Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang,at the dinner organised by the smallholders affected by Seremban II township land acquisition held in Seremban on Sunday, 22nd January 1995 at 8 p.m.
Call on Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar to give full details of the case of land acquisition of a plot of land to be sold to a third party for higher price as exposed by the Prime Minister
Two days ago, The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, exposed the case of land acquisition abuse by one state government where a plot of land was acquired and sold to a third party at a higher price.
Mahathir said such land acquisition was not right and the Federal Government advised the State Government to return the land.
Although the Prime Minister did not openly mention which state government was responsible for such land acquisition abuse, the mass media has identified the Negri Sembilan state government as the culprit.
I therefore call on the Negeri Sembilan Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Mohd. Isa to give full details of this case of land acquisition abuse where land was acquired for sale to a third party for higher price as exposed by the Prime Minister.
The case exposed by Mahathir is significant for two reasons:
*Firstly, such improper and irregular action is actually fully ‘legal’ under the Land Acquisition Act after the 1991 amendment which broadened the powers of the State Governments to acquire land from ‘public purpose’ to any ‘development’ purpose;
*Secondly, Mahathir only referred to one case involving one plot of land – but what about the land acquisition abuses and injustices involving thousands or even tens of thousands of plots of land since the 1991 Land Acquisition Act?
The very fact that over a thousand landowners from all over the country attended in historic National Conference Against Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices in Kuala Lumpur on January 8 is proof that the sense of injustice against land acquisition abuses is nationwide and becoming a very serious national issue.
In fact, the rescindment of four land acquisition sites involving 352 hectares for projects including a golf course by the Malacca State Government last month is proof of the prevalence of land acquisition abuses and injustices in the past three years.
The admission by the Malacca State Chief Minister, Datuk Mohd Zin Abdul Ghanni that the Malacca State Government decided to rescind the four acquisition sites because there was no proper survey as to whether any houses, buildings or places of worship would be affected by the development is none other than a confession that state government had been acquiring land as they like in disregard of the legitimate rights and interests of the landowners.
However, the one case mentioned by Mahathir is adequate proof that the present Land Acquisition Act is most unsatisfactory as it permits arbitrary, equitable and unfair land acquisition making the landowners not only ‘victims’ of the Land Acquisition Act but also ‘victims’ of the development process.
There must be adequate legal safeguards in the Land Acquisition Act to protect the constitutional right to property of Malaysians and prevent land being acquired merely to be sold to a third party at a higher price – giving the landowners the right to seek legal redress and to get the courts to declare such land acquisition illegal and to quash the land acquisition order.
At present, however, landowners have no such legal right as their only legal right is to appeal to court on the quantum of compensation and not to challenge the land acquisition order, however improper, inequitable or improper?!
The right to property is a constitutional right enshrined in Article 13 of the Malaysia Constitution, and it should be protected by a system of law and not by a system of men – helping that the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister might intervene to advise State Governments to return land to owners in cases of unfair, inequitable and arbitrary land acquisition as for selling to a third party at a higher price.
Challenge to MCA Ministers to declare their stand on the National Conference on Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices demand for the repeal of the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Act.
This is why the National Conference Against Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices in Kuala Lumpur on January 8 had called for a new land acquisition law, policy and approach to strike a fairer balance between development needs and the property rights of Malaysians.
The time has come therefore the review and amendment of the Land Acquisition Act, including the repeal of the 1991 Land Acquisition Act to restore to landowners the legal right to challenge improper, inequitable and arbitrary land acquisition orders in a court of law.
It is most strange that the MCA Ministers have been conspicuously silent on the issue of land acquisition abuses and injustices.
DAP challenges the MCA Ministers to declare their stand on the National Conference Against Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices demand for the repeal of the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Act.
DAP calls for the cancellation of the Seremban II land acquisition orders to allow the smallholders to convert their land to commercial and industrial use as well as the option to develop themselves or through joint ventures in accordance with Seremban II Master Plan.
In this connection, the announcement by the Malacca State Chief Minister, Datuk Mohd Zin Abdul Ghanni yesterday that the Malacca State Government decided to change its approach to land acquisition is a step in the right direction and in line with the call of the National Conference Against Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices for new land acquisition law, policy and approach to strike a fairer balance between development needs and the property rights of Malaysians.
Under this new approach, instead of acquiring land, the Malacca state government will allow landowners to convert the status of their property as from agricultural to commercial and industrial uses, so that they can sell to buyers at better prices.
Mohn. Zin said that the State Government would not interfere with the pricing of the property but will collect land premium from the landowners following the conversion plus 20 to 30 per cent service charge.
The Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Mohd. Isa must lead the state exco in applying a totally approach to the land acquisition problems in the state.
For a start, DAP calls for the cancellation of the Seremban II land acquisition orders to allow the smallholders to convert their land to commercial and industrial use as well as the option to develop themselves on their own or through joint ventures in accordance with the Seremban II Master Plan.
Secondly, the 600 smallholders at Rasah, Membau and Labu whose 2,234 acres would be affected by the Seremban II new township project should be consulted before the finalisation of the Seremban II Master Plan.
Thirdly, if the smallholders do not wish to develop on their own or through joint ventures in accordance with the Seremban II Master Plan, then they should be allowed to sell their land to Road Builder (M) Holding Sdn. Bhd. or whichever company had been given the franchise by the State Government to develop Seremban II according to the prevailing market price.