Storm over 999-year lease gathers pace as Sabah polls near

SAPP deputy president Richard Yong says it is unethical of Shafie Apdal to be dishing out land grants to the people.

KOTA KINABALU: The opposition is continuing to hit out at the caretaker Sabah government over the distribution of land grants to residents in the run-up to the state election next month, claiming it is to fish for votes and, therefore, unethical.

SAPP deputy president Richard Yong We Kong said Warisan should also not take credit for restoring the lease tenure to 999 years from 99 years, stressing that this should go to the person who successfully challenged the tenure reduction in court.

“Credit should go to Chin Kim Phin, who won the landmark case against government lawyers on Feb 22,” Yong said in a statement here today.

“Another important person who also helped Chin win this case is Kong Hong Ming, a lawyer and activist.

“The Warisan-led government should have started restoring the titles in March and not wait until election time.”

The High Court here declared that conditions set by the Land and Survey Department to reduce the leasehold tenure from 999 years to 99 years for development approval and subdivision of land were unlawful and null and void.

State Land and Survey Department director Bernard Liew said the lease period was reduced to 99 years during the 1990s but that the court decision had made this unlawful.

He said the state government decided to rectify this mistake to comply with the court ruling.

Caretaker chief minister Shafie Apdal has said it would involve 5,978 leases, adding that this was decided by the state Cabinet on June 17.

In his statement, Yong said that besides falsely taking credit, Warisan should not use the land lease title issue to mislead the public and win political mileage for a court decision which it had objected to in 2019.

“Shafie’s attempt to draw support has caused much confusion – even the Land and Survey Department director had to clarify the matter mentioning that only the 5,978 affected land titles will be restored as they were those of the original landowners.

“It is not the Warisan-led government’s policy that other 99-year land titles will become 999-year land titles,” he said.

He said SAPP’s election manifestos in 2013 and 2018 had also contained a policy on Sabah land reform.

The manifestos, he noted, stated that applications to extend the existing land lease tenure from 99 years to 999 years would be allowed.

“Lest we forget, SAPP president Yong Teck Lee had even approved the Likas Taman Seputeh land titles to 999 years when he was the Sabah chief minister,” he said.