Strange happenings in Sungai
07/01/08 Property New Straits Times Salleh Buang
The procedure for applying for state land in this country is laid down
clearly in the law the National Land Code 1965. However, should you wish
to learn more, detailed information is available in cyberspace, for example,
in the Johor state government website.
Unfortunately for many of us, while the procedure itself has never been
shrouded in uncertainty and I am not saying it is easy what is uncertain
is whether an applicant will get what he has asked for.
In other words, applying for state land is not really difficult. What is
difficult is finding out whether you will succeed. And you will not know
when you can finally succeed in your quest. It can be 20 weeks down the line
or It can be 20 years. Or as some land applicants have told me, "the wait
can take eternity".
A long time ago, an Indian gentleman from Ipoh sent me an email about the
difficulties his family had endured for several decades. His late
grandfather had applied for a piece of state land. A decade later, his
grandfather passed away. Since the application was still pending (it had not
been officially rejected), his father took over the task. Lately, his father
too passed away. At that point in time more than two decades since his
grandfather submitted his application there was still no news about the
application from the State Authority. What should he do, he asked.
I sympathised with him. I could only say, keep up with the effort; go and
see some politicians and if possible, then pull some strings. I also told
him that files, especially applications for state land, can sometimes "get
lost" in the labyrinth of bureaucratic red tape, either by accident or by
design. I told him I suspect that his file too had been lost or misplaced in
I am not saying that every application for state land wont be favourably
considered. Under the law, the State Authority, being the absolute owner of
state land, has the discretion not obligation to decide whether to give
or not to give land to an applicant. And if it chooses to give, it also has
the discretion to determine the size of the land and the terms and
conditions of the alienation. If you are a small person, perhaps an acre or
two, but for a giant investor, perhaps a thousand acres or two.
My thoughts turned to these things last Sunday morning when I read an
amazing piece of news in a Malay language newspaper. What I read almost
spoilt my mood for breakfast. In the news item titled Mohon tak dapat, tak
mohon dapat lot tanah (Applicants do not get land lots, but nonapplicants
do), I read about the predicament of several people living in Sungai Siput,
The story was about a project known as Taman Kampung Tersusun Sungai Buluh,
launched by the Perak government. More than 100 housing lots were to be
alienated to the poor in the Sungai Siput district to enable them to
construct their own homes.
The problem is, according to 45-year-old Abdul Halil Zainal Abidin, land
lots were given to some people who had not even applied for them in the
first place, while the applicants (who, in his opinion, deserve the
alienation) were not so lucky. "This is so unfair," he said.
Abdul Halil said the alienation exercise should have been carried out
fairly. Those who had applied for the housing lots should "be given priority
consideration", before others who had not applied could be considered.
He told reporters that he had checked the list of names of those who had
been alienated housing lots, displayed at the Sungai Siput District and Land
Office, and he noted with regret that it included names of people who had
never applied for them.
I should mention here that these applications for state land were made more
than 10 years ago. Sohibul Fazalah Abdul Aziz, 39, is among the unsuccessful
applicants, and he is upset that he has "never been called for an
Simple arithmetic tells us that when Sohibul made his application, he was a
young man of 29. Now he is much older, married and with children. Without a
housing lot to build his own home, he is forced to live in with his parents
a shameful state of affairs which we all would avoid, especially if we are
married and have children of our own.
Another resident, Misbun Ahmad, has an equally strange tale to share. Some
of his fellow applicants, he said, had earlier on been successful in their
quest. They were offered housing lots in the scheme, but inexplicably, these
offers were later withdrawn.
The names of the successful applicants, Misbun said, been put on display at
the District Office. Suddenly, the offers made were withdrawn, without any
"We do not know who deleted our names and prevented us from getting our
housing lots. We are most unhappy, because earlier on we were told that we
were offered these housing lots."
If these strange events in Sungai Siput had occurred in the 60s, I would
have been able to accept it as perhaps the result of a glitch somewhere in
the system. But now, after 50 years of independence and with calls for
transparency, accountability and speedy public service delivery system from
our political leaders?
Let us all maintain a watch over this case.
Hopefully, all parties concerned in this puzzling affair will rebuild a "new
commitment" and re-energise themselves to resolve the issue in 2008.
The affairs of these little people in Taman Kampung Tersusun Sungai Buluh
need their urgent attention.