The new policy on renewal of land leases that the government has implemented is not an election gimmick.
Refuting claims made by the opposition, Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Dato Sri Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said many titles had been renewed under the policy, and the public response had been very good.
“In fact, the Land and Survey Department is doing this renewal as a matter of routine,” he told reporters yesterday after opening a seminar on ‘Development of Education’ at Santubong Resort.
He pointed out that the new policy showed the government’s concern for the people, and was formulated by balancing the needs of the people and the interest of the government.
Repeating what he said at the State Legislative Assembly sitting last November, he said the ‘monthly instalment for the land premium is even cheaper than a box of cigarettes’.
According to him, the government was very responsive to the feedback it received from the people when the policy was first announced on May 26 in 2006 by taking steps to get it fine-tuned.
As such, the characteristics of the new policy included making Sarawak the only state that allowed the premium to be paid by instalments, and giving special concession subject to discretion of the minister to landowners living below the poverty line.
“Renewal of titles can be made anytime before the expiry of the leases and the landowner has the option to renew for 60 years or 99 years.
The present interest or value of the land will be taken into account in the calculation of premium payable,” he said.
Although the issue had been deliberated many times by the government, Tengah conceded it would again be used to attack the government during the election campaign period by the opposition.
He nonetheless believed that many people would have already known that the opposition especially Democratic Action Party (DAP) was playing politics of fear by playing up this issue again, and would not be tricked again by the opposition’s tactic of fishing for votes.
“In the last State Election in 2006, the DAP bluffed the people by saying that the premium for renewal of land at Kenyalang Park in Kuching will be hundreds of thousands of ringgit. But they have been proven wrong because the actual premium payable under the new policy for example, a residential lot of about 0.04 acre is just RM2,300 for a 60-year-lease,” he said.
On the other land issue, Tengah said the opposition was also expected to play up issues regarding land acquisition by the government especially with regard to sections 47 and 48 of the Sarawak Land Code.
He explained that Section 47 was imposed when the government intended to acquire land for public purpose or for development, but the government through the Land and Survey Department would proceed straight with imposition of Section 48 where land is required for a specific project.
“We will go to explain further to the people during the campaign period,” he said.
On native customary land issue (NCL) Tengah said it was no longer an issue with the rural population.
“Many seminars and explanation have been made by the relevant authorities to explain NCL policies to the people.”
He revealed that the NCL land development concept had received overwhelming response and the government was now trying to cope with the many applications received from NCL claimants to participate in the new concept.