By P Ramasamy
The state of Perak is considered rich in terms of its natural resources. Much of the state has not been developed and much land is available for potential developers and for the use of the government. However, there are reasons to believe that land acquired by the Perak state government and its subsidiaries have not been put to good use. Apart from this, there is no necessity to acquire land when such an acquisition does not advance the core activities of state corporations or subsidiaries.
According to Bernama, Lumut Maritime Terminal Sdn Bhd (LMT), a subsidiary of Perak Corporation Bhd has proposed to acquire land worth RM57 million in and around Lumut for industrial and commercial purposes. Apparently, LMT has signed a sales and purchase agreement with the Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak (PKNP) for this purpose.
LMT intends to hold the acquired land as its land bank to expand its terminal facilities and at the same time advance its commercial and developmental interests. The funds for the acquisition will be internally generated as well as obtained from banks.
I believe that this land acquisition must be questioned both in the Parliament and the Perak state assembly for there is complete lack of transparency. It is understandable that the LMT wants to develop its core activities but what is not understandable is the fact that LMT wants to venture into areas that might not be considered as its core domains.
Over the last few decades state corporations in various states have acquired land in the interest of advancing their core activities but ended up selling the acquired public land for quick profit. Thus, land acquired at a reduced rate was then sold off to private interests at market value. There are too many examples, but the problem continues. It currently plagues governments in Perak and other states.
I want the Perak state government to be more transparent in this matter and not to agree to this land acquisition by LMT without doing due diligence. There must be public scrutiny on the land available to LMT and why there is a necessity to expand a big amount for further land acquisition. Lumut may not be a very busy port, so why acquire land for expanding port activities when there is no necessity in the first place?
Before this acquisition takes place, the matter must be debated in the next sitting of the state assembly. The Auditor-General’s Office must subject Perak Corp and its subsidiaries to a full financial audit to ascertain the availability of land and whether they have been put to good and prudent use.
Subsidiaries and corporations formed by state and federal governments should not take for granted that they can just acquire and dispose of their land holdings without public scrutiny. The tendency to acquire land cheap by the use of some of the provision of the National Land Code and selling them off at market value must be subject to control.
P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II, Penang.
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