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New village dwellers seek permanent solution to land issues

KUALA LUMPUR: When Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak announced that residents of Chinese new villages will be given assistance under the 10th Malaysia Plan, many thought it would be in the form of infrastructure development.

Instead, the Prime Minister revealed that the government would provide soft loans with an initial fund of RM100 million to assist the villagers to pay their land premiums and renewals of leasehold.

For those who have been living in these villages for at least three decades, it was a good gesture by the government.

"The RM100 million allocation to help villagers renew their land titles is a good sign. It is the first time such assistance is being given to Chinese new villages," MCA veteran leader Datuk Yap Pian Hon said.

Yap, a former Selangor executive councillor in charge of new villages, said there were about 452 new villages throughout the country with 280,000 households.

"In term of population, there are about 1.8 million people staying in these villages. The largest is in Seri Kembangan which has 2,200 households," he said.

Seri Kembangan, formerly known as the Serdang New Village, had since mid-1990s turned into a vibrant business hub with prominent developments nearby which include among others, the Taman Equine township and the Pasar Borong Selangor.

Yap, who was born and still residing in the new village, said the government need to pay more attention to new villages, saying there were no proper development plans for these villages.

"It is important for the government to follow up on the New Village Master Plan that was prepared by the Housing and Local Government Ministry in 2002, which remained only on paper until today," he said.

According to Yap, the main issue for the villagers was about the land titles as most villagers were given a lot of between 3,000 and 6,000 sq ft each either on a 30, 60 or 99 years leasehold.

"The government should consider converting the title to a freehold status or amend the National Land Code to create a single policy on new village land which the premium should not be based on market price as it would not be fair to the poor," he said.

Though welcoming the soft loan initiative, many villagers hoped that the government would seriously look into finding a permanent solution to their land issues.

"We have been staying in these villages for almost three generations, yet the land is still on leasehold. Why not consider giving us a freehold (status)?" sighed Yap Wee Leong, a resident in Balakong New Village.

Wee Leong, 46, a businessman, said residents had been working hard to pay the premium especially when the rates were raised in recent years.

"We have been paying premiums of about 50 cent psf for 60 years lease or 2.50 psf for 99 years. But now we have been asked to pay land premium based on the market rate, which is easily 10 times higher. We fear that the rates will go up again in future," he said.

He explained that the villagers had no intention of moving out, and wanted to stay there for as long as possible.

"Why can't there be a standard premium based on flat rate for the renewal of land lease in all new villages instead of based on market value?" he asked.

Self-employed Ching Toong Kang, 44, said he was informed that the government allocated between RM30 and RM60 million annually for 452 new villages throughout the country for infrastructure development such as road and drainage.

However, Chin, who is a former village development and security committee (JKKK) chairman for Seri Kembangan New Village said the amount was insufficient to improve the infrastructure of 452 new villages throughout the country.

There are 135 new villages in Perak, Johor (83), Pahang (56), Negeri Sembilan (44) and Selangor (42). Others are in Kedah (33), Kelantan (24), Melaka (19), Penang (9), Federal Territory (3), Terengganu (3) and Perlis (1). -- Bernama
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