Will the Penangites seek judicial review on Bayan Mutiara land sale?
KUALA LUMPUR: Land law expert Prof Salleh Buang said people of Penang should apply for judicial review if they are not satisfied with the sale of land in Bayan Mutiara.
Speaking to The Mole, Salleh said it is the only way for Penangites to get the State Government to explain, including the conversion of the leasehold status of the reclaimed land to freehold before selling it off to private developer Ivory Properties Group Bhd (IPGB).
“People of Penang should seek judicial review on the Bayan Mutiara land sale if they are unhappy. Then the state government is legally bound to explain,” he said.
With a judicial review, Salleh explained, the court will look into the deal before deciding whether the land sale should be declared void or otherwise.
Asked whether the land conversion had violated Section 76 of the National Land Code, Salleh said the state government has the discretionary power to convert the land under special circumstances.
Still, Salleh added, “people have the right to know what these “special circumstances” are which led to the land sale."
Using the Queensbay issue as an example, Salleh said former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon justified the land sale and status conversion on grounds that the Penang government will suffer massive losses if the sale is nullified as many companies have invested on the land.
The Queensbay project was stalled in 1998 due to the currency crisis. It was only revived in 2003 when KL-based CP Group offered to complete the project in the same year before the land was converted from leasehold to freehold by the then Barisan Nasional-led government.
Salleh had previously wrote on the Queensbay controversy by stating: “Some quarters justify the conversion to freehold as a "compensation in kind" for the buyers (who have suffered heavy financial loss with nothing to show for their investment) as well as the developer (of which the state is also a partner) who was unable to pay liquidated damages to the buyers.”
In October 2008, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had said in a news report the DAP-led government will not convert reclaimed land to freehold.
In the issue of the Bayan Mutiara land sale Salleh said: “I personally feel the Penang government should not repeat the same mistake as what had happened (with the Queensbay project).”
Salleh said the danger of selling the land to a private entity is that there is a possibility that the developer can sub-sell the land by parcels to another party.
“By then, the Penang government cannot do anything as they don’t own the land anymore,” Salleh said.
“Why can’t the PDC (Penang Development Corporations) develop the land? Is Lim belittling the Penang agency?” he asked.
“There are so many issues shrouding this land deal. I guess it is best for the people of Penang to get this matter to be decided by the law,” he added.
Prior to this BN's Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan who is the MP for Kota Belud, had asked for Lim's clarification regarding the sale of 41.6 hectares of land worth of RM1.2 billion by PDC to the developer.
Blogger SatD had posed a series of questions regarding the sale of the land by PDC as well as the conversion of the land from leasehold to freehold status in his blog post.
Penang Umno Youth chief Shaik Hussein Mydin had joined the fray and alleged that Penang Government had sold off plots earmarked for a mosque and school in the land to the developer.