(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday, seem a distinct improvement from the present law but the public should be given at least one month to scrutinise the proposals and to give feedback and reactions before Parliament debates and enacts it into law
Anwar told reporters after the 53rd National Land Council meeting yesterday that the proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act 1960 would tighten the implementation process to make it more transparent and prevent indiscriminate acquisitions and corrupt practices by decision-makers.
Anwar said under the proposal, land identified for acquisitions by State Governments would be referred to the State Economic Planning Unit (EPU) or the Federal Land Committee in the case of Federal Territory, before they are acquired.
The State EPU or the Federal Committee would then discuss with the landowners the plans and development programmes proposed by the developer or the Government.
If the landowner agrees, he would be given a chance to be jointly involved in the development of the project. Within a specified period, the State EPUís proposal would be submitted to a special committee chaired by the State Secretary before being taken to the State Executive Council for a decision. The final decision vests in the Mentri Besar and the State Exco.
Although Anwar said these proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act are designed to avoid abuse of power or any other forms of corruption in the decision-making process and to ensure justice and to give the option to landowners to participate in development projects, the public should be given time to study these proposals and to give their views and reactions for the governmentís consideration before they are debated by Parliament and enacted into law.
The public may have better views as to how the Land Acquisition Act could be amended to more effectively ensure justice to landowners from abuses of power and deprivation of their constitutional right to property, including for instance, a higher rate for compensation for land earmarked for acquisition for private or commercial development as compared to land acquired for public purpose such as for building schools, hospitals, police stations or fire stations.
Furthermore, after the gross abuses of the Land Acquisition Act which resulted in nation-wide uproar and the issue of a directive by the Federal Government to all State Governments to stop acquiring land for commercial purposes, the public must be fully assured that all possible loopholes for abuses of power and the deprivation of the constitutional right to property of landowners are plugged.
For this reason, Parliamentary debate on the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill should be deferred to the July meeting of Parliament, although the Bill should be made public immediately and could even be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in the current meeting for first reading.