Remember Bukit Antarabangsa, Perak lands…?
Whose authority on land use?
KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 Malaysian Insider
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today the Kampung Buah Pala land tussle must be settled by the Penang state government, passing the buck back to the DAP-led Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration in what is turning into a racial powder keg.
The Penang state government said yesterday it would be writing to Najib to seek assistance from the federal government to take over the piece of prime land.
A small number of families in Kampung Buah Pala, in the Glugor area of Penang, are facing eviction after a private developer won outright ownership of the land recently.
But a number of Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) activists have seized on the residents’ predicament, and turned the dispute into a racial issue.
Today, Najib said the residents’ predicament was a state matter and should be settled at the state government level. The prime minister’s remarks shut the door on the possibility of any federal intervention.
He said the federal government wanted to avoid involving itself in the issue of helping the residents of Kampung Buah Pala as it considers land a state matter and intervention would also open the door for many other similar cases to seek federal government help.
“Land is a state matter and if we intervene, it would create a precedent and we would be asked to intervene in many other cases,” Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told reporters today.
The Penang state government has already said it would be too costly to acquire the land, and let the residents – mostly Indian cowherds – continue staying there.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state government could not afford the high cost of taking over the land to enable 23 families to continue occupying the area.
He had hoped the federal government could assist in acquiring the land from Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang and pay compensation to developer Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd.
No quick resolution to the controversy is now in sight, with certain Hindraf leaders ratcheting up the rhetoric against the Penang government with plans to use the issue as a cause célèbre to revive the group’s own flagging fortunes.
Conflicting reports from residents say the disputed land had been held in trust for their use. The trust was apparently set up by the previous colonial-era owners of the land.
The nature and conditions of the trust has not been disclosed, but legal experts say such documents cannot be enforced in perpetuity.
But it has also been reported that the property had been converted into Temporary Occupation License (TOL) land after independence.
The land was eventually sold and alienated to the new owners during the tenure of the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
It was reported that, following a lawsuit, the Federal Court had declared the residents had no locus standi, or legal standing, to lay claim to the land.
But since the involvement of Hindraf, the controversy has taken on emotional and racial overtones.
It is unclear if residents want to continue staying on the land or if they want better compensation than what has been offered by the developers.