16 March 2016
The announcement by the CM that the government has abolished quit rent on smallholder agricultural land and residential land is welcomed by all Sarawakians, myself included.
However, I want to stress that this move of abolishing quit rent does nothing to help the thousands of NCR land owners who are being deprived of their land because of the government’s refusal to recognize the NCR concept of pemakai menoa and pulau galau, both of which have been affirmed by the courts. This is an issue of the fundamental rights of the people to ownership of their land. If the CM really wants to help the people of Sarawak, he should respect the decision of the courts and recognise pemakai menoa and pulau galau as being NCR lands of the people.
Those of us with inquiring minds will question the motive for this abolishment, and on the eve of the Sarawak elections. The Chief Minister did not tell us why this decision was taken. If it is to reduce the ever-increasing financial burden borne by the rakyat, the Chief Minister should address his mind to the reasons for the difficulties faced by the rakyat, especially the increased prices of goods and services caused by the imposition of the GST.
The Prime Minister was delighted that the GST will net the government RM39 bil in 2016, calling it the saviour of the Malaysian economy. The figures given by the government show that every household will pay around RM5,571.00 extra this year just for GST. This works out to be RM464 per month per household. Working on the figures given by the Chief Minister yesterday, the average quit rent saving for a residential land title holder is RM26.57 while the average quit rent saving for an agricultural land title holder is RM20.83. This RM20+ is a small saving compared to the RM5,571.00 that each household has to fork out to save the nation from the Najib 1MDB nightmare. Meanwhile, the PM refuses to answer the RM2.6bil question and take responsibility for the RM42bil 1MBD financial scandal. And yet, inexplicably, the CM wants this disgraceful man to be the PM forever.
Interestingly, on quit rent, the owners of some kampong houses in my area built on untitled NCR lands have been paying quit rent for many years. I urge the government to abolish these as well. Also, to bring more substantial benefit to the people, the CM should move to convert all leasehold residential titles to titles in perpetuity so that the people will have certainty over the security of their land ownership. This would be a more meaningful measure that the people will surely appreciate.
It was revealed in Parliament that Sarawak owes Putrajaya RM2.5bil, making us the third highest debtor state. Despite this, the government has opted to forego a portion of one of the normal revenue sources for the state. I hope that this is not a mere political gimmick and that the quit rent will not be reintroduced at a later stage if the BN should still hold the majority of seats after the elections.
ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan
Chairman, PKR Sarawak