By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Thursday, August 19, 1993:
Is Tsu Koon suggesting that all religious and civic bodies in Penang do not have to pay their quit rent arrears and should petition to State Government to forfeit their land so as to re-alienate back to them free of the quit rent arrears debt?
I welcome the statement by the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon that the State Government would not ‘forfeit’ the land of lawful religious and civic organisations, and that even if land forfeiture should occur, this is merely a procedural matter and eventually the land would be returned to the original owners.
This is a self-contradictory statement, as how could land of lawful religious and civic organisations be ‘forfeited’ when the stand of the State Government is that they should be not be ‘forfeited’?
However, what is even more remarkable is the next statement by Dr. Koh Tsu Koon that “the State Government ‘deliberately’ forfeited land of certain religious and civic organisations so that the land could be re-sold to the owners at the lowest nominal price so as to indirectly help them to legalise their land”.
Is Dr. Koh Tsu Koon suggesting that all religious and civic organisations in Penang do not have to pay their quit rent or quit rent arrears, and should petition the State Government to ‘forfeit’ their land so as to re-sell the land back to them at the ‘lowest nominal price’ and free them of their quit rent arrears debt?
All religious and civic organisations in Penang who have huge quit rent arrears but who do not believe Tsu Koon’s statement yesterday can contract the Penang DAP, and we are prepared to represent them to contact Dr. Koh Tsu Koon to free them of their quit rent arrears debt by asking the State Government to forfeit their land and then re-sell the land back to them at ‘low nominal price’.
If Tsu Koon is telling the truth that the whole object of the forfeiture of the 108-year-old Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple land is to help the temple by freeing it of the RM37,435.30 arrears for quit rent and fines, then the Chief Minister should explain:
Firstly, why the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple management committee knew nothing about this ‘honourable’ intention of the State Government?
Secondly, why the Political Secretary to the Chief Minister, Goid Hock Lai, did not know that the ‘forfeiture’ of the temple land was ‘deliberate’ so as to free the temple of the quit rent arrears?
Thirdly, why the Seberang Prai District Officer, Abu Bakar Abdul Hamid, who was asked by Goid Hock Lai to call a press conference on Monday on the temple land forfeiture, did not know about this ‘honourable’ intention of the State Government?
Fourthly, why was Dr. Koh Tsu Koon unware himself of the ‘honourable intention’ of the State Government until yesterday? Tsu Koon told yesterday’s press conference that when he ‘received the complaint on the 9th of this month, he had been very concerned, and in the last two month, he had been very concerned, and in the last two week, had directed State Assemblyman Goik Hock Lai and Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Ibrahim Saad, to jointly liaise with the relevant persons to seek a satisfactory solution’.
If the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple land was ‘deliberately forfeited’ to free it of its quit rent arrears, them there is no need for Tsu Koon to direct anybody to do anything in the last two weeks. In fact, Tsu Koon should be able to make his announcement two weeks ago, and not after the State Exco meeting yesterday, as a result of the pressures from the DAP MPs and Assemblymen in Penang.
A close study of the statement of Dr. Koh Tsu Koon yesterday showed that the problem of Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple land has not been fully resolved.
Tsu Koon said that “now to fully resolve the Hock Teck Cheng God temple problem, directed the Land Office to redemarcate, to separate the use for religious and commercial purpose, to avoid confusion:.
Tsu Koon said: “Based on this, the forfeited land would be returned to the temple trustees, and the outstanding quit rent and arrears are cancelled. As for land used for commercial purpose, the original quit rent has still to be paid.”
In his Monday press conference, the Seberang Prai Tengah District Officer, Abu Bakar Abdul Hamid, said that Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple owed RM37,475.30 quit rent from 1970 which included penalty fees totalling RM12,594.
Abu Bakar said that places of worship and religious centres were exempted from quit rent but they must pay a nominal fee of RM1 annually. In Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple case, Abu Bakar said it occupied a portion of land while the rest were occupied by commercial shops and stalls.
Call for clear statement from Tsu Koon whether temple has to pay quit rent for portion used for commercial purpose
From Tsu Koon’s statement, it would appear that the State Government still want the temple to pay quit rent for the portion occupied by commercial shops and stalls.
This is most unreasonable and unacceptable as this will be no different from the present position. Furthermore, the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God had been using its proceeds to donate to the cause of Chinese schools and Chinese education in Serbang Prai Tengah.
Tsu Koon should make a clear statement whether Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God (i) has still to pay the quit rent and fines for the portion of land used for commercial shops and stalls; and (ii) whether the state government is going to exempt Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple land for quit rent in future, including the portion of land used for commercial shops and stalls.
Penang DAP objects to the sub-division of the Bukit Mertajam temple land into two titles: one for the temple and the other one for the commercial purposes. The re-alienate should be for one whole title – which is for religious purpose, giving the temple authorities the freedom to decide whether it is be be rented out for commercial purposes or not.
In fact, the hassle of re-alienate could be avoided if the State Exco could take the decision to annul the forfeiture without a single cent of penalty, and return the temple land to the temple trustees. The question is whether Dr. Koh Tsu Koon has the authority to make such a decision.
I will visit the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng God temple tomorrow night at 7.30p.m. to find out the views of the people of Bukit Mertajam on the issue.