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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Penang has no plans to make all reclaimed land freehold

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government has no plans to convert all reclaimed land from leasehold to freehold status although such land is no longer considered part of the foreshore or seabed, which is protected under the National Land Code (NLC), Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said yesterday.

Lim said under Section 76 of the NLC, a state authority could not dispose of "any part of the foreshore or seabed for a period exceeding 99 years... to protect and reserve coastal areas for the public interest".

"However, I have been advised that after reclamation, there is no more seabed and foreshore, and therefore it is within the state's right to give private individuals freehold status for such areas," he said.

"Whilst I disagree with the previous state government's policy of converting reclaimed land to freehold, we have been advised by both the lawyers and consultants with the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) and the State Legal Adviser that this conversion is legally valid as it was gazetted as state land and no longer as foreshore land," Lim said.

The state government therefore has to comply with the consent order of the Penang High Court for a rescue deal for the Bayan Bay project that includes converting what was once seabed and foreshore to freehold land, Lim said.

All the parties involved had exercised their legal rights in court before withdrawing their final appeal to the Federal Court, he said, and any attempt to refuse to comply with the consent order would expose the state government to substantial claims for damages.

"The state government hopes that the public, including some state assemblymen and NGOs, would not equate the necessity to comply with the scheme decided by the previous state government as concurrence or even endorsement for converting reclaimed land from leasehold to freehold.

"Even though the legal view is that whilst the state authority can exercise such powers, the new government would not exercise such powers," Lim said.

By The EDGE Malaysia (by Regina William)

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