By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Wednesday, August 18, 1993:
Tsu Koon should sack Goik Hock Lai as Political Secretary to the Chief Minister if the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God was confiscated because of Hock Lai’s incompetence and negligence
Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, should sack Goik Hock Lai as his political secretary, if the land of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God was confiscated by the Penang State Government because of Hock Lai’s incompetence and neligence.
Hock Lai should explain why after he had promised the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God management Committee in April that he would refer the State Government’s gazette notification of its intention to forfeit the temple land to Chief Minister for solution, the Penang State Government had proceeded to forfeit the temple land on June 22, which was gazetted on July 8 ,1993!
The forfeiture of the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God land should not have taken place at all for many reasons. Apart from its religious, historical and cultural significance, there is also no reason administratively why the forfeiture should take place as Goid Hock Lai had promised in April that the problem would be resolved by Dr. Koh Tsu Koon.
This is why the people of Bukit Mertajam and Penang have a right to know whether it is Koh Tsu Koon or Goik Hock Lai who must bear the full responsibility for the forfeiture of the temple land.
If the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God land was confiscated because of the incompetence, negligence and irresponsibility of Goik Hock Lai, then Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should sack Hock Lai as his political secretary.
Dr.Koh Tsu Koon, through Goik hock Lai on Monday, had referred to Section 133 of the National Land Code as the means for the return of the temple land to Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God.
Section 133 of the National Land Code reads:
“Power of the State Authority to annul forfeiture of re-alienate to previous proprietor on new terms, etc.
“133. (1) Any person or body who was the proprietor of any alienated land immediately before its forfeiture under this Act may t any time apply to the State Authority for the annulment of the forfeiture.
(2) The State Authority may in its absolute discretion refuse or allow any petition under this section, and, if it allows the petition, may do so conditionally upon payment by the petitioner –
(a) if the forfeiture was for non-payment of rent, of such penalty, not exceeding six times the sum which he was required to pay by the notice of demand served on him under section 97, as the State Authority may think fit to impose;
(b) if the forfeiture was not breach of any condition, of such amount as the State Authority may determine in respect of the expenses occasioned by the forfeiture.
(3) The refusal of any petition under this section shall not be taken to prejudice the power of the State Authority to re-alienate the land to the previous proprietor at any time: and, for the purposes of any such re-alienation, then State Authority shall, at the time when it gives approval thereto, re-determine as it may consider appropriate the various matters specified in sub-section (2) of section 79.”
From Section 133 of the National Land Code, it is clear that the State Government can annul the forfeiture of the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple land which was gazetted on July 8.
DAP calls on Tsu Koon to use Section 133 of the National Land Code to annul the forfeiture of the temple land without imposing a single sen of penalty and return the land to Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God
However, Penang State Government leaders are talking about Section 133(2) which empowers the State Government to impose as a condition for annulment of the forfeiture a penalty not exceeding six times the sum which was owed by the temple.
This works out to RM224,661.80 as Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God owed the Land Office rm37,435.30.
The Penang State Government should not impose this penalty of RM224,661.80, as it was completely the fault of Goik Hock Lai or Dr. Koh Tsu Koon that the matter had not been resolved without the gazette notification of forfeiture.
In fact, even the demand for RM37,435.30 for which the temple land was forfeited, is open to challenge. Out of this sum, RM12,594.33 was for late payment fines.
In the last State Assembly, I had suggested that the State Government should have declared a 12-month amnesty for late payment fines, and if this proposal had been implemented, then this item would have been cancelled automatically.
The balance of RM24,840.97 is for quit rent for the temple land. The important question is that before Gerakan took over the Penang State Government, Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God as a religious institution was exempted from paying quit rent.
This exemption should be extended, and this time for an added reason – because Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God is a historical monument because of its historic significance of some 108 years. The demand for RM24,840.97 for payment of quit rent should therefore be cancelled by the State Government.
From my close reading of Section 133, it is clear that the Chief Minister has the power to annul the forfeiture of the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple land without imposing a single sen of penalty
For the reasons I have given above, the Penang State Executive Council at its meeting today should invoke Section 133 to annul the forfeiture of the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple land without imposing a single sen of penalty whatsoever, and immediately return the temple land to Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God .
If Dr. Koh Tsu Koon acts on the DAP proposal to annul the forfeiture, the temple land could be restored to the Management Committee within 24 hours and would not require the “considerable time” that Goik Hock Lai mentioned last Monday.