Provision should be made to ensure that the land so acquired is used for the purpose for which it is acquired and further provision should be made as to its disposal when it cannot be used.

Provision must be made for payments for resettlement of persons who have been displaced and forced to settle in alternative sites. This should be especially enforced for the benefit or agricultural communities who depend on the land for their income.

If the ‘guideline’ is so meaningful, why the government is not prepared to make it public?

MCA President, Datuk Dr. Lim Liong Sik, had said that the people need not to worry about the Bill because there are adequate safeguards to prevent its abuses.

I had read and read the two-paragraph Bill and could find no safeguards.

Ghafar Baba has said that the National Land Council has agreed on a guideline which must be followed by all State Governments when they wish to acquire land.

If this ‘guideline’ is so meaningful and all- powerful as to prevent abuses of power, why is the Government not prepared to make it public?

Surely, Ghafar and the Barisan Nasional know that a ‘guideline’ which is not incorporated in the Land Acquisition Amendment Act has no force of law whatsoever, and could be changed or ignored any time.

If this ‘guideline’ is to be effective in checking corruption and abuses of power, then it should be part of the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill so that Malaysians who are victims of the corruption and abuses of power under it could seek redress in the courts.

DAP proposes that the Bill be referred to Select Committee to hold public hearings of public views and representations

Despite the use of the electronic and printed media to explain the country’s need for the Land Acquisition Bill, it is clear that the Barisan National Government has no confidence that it could win over the people with its arguments.

This is why the Government has not proposed, on its initiative, to refer the Bill to a Parliamentary Select Committee, which would be the standard procedure to deal with a case which so radically alters property rights and relations and deprive Malaysians of their constitutional right to property.

Is the Barisan Nasional Government so unsure of its case for the Bill that it dare not allow the Select Committee to hold public hearings of public views and representations.

I give notice that I will be proposing that the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill be referred to a Select Committee after second reading. If the Government refuses to allow the public an opportunity to give their views, then the DAP will oppose it and will also be calling for a division for every MP to stand up and be counted on this important bill which is unconstitutional, in depriving Malaysians of their constitutional right to property under Article 13 of the Federal Constitution.

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