BY Ernest Cheong
The Land Acquisition Act (LAA) 1960 was passed by the (then) Malayan Parliament in 1960, only three years after our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman declared independence for a new nation.
During the intervening 20 years after the LAA was passed, not many high-rise and subdivided buildings, were built. Provisions in the LAA intended for the compulsory acquisition of low-rise landed properties were adequate for the purposes for which they were intended at that time.
Since the 1980s though, many high-rises, both residential and commercial, have been built in the major towns and cities ranging from five-storey flats to the multi-storey Petronas Twin Towers and other skyscrapers in the KL commercial centre.
In the late 1980s, the Dataran Merdeka, with its below-ground commercial spaces and car parking bays was built and completed in time to welcome Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1989.
Since then, many underground structures, notably the railway tracks and stations of the fast expanding LRT networks in the Klang Valley, have been built.
It is clear that provisions in the outdated LAA 1960 are proving to be inadequate for the present day needs of acquiring authorities and affected property owners.
There is now before Parliament a bill to amend some provisions in the LAA 1960. Some amendments are minor and even cosmetic in nature, but others are intended to address the many inadequacies of the LAA 1960, as listed below.
i) New subsection 7(2)
This is intended to provide for the compulsory acquisition of underground land. With its inclusion, the authorities can now lawfully and legally acquire privately-owned underground land.
ii) New subsection 9(2)(a)
This is intended to provide for the compulsory acquisition of subdivided building or subdivided land, making it possible for the authorities to now lawfully and legally acquire privately owned subdivided building or subdivided land.
iii) New subsection 12(4)
This is intended to make it mandatory for the land administrator to record all the evidences during the enquiry. As with judicial proceedings in a court of law, proceedings before the Land Administrator during a land acquisition enquiry shall now be recorded as evidence that will be available to the parties in subsequent appeal proceedings in the High Court.
iv) New section 19A
The inclusion of Section 19A makes it mandatory for the Land Administrator to continue to make full enquiry and make an award for the land acquired in accordance with the LAA 1960 and it reads:
Notwithstanding that possession of the land has been taken pursuant to a Certificate of Urgency issued under Section 19, the Land Administrator shall continue to make full enquiry and make an award in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
Prior to this, there was no such requirement after the Land Administrator has issued a Certificate of Fitness to take possession of the acquired land.
v) New subsection 22(3)(c)
This is intended to ensure that the Land Administrator serve a copy of Borang K for the taking of formal possession of the land acquired to the statutory body, person or corporation and the management corporation of the subdivided building or land concerned so that they will be duly notified.
vi) Amendment to subsection 37(1)
This has been ammended to include amended to include the words “or any person interested pursuant to any compensation made under section 35 or Part VII” after the words “section 10 or 11”.
Any person interested in any scheduled land who, pursuant to any notice under section 10 or 11 or any person interested pursuant to any compensation made under section 35 or Part VII, who has made a claim to the Land Administrator in due time and who has not accepted the Land Administrator’s award thereon, or had accepted payment of the amount of such award under protest as to the sufficiency thereof may, subject to this section, make objection to:
(a) the measurement of the land
(b) the amount of the compensation
(c) the person to whom it is payable
(d) the apportionment of the compensation
With this amendment, registered proprietors of the acquired land can now also appeal to the High Court when they are not satisfied with the Land Administrator’s award of compensation under Section 35 (Withdrawal from Acquisition) and Part VII (Temporary Occupation and Use of Land).
Prior to amendment, landowners could only appeal to the High Court when they are not satisfied with the award of compensation under Section 14.
vii) Amendment to subsection 37(2)
This subsection is amended by substituting the words “three thousand” with the words “five thousand”.
Where the total amount awarded in compensation does not exceed five thousand ringgit, the written award of the Land Administrator shall be final with regard to both the measurement of the land and the amount of compensation awarded, and no objection may be made under subsection (1) in respect thereof.
With this amendment, owners cannot appeal to the High Court against compensations not exceeding RM5,000, as opposed to RM3,000 prior to this.
viii) Amendment to subsection 37(3)
This subsection is amended by substituting the words “where the total amount of any award in respect of any scheduled land exceeds fifteen thousand ringgit” with the words “where the total amount of any award exceeds thirty thousand ringgit”.
Where the total amount of any award exceeds thirty thousand ringgit, any Government or any person or corporation undertaking the work which in the opinion of the State Authority is of public utility, and on whose behalf such land is acquired pursuant to section 3, shall be deemed to be a person interested in any scheduled land under subsection (1) and may make objections on any of the grounds specified in subsection (1).
With this amendment, the threshold for making objections is now raised from RM15,000 to RM30,000.
ix) Amendment to Subsection 38(3)(a) This is amended to include the words “or compensation made under section 35 or Part VII” after the words “the Land Administrator’s award under section 14”.
…If the person making it was present or represented before the Land Administrator at the time when the Land Administrator made his award, within six weeks from the date of the Land Administrator’s award under section 14 or compensation made under section 35 or Part VII.
This amendment enables owners to also appeal to the High Court when they are not satisfied with the Land Administrator’s award of compensation under Section 35 (Withdrawal from Acquisition) and Part VII (Temporary Occupation and Use of Land), as opposed to only Section 14 before this.
x) Amendment to Section 57 (a)
This amendment replaces the existing Section 57 and is intended to widen the scope for when the State Authority may direct the Land Administrator to procure the temporary occupation of the identified land.
Whenever it appears to the State Authority that the temporary occupation or use of any land is needed:
(a) For any purpose specified in Subsection 3(1);
(b) In order to carry out public works on any land; or
(c) As indicated in a development plan under the law applicable to it relating to town and country planning; the State Authority may direct the Land Administrator to procure the occupation or use of any such land for such term as he think fit, not exceeding three years from the date of commencement of such occupation or use, in the manner prescribed by this part.
With this amendment, the Land Administrator, as directed by the State Authority, can now also procure the temporary occupation or use of private land indicated in a development plan, which was limited to only (a) and (b) before this.
Dr Ernest Y Y Cheong holds a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and an MBA.He is also a Chartered Surveyor, RegisteredValuer, Auctioneer, Arbitrator and Principalof Ernest Cheong PTL Chartered Surveyors.Contact him for firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ecptl.com and www.propertygandhi.blogspot.com