Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang at the meeting of smallholders affected by the Seremban II project land acquisition held at the Mambau New Village Community Centre on Saturday, December 3, 1994 at 8 pm
A National Conference on Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices is being planned for next month to demand legislative reforms to ensure that affected landowners get fair compensation and the right to take part in the joint-venture development of their land
In 1991, the MCA President and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik urged Malaysian not to worry about the Land Acquisition Amendment Act which was passed by Parliament in July that year on the ground that there were adequate safeguards to prevent abuses of land acquisition powers.
More than three years have passed and there are mounting examples of land acquisition abuses and injustices in various parts of the country which makes a total mockery of the assurance given by Ling Liong Sik.
In fact, there are more and more cases where the MCA leaders, whether national or state, have joined forces with those who want make ordinary landowners and smallholders victims of development by private companies and individual, instead of defending their right to fair compensation and justice.
The Seremban II project land acquisition of 2,234 acres of private land in Mambau, Rasah and Labu is a good case in point.
Although the Negri Sembilan state government decided in September last year on the Seremban II development project and the acquisition of 2,234 acres of private land for development by private company, the 600 smallholders whose land would be acquired and the public at large were kept completely in the dark about. The project until a few months ago.
The MCA which has state exco members in the Negri Sembilan state government also helped the state government “to keep the affected smallholders and the public in the dark about the Seremban II project.
If the MCA had been a responsible party, its leaders would have extracted assurances and safeguards from the Negri Sembilan state government before giving any consent to the Seremban project.
The three safeguards which the MCA leadership should have secured from the Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar before giving its consent in the EXCO on the Seremban II Project land acquisition
For instance, a responsible MCA leadership would have ensured that the Negri Sembilan state government and Menteri Besar agreed to the following three measures to safeguard the rights of the 600 smallholders before giving MCA consent in the Negri Sembilan state EXCO to the Seremban II project:
(1) Public state government announcement of the full details of the Seremban II Project Masterplan before any final decision is taken by the state government on the Seremban II project to allow the people and in particular the affected 600 smallholders an opportunity to give their views and representations.
(2) Undertaking by the Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar that the. 600 affected smallholders would be given the first option to take part in the joint¬-venture development of their land in line with the Seremban II Project. Masterplan.
(3) Assurance by the Negri Sembilan state govern¬ment that the affected smallholders would be given fair compensation of any land acquired, which should take into account the new potential of the land as it is now intended for residential, com¬mercial and industrial use under the Seremban II Project.
Both the MCA state and national leadership had failed to take the above three measures to give meaning to the promise of the MCA President in 1991 that there would be no land acquisi¬tion abuses and injustices.
Instead, the MCA Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister Department Datuk Wong See Wah has adopted a hostile and unhelpful attitude towards the smallholders, claiming that they had misled me with lies and untruths about the Seremban IT Project resulting in my misleading Parliament on the issue.
Furthermore, Wong See Wah has hidden behind the Land Acquisition Amendment Act and asked the affected smallholders to depend on the courts for their remedy if they are not happy with the compensation offered to them.
If the only advice the MCA can give in such cases to the affected landowners is that they should leave it to the courts to decide on the appeals on the quantum of compensations, then the MCA role has become totally irrelevant and redundant and it will make no different Whether there is Wong See Wah or not.
This is a great betrayal of the interests of the people as everybody knows that there can be no justice in such land acquisition cases merely by depending on the courts to decide, the issue of compensation.
If the people are to get justice whether in the form of higher compensation or the right to participate in the joint-venture development of their land, they must exert political pressure, whether inside or outside the government, for a total change of government policy and thinking about land acquisition and the rights of the affected landowners.
The root cause of the problem of Seremban IT Project land acquisition is the Land Acquisition Amendment Act 1991
Let us all recognise one brutal fact – that the root cause of the problem faced by the 600 affected smallholders under the Seremban II Project land acquisition is the Land Acquisition Amendment Act 1991.
The Negri Sembilan state government would have acted illegally in acquiring 2,234 acres of land for the Seremban II Project to be developed by a private company, Roadbuilder (M) Holding Bhd, if the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Act has not been passed.
At the last meeting of the smallholders, I was asked who had voted in support of the Act. I have checked the official record of Parliament of 30th July 1991, which reported that the MCA Ministers, Deputy Ministers and MPs were the strongest sup¬porters of the amendment.
Among those who had been recorded as having voted for the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Act were all the four MCA Ministers, namely Ling Liong Sik, Lee Kim Sai, Ting Chew Peh and Lim Ah Lek and MCA Deputy Ministers led by Wong See Wah, Fong Chan Onn, Chua Jui Meng, Teng Gaik Kwan and Chan Kong Choy.
The 600 affected smallholders have the right to demand that the MCA Ministers, Deputy Ministers and MPs, who have given full support to the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Act which has now been used to acquire their 2,234 acres of private land, should come foreward to ensure that they get justice and fair play.
The MCA should stop ‘playing games’ with the affected smallholders as for instance claiming that the Cabinet had dis¬cussed and decided that their problem be resolved in a positive mariner, when this is clearly untrue as no MCA Minister dared to publicly confirm that the issue had been raised in the Cabinet.
Call on MCA to agree that the affected smallholders can only get justice through a political solution and not, by the legal process
Up to now, the MCA has refused to admit the fact that the affected smallholders can only get justice through a politi¬cal solution and not by the legal process.
The political solution to give justice to the small¬holders affected by land acquisitions is change of government policies on the Land Acquisition Act.
The MCA leadership should declare whether they support the following five principles as the basis for the amendment of the Land Acquisition Act:
(1) There must be a clear distinction between land acquisition for public purpose like the building of schools, hospitals and government complexes and land acquisition for development by private companies or individuals.
(2) There must be higher compensation in cases of land acquisition for development by private compa¬nies or individuals which must take into account the intended development potential and land use of the property concerned.
(3) In cases of acquisition for private develop¬ment, the affected landowners should also be given the first option of participating in joint venture development of the land so that they could share in the profits of development.
(4) This land acquisition guideline should not only be made public but should have the force of law and should be enforceable by the affected landowners.
(5) The establishment of a Land Acquisition Arbitration Board to enforce this guideline.
In order to mobilise nation-wide support for reforms to the Land Acquisition Act to incorporate the above progressive features, a National Conference or Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices, and the need for legislative reforms, is being planned for next month.
This National Conference will give the smallholders and landowners affected by unfair government land acquisition all over the country an opportunity to air their grievances, articulate their cries for justice and join forces with all Malaysians who cherish justice and fair play to demand the repeal of the Land Acquisitio Amendment Act 1991.
Let this National Conference on Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices be the starting point of a nation-wide people’s Movement to abolish unfair land acquisition powers of the government and introduce legislative reforms to ensure that the affected landowners get fair compensation and that the right of -the affected landowners to take part in the joint.-venture development of their land is given legal recognition by Parliament.