By Datuk Liew Teck ChanKOTA KINABALU, Oct 11, 2011 - Referring to the requests by the Sabah Housing and Real Estate Developers Association to the Sabah State Government to revert the land leases for country leases and town leases to the original 999 tenure, actually, in fact the government can approve land leases for a term of 999 year, especially if the original master title of the land already has a tenure of 999 years. This has been done before without any need for changes to the law. There is no need for any delay because it is only a matter whether the government wants to honour the 999 tenure or not.
The Chief Minister was reported to have said that the Cabinet needs to discuss first because the 999-year lease requires legislation. In fact, in my Likas constituency, Taman Seputeh with 230 units of houses were issued land titles with 999-year lease by the then Chief Minister, Datuk Yong Teck Lee in 1997. The premium charged per house was RM 1000 and annual quit rent at RM 90. This reasonable rate has made it possible for the house owners to own the houses after the abandoned project was revived by the then State government.
"What is disturbing in recent years is that owners of land with 999-year leases were denied their rights when their land leases were cut short to only 99 years after their land was subdivided. It is unjust to cut short the original tenure of 999 years to 99 years. The people become more worried when they look at the Kolombong shop houses case which has been waiting for several years to renew their land titles which are about to expire soon. The appeal for extension was submitted in 2008 to the Chief Minister by the Datuk Sari Tan with a big news coverage. But until now, there is no news of the application, not even for 99 lease.
Without an extension of their land leases, their shops become worthless, banks refuse to lend money for renovations and insurance companies become reluctant to insure the properties. Shop owners similarly are scared to repair their shop houses as the government might arbitrarily become the new owners of the shops once the land leases have expired. Yesterday, some land owner at Kampong Sembulan Laut have protested at the refusal of the government to renew their land leases which are due to expire in seven to 20 years' time. With so many land grabs incidents occurring all over Sabah, whereby natives are being evicted from their customary lands, it is obvious that people are concerned that they will lose their homes and properties in the future.
We are worried when the Chief Minister said that his cabinet will look into the issue. This is because this cabinet has taken a lot of time to look into issues after issues without any outcome like the definition of natives, poverty eradication programmes and Borneonisation of the civil service.
Datuk Liew Teck Chan is Assemblyman for Likas, Deputy President SAPP