By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, when visiting Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God Temple on Friday, August 20, 1993 at 7.30p.m.:
DAP Defend Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God Temple Land Committee should consider whether to have a signature campaign or conduct an opinion survey
The DAP Defend Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God Temple Land Committee, which comprise all the DAP Seberang Prai MPs and Assemblymen as well as Bukit Mertajam branches’s leaders, had announced the launching of a mass signature campaign naxt Monday with the four following demands:
Immediate return of the temple land;
Cancellation of the arrears and fines;
Restore the nominal quit rent for the temple land; and
State government to declare the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng temple as historical monument.
I must commend the DAP Defend Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God Temple Land Committee for achieving victory even before the official launch of its mass signature campaign, for immediately after its announcement of the mass signature campaign, the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon promised that the forfeited land would be returned to the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng Temple.
As the return of the forfeited land to the temple is the chief objective of the four-point mass signature campaign, it could be said that this signature campaign has the distinction of achieving its primary objective by the mere announcement of the campaign.
How long will Bukit Mertajam Hock Teng Cheng temple have to operate as an ‘illegal squatter’ before it could have its land title restored?
Of course, the ‘immediate return of the temple land’ has not been achieved 100 per cent –as the Penang Chief Minister , Dr.Koh Tsu Koon, has not been able to give any indication as to when the forfeited temple land would be returned, what are the new terms and conditions and for how long the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng temple has to operate as an ‘illegal squatter’.
Up to now, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon has been talking about re-alienation of the temple land, which means the temple management committee has to make a new application for the
land which had been forfeited, instead of the annulment of the forfeiture without a single cent of penalty, where the land is immediately returned to the temple authorities.
DAP has been calling for the annulment of the forfeiture without a single cent of penalty, for in this manner, the land could be returned to the temple authorities in the shortest possible time – even in a matter of 24 hours.
The re-alienation of the forfeited land, treating it as a new state land, to the temple authorities will involve considerable time and delay.
This is because the State Government, when it re-alienates the forfeited temple land to the temple management committee, will have to re-determine various matters under Section 79(2) of the National Land Code, namely:
(a) the area approved;
(b) the period of alienation;
(ba) the form of qualified title;
(c) the form of final title under which the land is ultimately to be held;
(d) the rate the quit rent is to be calculated;
(e) whether any premium is to be charged and, if so, the rate;
(f) the category of land use; and
(g) whether to impose any express conditions and re-strictions in interest.
It is very clear that the process of re-alienation is more complicated and messy than the annulment of the forfeiture without a single cent of penalty.
Furthermore, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon has said that the State Government proposes to sub-divide the temple land into two titles, one for religious use and the other for commercial purpose. This is highly objectionable, and the people of Bukit Mertajam should make clear their views on these two items:
whether they want the State Government to annul the forfeiture without a single cent of payment, or through a new application and re-alienation of the forfeited land by the State Government; and
whether they want the temple land returned as one original title, or broken into two titles as stated by Dr. Koh Tsu Koon.
The second demand of the proposed mass signature campaign is to demand the cancellation of the quit rent and fines amounting to RM37,435.30.
From Tsu Koon’s press conference statement on Wednesday that quit rent would have to be paid for the portion of temple land used for commercial purposes, there is no difference from the position which led to the debt of RM37,435.30 and the land forfeiture.
If Tsu Koon maintains that the portion of the temple land used for commercial purpose must pay quit rent, then the only question is whether the debt of RM37,435.30 had been cancelled.
Penang DAP maintains that it is enough for Tsu Koon to ‘forfeit’ the RM37,435.30 debt owed by the temple without ‘forfeiting’ the temple land.
This probably should be the stand of the people of Bukit Mertajam on this issue: ‘Forfeit’ the RM37,435.30 debt but do not forfeit the temple land.
However, Penang DAP also maintains that the entire temple land (including the part let out for commercial purposes) should be nominal quit rent only- as the entire proceeds of the temple go towards charity and education, especially Chinese education in Seberang Prai Tengah.
This is also the third demand of the proposed mass signature campaign.
The fourth demand is that the Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God Temple de declared a historical monument by the Penang State Government in recognition of its historic, religious and cultural contribution to the state and nation.
Five question for public survey
In view of the development following the announcement of the mass signature campaign, the DAP Defend Bukit Mertajam Hock Teck Cheng God Temple Land Committee should consider whether instead of a mass signature campaign, it should conduct a public opinion survey as to the stand of the people of Bukit Mertajam on the following five questions:
whether the temple land should be returned by way of annulment of forfeiture without a single cent of penalty or re-alienation;
whether the temple land title which had been forfeited should remain one title or divided into two titles, one for religious and the other for commercial purpose;
whether the RM37,435.30 quit rent and fines should be ‘forfeited’ without any forfeiture of the land;
whether the entire temple land title should enjoy nominal quit rent; and
whether the temple should be declared a historical monument by the State Government.