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Changing land titles: Of ‘long stories’ and anomalies

ONE of the great mysteries of urban development and local governance is how land titles change. Such is the case of a plot in Taman Aman, Petaling Jaya, that was once classified as open space and a utility reserve but is now in the hands of a developer.

A proposed 18-unit, three-storey terrace housing development has been approved on this piece of land which is located next to the Paramount LRT station. That land, identified as Lot PT11, allegedly belongs to Sri Aman Development Sdn Bhd.

I have said that the land title was suspect because it was for an area originally demarcated as open space. The developer came forward with copies of their own land title to show that the land really belonged to them and explained that they inherited the land title when they bought over a Tanda Baik Sdn Bhd in 1992.

Meanwhile, Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the land was never open space to begin with but declined to elaborate how the land title was given to the developer. He said, “It is a long story but the land was never officially gazetted as open space.”

I will agree that this matter is a long story, so let’s get started.

Anomaly

Attachment-A_thumb

(click to view land title)

The Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) had on 12 Aug 1993 approved a layout plan for Tanda Baik but made no reference whatsoever to any land title. This is an anomaly because the officers scrutinising the plans must ensure that the project conforms to the size and boundaries stated within the land title.

(click to view full-sized image)

(click to view letter)

In the letter accompanying this layout plan, it states that the project was approved by MPPJ but makes no mention as to which council meeting this approval came from.

Approval for any development must be granted after the matter is deliberated at a local council meeting and the decision endorsed at the council’s Full Board meeting at the end of the month. Neither the council president nor the town planning department director who signed this letter have the authority to approve a project.

Confused government

Attachment C

The 22 Sept 1995 Selangor government gazette

Where the land was not identified previously, a Selangor government gazette dated 22 Sept 1995 identifies a Lot PT11 and PT12 as both State Land and Open Space. That same gazette also converts Lot PT11 and PT12 for use as an LRT transmission line and a station.

But later, the Selangor government contradicts itself in a gazette dated 13 Mar 2003 where it declared that Lots PT9, PT10 and PT11 would be acquired from the owner, Tanda Baik, for the purpose of ‘Projek Perumahan Rakyat’ or a public housing project.

The contradictory

The contradictory gazette favouring Tanda Baik

Regardless of which gazette we take as the valid one, both gazettes invalidate the developer’s ownership of the land as one says it is state land while another says that the land is to be acquired from the developer for the purpose of building a public housing project.

TNB reserve

To add to the confusion, there is also a TNB transmission line running through Lot PT11 parallel to the Putra LRT line. Since Lot PT11 is presently unoccupied, people have sometimes used the place as a dumping ground.

letter

Letter by TNB officer

But instead of the developer responding to prevent trespassers on the land, those who came by were TNB officers who promptly issued a warning letter to one of the contractors.

In the warning letter, TNB identifies the area as Menara 10-11-12 and that the area is “…di dalam / bersebelahan rezab talian penghantaran voltan tinggi TNB” (in or next to a reserve land for high voltage TNB cables). The letter also notes that the contractors’ activities there — earth works within 30 metres of a pylon — was done without TNB consent.

The thing is, the land cannot be both a TNB reserve and privately-owned land.

Dubious land title

Hakmilik batal

“Hakmilik Batal”

Finally, we come to the Lot PT11 land title. That land title has the words “Hakmilik Batal” on the document, which means the land title was nullified. Of course, the developer got that land title subdivided anyway and provided copies to the residents for scrutiny.

On page 3 of each of these subdivided land titles is a small map. That map is supposed to be an extract of a larger survey map that you can find at the Survey Department.

Page 3

Page 3. Click here to download entire document (340 KB)

The map states that the survey was done using the Akta Pelan dan Dokumen Tanah dan Lombong (Salinan Fotograf) 1953 (Semakan 1980).

That particular Act is used to survey areas that will be used for mining. But since the land was going to be used for development, the correct law that should have been applied for surveying this piece of land is the Licensed Land Surveyors Act 1958.

Further evidence

There is one more piece of evidence which supports why this land should not be given a title for development.

Lot PT11 seen from a distance

Lot PT11 seen from a distance, next to the TNB pylon. The land covers a river/drain running to Taman Aman

The law does not permit water bodies to be sold, nor are you supposed to build on top of a drain or river. The land is also right next to a transmission line pylon.

I have maps from 1968 that show a body of water on the area where the developer claims the land to be theirs. Regardless of the evidence in my possession, a simple site visit shows signs of a water body on Lot PT11. There is a drain or small river running through it with earth covering this waterway that feeds the Taman Aman pond.

Prof

Professor Isahak Harun shows the site of Lot PT11. His house in the background was purchased in 1972, when the area now claimed by the developer was still a pond. All pics in this post are courtesy of KW Mak

Why is it so hard to get the authorities to investigate? Why is this issue a “long story” but no effort is taken to explain the details of this long story?

We may never know the answer because the government is not known for explaining anything in detail to the public.

Here’s the thing; if the government insists that everything is above board and the project should continue, then the government should also tell TNB and Putra LRT to remove their structures. The Nut Graph


Former MBPJ councillor KW Mak was once asked why he was such a busybody in raising all these matters that had nothing to do with him. He replied, “I took an oath to serve the public.”

 

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12 Responses to “Changing land titles: Of ‘long stories’ and anomalies”

  1. Kong Kek Kuat says:

    @ KW Mak

    Let me be clear that I do not doubt your words in this column.

    I just find it quite hard to believe that the Selangor Govt isn´t taking note of the issues you have raised. But I am also saying this without any evidence in support of my doubts. What in the heck world was going on in Khalid´s mind when he made those statements? Could he or his polical secretary speak up? Please?

  2. TNG says:

    I have one word for all these….all politicians are the same. it does not matter whether they come from BN or PR. End of story.

  3. ellese says:

    My initial reaction is that I don’t want to read this article as its a local issue. I also know the area and of prof Ishak so I am supportive of the move against the development.

    But when I read the article, I think Mak has to better his articulation. He seems confused between planning laws and land laws. Planning laws do not affect the ownership of the land no matter how many transgressions one makes. In such a scenario one can be fined or the structure be demolished, but the ownership still remains intact. Thus if one renovates the house “gila-gila” without approval, one can have max fine etc but the person’s ownership of the land remains..

    Mak must develop a case of fraud under the land law. Under the land law the title is indefensible unless there’s fraud. His acknowledgement that long ago the state recognised the ownership of tanda baik is damaging to his write-up but be doesn’t know it. Its a pity.

    My suggestion is that he concerntrates on attacking the planning processes only. Get a planning lawyer to find the room for objection. Don’t mix up the issues as it denigrates the case. Many probably are not aware of the laws and may think there’s a major fraud. But sooner or later people will know the difference and affect the reputation of the case. Just like Lynas. It has become one major lie after another and the credibility is affected. What’s left are unthinking partisan supporters. Mak must be clear. The facts that he gave can also be read that the authorities have been denying tanda the right to develop for so long. In general the principle should be that one should be entitled to do unto his private land what he wants to do subject to such restriction applicable to all. Concentrate on planning laws like some of his statements above. Push MB to pass development rules applicable to all lake development. Don’t do a case by case basis so that at another area in Selangor people can benefit from it.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ ellese

      Normally, I’d agree with your assessment, but I have gone through this argument before with other lawyers so I’m just going to reply as follows:

      1. Any application of development to the local council requires the submission of land titles that are CERTIFIED TRUE COPIES. MBPJ could not release any such document to the resident.

      2. The developer also cannot produce a certified true copy of their land title AND they actually have several versions of those titles to the land in question, all of which are in my possession.

      If the land title is indefeasible, and there are several versions of it, which version is indefeasible?

      Regards.

      • neptunian says:

        This land title thingy is a legacy of the “corrupt” BN Govt. This mess will take a herculean effort to clear.

  4. ellese says:

    Dear Mak,

    I really suggest you don’t bank on indefensibility as there is nothing that shows fraud. Land titles may change from hak sementara to hak kekal. Or if there’s acquisition for public purposes there’s a separate title in the form of continuation of title. The IDT would indicate the previous title reference. What you have alluded in all these situations is that the title is still under Tanda Baik [but] no evidence of fraud was provided..

    To prove fraud, [evidence must be] of the highest degree. You must show at least some “collusion”, for example, that money was paid a long time ago that they obtained the title from the previous owner through fraudulent means. If it is new alienated land, it is more difficult to prove fraud as it is the state’s discretion to alienate land.

    So take a step back. Re articulate. I’m against development of the area. But if under the law if it belongs to one for a long period, don’t argue that it is not theirs. We restrict the development through the planning process. We need to balance with the inalienable private right to allow one to do he pleases over the land (subject to restriction generally applicable to all). All the best and good luck. Get the Selangor govt on your side. There are admin loopholes you should explore.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ ellese

      The documents – most of which were from the BN era – have been presented and they do not tell a coherent story of what the government actually did to arrive at the land titles.

      And I did explore administration rules. The rules don’t allow such a sale of land (Selangor Land Rules – automatic rejection for any application of land that is reserved for a purpose – drains, rivers, open spaces are reserved for a purpose).

      If the PR government wants to endorse everything as valid without explaining to the residents why, by all means. It just makes them hypocrites on their promise to be transparent and accountable (well, next you will tell me I should expect that from all politicians… haha).

      Aside from the dozen or so houses in the area, no one else would be affected by this issue, so the government can sweep it all under the carpet if it wants to. I just want to make that sweeping a little more difficult.

      Regards.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ KW Mak

      She is teaching the law, Mr. Mak, and how to write. Haha…

      • neptunian says:

        What law? If you are on the receiving end [...] from a public listed company, you will realise respect for the law is “zero”. Furthermore, the “law” will not protect you either.

        The owners and tenants at Kelana Square in Kelana Jaya are having that situation forced upon them even as I write. Even with the involvement of MPPJ, the developer, a public listed company has gone ahead [...] to enforce their will without any regards to the “law”.

        In a car park management dispute, the developer who claims to own the parking lots (parcel owner) both on surface and basement decided to:

        1. close off the parking lots [...]
        2. JMB then allows the residents to park along the open roadways while the dispute is on.
        3. [...] The developer wants to close off the basement [...]

        I am not sure what the JMB can do about this, since making police reports, or MPPJ reports does not seem to work! THE LAW.. don’t make me laugh!

        Editor’s note: The incident at Kelana Square referred to in the comment above was reported in this news report: http://fz.com/content/parking-dispute-creates-haphazard-environment

        • KW Mak says:

          @ neptunian

          Read the report the editor attached. If you are involved in the issue, do advise the JMC of the following:

          1. Get the plans that were mentioned by the mayor.

          2. In accordance with the claim that the car parks are private property, ask if the developer has been paying assessment fees and quit rent since the CF was issued.

          3. Also, water and electricity bills should be paid for separately. There should be a separate meter for both items to the parking lot.

          Regards.


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