Kg Buah Pala: Land title prohibits owner from commercial dealings without state consent

GEORGE TOWN : Even as a Sunday eviction deadline looms for Kampung Buah Pala residents, the issue took a strange twist when it was pointed out that the land’s title prohibits the current owner from engaging in commercial dealings on the land without the state’s written consent.

The village committee’s assistant secretary C. Tharmaraj said today the condition gave the state grounds to acquire the land from Koperasi Pegawai-Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang, which had entered into a commercial venture for the land with a private developer.

The condition on the title was spotted by Derrick Fernandez, the legal adviser to Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and a Petaling Jaya Municipal Councillor.

News of this clause has caused a stir among the village community and NGO activists who have been supporting their cause.

What makes the issue significant is that the land title was issued on March 27, 2008, after the Pakatan Rakyat took power, following the final instalment payment made by the Koperasi to the state.

Tharmaraj said since the state government has called the transaction fraudulent, it could now save the ancestral land through acquisition with a nominal sum.

Section 76 of the National Land Code specifies that the state authority is empowered to alienate state land where it is "satisfied that there are special circumstances which render it appropriate to do so”.

“The state government can save the village immediately by using the Land Acquisition Act, and would need to repay or compensate a nominal sum to the koperasi in view of the fact that the land does not have commercial value,” he said.

The koperasi bought the land at a discounted premium of RM3.2 million (or RM10 per sqft). The MIC has offered to contribute RM3.2 million for the land.

Tharmaraj also asked why the state has not enforced its powers under section 116 of the National Land Code to protect villagers from impending demolition.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had announced on July 8 that the state was looking into enforcing the clause, which stipulates that a building on alienated land cannot be demolished, altered or extended without prior consent in writing of the appropriate authority.

He said although a writ of possession had been served on the villagers, the developer still needed local government approval to demolish the houses.

Meanwhile, village representative N Ganesan questioned the state government for citing the cost of acquiring the land as being “hundreds of millions”.

Ganesan said the assessment of damages and its procedures are spelt out in the Land Acquisition Act, and the sum should be reasonable and assessed by the Land Administrator.

“Guan Eng acknowledges that the village folk have been cheated of their land by the previous government, and yet they (current PR government) remained silent on this until Hindraf raised the matter,” said Ganesan, who is also Hindraf adviser.

Lim had on July 24 announced that the state was revoking its approval for the project based on powers accorded to it under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976.

Penang Gerakan Youth vice-chairman H'ng Khoon Leng also questioned Lim over his failure to freeze the application for the land transfer and conduct an investigation into it before the state approved it.

He asked why DAP leaders had promised the villagers that they would not be evicted when the state had already accepted the instalment payment of RM2.24 million on March 14, 2008 and had the land title issued on March 27 the same year.

“Why was the condition regarding compensation and welfare set by the previous government not fulfilled before completing the land transfer?” he added.

He asked if Lim had a hidden agenda in declassifying segments of minutes from the previous executive council meetings and not from the current executive council.

The Sun

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