DAP: Owners in Kuching land acquisition exercise cry foul


KUCHING: At least 100 landowners in Gita here will have their property acquired by the Sarawak Government in a deal that will likely deny them the full market value that includes a yet-to-be completed adjoining road and bridge.

Some 100 acres of mixed-use development on a tongue of land in northwest Kuching is expected to be acquired by the government under Section 49 of the Land Code for Urban Development.

The land acquisition and compensation exercise, carried out by the state’s Land and Survey Department, will join the land to a road as well as a bridge that connects the northern bank of the Sarawak River to the Sungai Maong inlet to the south. The Sarawak River separates north and south Kuching.

Sarawak DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen said the party had received complaints from landowners who said they were being forced by the department to accept a deal that fell far short of market value.

“Some landowners have approached me. Others are still unaware of this acquisition,” Chong told reporters at the party’s headquarters here today.

“We all know that the value of land with a road and without a road can vary by two or three times. You would want the government to pay you at market price. But for this acquisition, the valuer has not taken into consideration the value of the road.

“They say it is because the road has not yet been constructed and does not exist”

FMT was unable to contact the Kuching Division Land and Survey Department for comment.

The law empowers the State Government to take possession of privately-owned land required for public purposes.

According to Land and Survey Department documents made available to the press by DAP, at least 44 land lots, totaling some 100 acres, will be acquired. Most of the lots are owned by multiple owners.

The Gita properties were delineated and declared as land needed for public purposes under Section 48 of the Land Code, according to notices issued to landowners and made available to the press by DAP.

Chong said landowners were later told that the existence of a new road would be disregarded in determining compensation.

“The compensation offered by the department to landowners averaged at RM350,000 per acre, but the actual market value is estimated to be closer to RM900,000,” he said.

Another notice was given to landowners on July 14, 2016, informing the landowners that under Section 49 of the Land Code, the State Government intended to take possession of the Gita properties.

The landowners were also told that they must appear before Kuching Division Land and Survey Superintendent Ramzi Abdillah, on Aug 17 to forward their particulars and “state the nature of their particular interests” as part of the compensation process.

“Now they are starting the acquisition process and the impending construction of the road does not seem to benefit the landowners in the area,” Chong said.

Stating that the size of the land acquisition was unheard of in Kuching, Chong said that even a new school or hospital would take up only 10 acres at most.

“This is a very dangerous trend which is going to be started under (Chief Minister) Adenan Satem’s administration.

“If this exercise goes through, it will set a precedent for the cronies to start land-grabbing in Kuching.”

Chong said there was no legal precedent of successfully challenging the State Government’s land acquisition.

“We can only hope to change things through media exposure and public pressure,” he said.

In 2010, the State Government attempted to finalise a compulsory acquisition exercise in Bako, an undeveloped area located 40km from Kuching.

Some 3,000 acres had been placed under Section 47 of the Land Code, which locked in the prices of some parcels of land to as far back to what it would be valued in 1973.

A DAP legal team, headed by Chong, provided legal counsel to a group of 200 landowners who said they were forced to sell their lands for five times less than its market value.

In 2011, the Sarawak Government announced the cancellation of the compulsory acquisition exercise, adding that land under private ownership would not be taken over or acquired.

“The State Government believes the private landowners at Bako do have the capability and resources to undertake the successful development of that area and thereby contributing to the economic growth of the Bako region,” former Deputy Chief Minister George Chan had said at the time.