BY Roznah Abdul Jabbar
While some have lauded the recent amendments on the Land Acquisition Act 1960 or Act 486, certain quarters within the industry have questioned the scope and adequacy of it.
The amendment bill, which was debated by 22 members of Parliament (MP), was passed without any changes after its second reading. It includes a provision for the government to acquire strata-titled land and underground land.
The current Land Acquisition Act, last amended in 1998, does not have specific provisions on subdivided buildings and underground land, which pose difficulties for MRT Corp to acquire land for its development.
Former director-general of the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH), Datuk Mani Usilappan said the need to acquire underground or subterranean rights is understandable since we are building storm canals, roads and railways underground.
However, he said the purpose for the acquisition of strata units is not clear. Another main concern he highlighted was that the amendments do not address the issues regarding compensation for the affected land owners.
“The portions related to court enquiries and provisions of the First Schedule have not been reviewed and amended, especially with the problems faced in the matter of compensation,” he said.
During the tabling of the bill for amendment last week, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the pace of economic growth in Malaysia requires optimum use of land, especially in cities and developed areas with high density.
He said that the changes are necessary especially for infrastructure development to retain the country’s competitiveness in heading towards a developed nation status.
The amendments covered important areas like underground work for the building of tunnels, drainage systems and underground infrastructure. It also stipulates that a plan describing the extent and depth of the area of the underground land to be acquired must be prepared by the land administrator.
Wan Junaidi said that the amendments, which involve 41 sections of the Act, need to be done as the current provision in land acquisition needs improvement for the benefit of land owners.
“Acquisition of land for Malaysia’s economic development and for a locality, however, must meet stringent conditions so that the interests and welfare of the people are not affected,” he said.
He added that the amendments are necessary because suitable land for development is becoming increasingly limited and that is why strata and underground development is becoming more commonplace.
In the case of acquisition of land for underground development, he said the technical aspects and safety of those above must be considered before a project can be implemented.
“If there is a need for them to vacate their premises temporarily for their safety while the underground project is carried out, compensation will be paid,” he said.
Sekijang MP, Anuar Abd Manap, said the government needs to explain whether the procedure is the same as the procedure for acquiring privately owned land or there is a special procedure to be implemented for strata-title properties.
“The information is important as the amendments will involve amendments to the Strata Titles Act and without the supporting amendments, the acquisition of strata-title properties cannot be carried out,” he said.
According to him, the existing provisions in the Act do not fulfil the needs of land acquisition involving strata-title properties.
“More and more strata-title properties are being built especially in urban areas as land is getting scarce coupled with increasing population,” Anuar said.
Wan Junaidi said that the amendment seeks to expand the existing definition of a subdivided building for the purposes of acquisition.
The bill will provide for a land administrator to take necessary action in accordance with the Strata Titles Act 1985, where it involves acquisition of part of the land of a subdivided building or land.
The amendments also allow objections by interested parties who are aggrieved with the compensation offered by the land administrator. Another amendment increases the limit of compensation when appealing to the court.
Issues of underground land acquisition and compensation were widely discussed when building owners in Jalan Sultan in the city centre protested against the construction of the MRT underground line in their area.