Submit report on land change

The Penang Government has instructed Penang Development Corporation (PDC) to submit a report on the conversion of the reclaimed land in Pantai Jerejak from leasehold to freehold.

The report is to ‘guide’ the state government from committing ‘mistakes’ in the future and ensure that public access to the seafront would not be denied.

Penang Chief Minister’s political secretary Ng Wei Aik said he had spoken to PDC general manager Datuk Rosli Jaffar to prepare the report for Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is currently away on a trade mission.

“We need to study and check whether the previous administration had committed any wrongdoing. The conversion of reclaimed land where the Queensbay project stands was made before we took over and the present administration does not want to repeat the same thing.

“Although the state government has the jurisdiction on land issues, we want to protect public interest and Lim will personally look into the matter,” he said.

Ng, who is also Komtar assemblyman, said the state government would also refer the matter to the state Legal Adviser because several other major projects were also carried out on reclaimed land.

Apart from the RM3bil Queensbay project, two other massive reclaimation projects are being carried out off Tanjung Tokong and along Jelutong Expressway near Batu Uban.

There have been questions as to why the previous state government converted 28ha of reclaimed foreshore land from leasehold to freehold for the Queensbay project which contravened the National Land Code.

The code prevents state authorities from disposing of alienated coastal land as freehold. Section 76 of the code stipulates that the state authority cannot dispose of any part of the foreshore or seabed for a period exceeding 99 years.

The land was originally vested in the Penang state authority, then alienated to PDC as leasehold for 99 years and later sold to a private company for RM54mil. The land status was converted to freehold.

Ng said the state government need not convert the status of any land in exchange for development and that there should be a win-win situation between developers and the state government.

“We have to look at the prospect of such projects while at the same time protect the interest of the people,” he said.

Batu Uban assemblyman S. Raveentharan, who is also a practising lawyer, said there should be a judicial review as the code could be interpreted differently.

“We should rectify a legal wrong and there is a question of whether the developer could be compensated should the state government decide to revert the status.

“The reclaimed land cannot be converted to freehold because the code clearly dictates its status. It is tantamount to selling state sovereignty to a private company,” he said.

Former Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Rashid Abdullah when contacted said the land in question was reclaimed for development.

“Don’t expect me to remember everything and I am not a walking library of the Land Office. I don’t keep records of the previous state exco meetings and all the papers are being kept by the Land office,” he said.

by ZARINAH DAUD (The Star)

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