Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, when convening the meeting of All-Party MPs on Land Acquisition abuses and injustices in Parliament House on Monday. December 19, 1994 at 12 noon
Call on the Federal Government to make public the Guideline adopted by the National Land Council after the Land Acquisition Amendment Act 1991 in view of the increasing incidents of land acquisition abuses and injustices
Land acquisition abuses and injustices are swiftly becoming a grave burning national issue in Malaysia as evidenced by the increasing number of incidents of arbitrary and inequitable land acquisition in various states under Barisan Nasional Government.
When the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Bill was presented and debated in Parliament on July 31. 1991, the then Deputy Prime Minister had given a solemn promise that the legitimate rights and interests of smallholders and small landowners would be fully safeguarded by a Guideline formulated by the National Land Council and which would apply to all state governments.
If such a Guideline had come into existence and had provided an effective safeguard against land acquisition abuses and injustices, then land acquisition would not have become such a burning issue today.
In fact, there is some mystery as to whether the National Land Council had formulated a Guideline to be followed by all states to ensure that the powers offered by the Land Acquisition Amendment Act 1991 to allow state governments to acquire land for development by private companies or individuals would not be abused.
This is because the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department Othman Abdul had said during an unguarded moment when answering a supplementary question during question time last month that there was no such guideline.
Batu Kawan land in Penang which valuation Department valued at RM27, 000 per acre in 1985 is valued at RM8, 000 per acre for purposes of land acquisition eight years later.
I had challenged the Penang state government in the recent Penang state assembly to make public such a Guideline as there had also been widespread complaints of land acquisition abuses and injustices in the Penang state.
For instance, there was the scandalous case where land in Batu Kawan in Penang was bought in 1985 at RM16, 000 per acre but the Land Office and the valuation Department assessed the value of the land at RM27, 000 per acre for purposes of stamp duties. This piece of land has been acquired by the Penang state government for the Batu Kawan new township project and the owners are offered compensation of RM8, 000 per acre!
If there is a Guideline to protect the legitimate rights and interests of land owners affected by land acquisition, how could such a scandalous case happen where the Batu Kawan land in Penang was valued by the Valuation Department at RM27, 000 per acre in 1985 but is now valued at RM8, 000 per acre for purposes of land acquisition compensation?
The Penang state government passed the buck back to the Federal Government claiming that it has no objection to the Guideline being made public provided the announcement is made by the Federal Government.
The Federal Government, through Deputy Prime Minister Ghafar Baba, had made three specific promises in 1991 to allay widespread objections and protests against the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Bill which would confer powers to the State Governments to acquire land for development by the private sectors, namely:
* 1. A Guideline by the National Land Council which is to apply to all states to prevent that there would be no land acquisition abuses and injustices;
* 2 The original land owner can take part in the development of their land if acquisition is for development by the private sector.
* 3. The Government will provide alternative land for the people, especially the poor, to ensure that each citizen is able to build a house.
The second and third promises have not been honoured in the past three years of implementation of the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Act and it is not clear whether the first promise had also been honoured, as even Parliament does not know whether, and if so, when the National Land Council formulated such a Guideline and the details of the Guideline.
The Federal Government should immediately make public the Guideline adopted by the National Land Council to apply to all State Governments after the Land Acquisition Amendment Act 1991 to prevent land acquisition abuses and injustices, so that it could also be a guide for the affected landowners and the Malaysian public to judge whether State Governments had violated the Guideline in specific land acquisition cases.
Seven new principles for new thinking and policy approaches to end land acquisition abuses and injustices
The time has come for new thinking and new policy approaches to end the land acquisition abuses and injustice which are becoming more and more prevalent in the country.
Such new thinking and new policy approaches should take into consideration the following seven principles:
* The publication of the National Land Council Guideline which applies to all state governments on land acquisition to prevent abuses and injustices to the people;
* Giving aggrieved landowners the right to challenge land acquisitions which violate the National Land Council Guideline on land acquisition;
* 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 whereby higher compensations would be given in the latter case, based on the intended development potential of the land;
* In cases of acquisition for private development, the affected landowners, whether large estate companies or smallholders, 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.
* Land acquisitions by government agencies should not be classified as for ‘public purpose if they are meant for development which would eventually benefit private companies or individuals as through joint-venture development;
* The provision of alternative land for the people, especially the poor, to ensure that each citizen is able to build a house.
* The establishment of a Land Acquisition Arbitration Tribunal to arbitrate and resolve land acquisition controversies under the above principles.
As MPs from the Barisan Nasional had voted in support of the Land Acquisition Amendment Act 1991, they have a direct responsibility for the spate of land acquisition abuses and injustices in the country, and they should step forward to redress these abuses and injustices by pressing for changes and reforms in the Land Acquisition Act.
It is proposed that an All-Party Parliamentary Forum against Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices should be formed where MPs could speak up against land acquisition abuses and injustices and to demand for reforms of the land acquisition law.
I hope Barisan Nasional MPs who had been responsible for putting such an unjust and inequitable law on the statute hook would have the social conscience to work for the end of the land acquisition abuses and injustices by demanding for radical reforms of the Land Acquisition Act.