Thursday, May 29, 2008

Conversion possible only after land returned to state - The Star

Conversion possible only after land returned to state

GEORGE TOWN: May 29, 2008

Leaseholders of state land must "return" their properties to the state before the land can be converted into freehold status or the lease extended.

The National Land Code (NLC) states that all land matters come under the state's purview but it is silent on the issue of land conversion and lease extensions, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said.

"Legally, we can do it but it must be in accordance with NLC procedures. As there are no NLC provisions on the matter, we have to consider all conversion and lease extension applications as a new land alienation application.

"Before we can give you a fresh title, you need to return the land to us," he said, admitting that there was no "black and white" guarantee that once the land was transferred back to the state, it would be returned to the owner.

"We have already made the announcement in the media so I assure you that we will not backtrack on the policy after you have given us back the land. To make things easier and more systematic, we will make sure that all necessary forms are available at the Land and District Office by June 15," he said, adding that this was the Penang Pakatan Rakyat government's policy.

"There will not be a snap election in the state, so don't worry. We will implement this policy," he said, adding that the process would take between three to six months, depending on the number of applicants.

"How long is not important. What is more important is the policy which will benefit the people and the state," he said.

He was speaking to reporters Thursday after witnessing the swearing in of six staff members from the chief minister's department in Komtar. Also present was state Land and Mines Department director Arifin Awang.

Arifin noted that almost all the leasehold industrial land in Prai and Bayan Lepas were given 60-year leases.

"The majority of these companies have only about 30 years left on their lease so the new policy will definitely benefit them," he said.

On Saturday Lim had urged residential leasehold landowners to apply to the state government to convert the government land into freehold status for a premium payment.

The land premium price would be calculated based on the difference between the freehold land price and the property's current market price.

The new land policy, would allow 30-year, 60-year or 99-year residential leasehold land be converted into freehold land on a case-by-case basis

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