Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Hajiji Haji Noor happily announcing the handing over of 1,933.09 hectares of land to federal agencies has strongly stirred up the Sabahan’s sentiment.
Land ownership is one of the three fundamental promises guaranteed by Federal Government, namely “Tanah2 Dalam Sabah Di-Kuasa Oleh Kerajaan Sabah” (The Government of Sabah Holds Authority over Land in Sabah) which is crafted on the Batu Sumpah (Oath Stone). In return, the people of Sabah’s Interior pledges loyalty to the Government of Malaysia.
Sabahan has experienced two major pitter incidents of giving away of state’s land to Federal. Firstly, Labuan was taken away by federal government and its status converted to Federal Territory, and Secondly, Sabah had allowed FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority) to develop more than 200,000 acres land in Lahad Datu. What have Sabahan gained out of these land transaction?
Sarawak too, share the similar concern and always alert when dealing with land alienation by federal agencies. Its State Legal Advisor, Dato JC Fong once noted that the Sarawak Government ended up having to reclaim certain unused lands from the federal government, including the old Bintulu Airport as it was no longer in use after the new Bintulu Airport were opened.
He further noted that the Sabah Government once alienated a land to the federal government, but after five years nothing was built, so the state government asked the federal government to give back the land. However, the federal government instead asked Sabah to buy back the land at market value!
This is ridiculous! Of course, the market value of land, even though left empty, would increase after five years. In this case, the Sabah state government had received the short end of the stick for alienating the land to the federal government, even though the federal government just sat on it doing nothing!
Once bitten, twice shy. What would GRS state government do to prevent the repeat of the history? What kind of mechanism to monitor the development progress by those federal agencies who have taken the state land? Any penalty imposed by state government to federal for leaving such lands abandoned or underdeveloped?
Hajiji should disclose all precise details on the 177 titles given out, including the total land premiums that the government has collected in the alienation, and how much is the government’s estimation in the collection of quit rent from the federal government in the following years from the 177 pieces of land.
I’m not saying that alienating land for development is a wrong thing, but there is no need to transfer ownership outrightly to the respective federal agencies in view of all the grievances raised. I note that 90 are for the Education Ministry, 42 for the Health Ministry, 28 for the Transport Ministry and 17 for other ministries. I hope that the lands given out must be fully utilise.