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Plan to reacquire Kamunting hits snag

KUALA LUMPUR, 3 Nov 2008: The Perak state government’s plan to reacquire the land where the Kamunting detention centre is situated from the federal government may experience hiccups, said law experts.

Universiti Teknologi Mara’s professor of law Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi told The Nut Graph that reacquiring Kamunting is not feasible.

Shad said that Articles 83 to 86 of the Federal Constitution grant the federal government the authority to refuse a state’s request to acquire land under its power.

“It is not feasible for the Perak government to acquire the Kamunting land, since the Articles in the constitution clearly provide the edge to the federal government,” he said.

Shad also said the Articles clearly declare that it is up to the federal government to release the land to the state government.

The idea to reacquire the land from the federal government was mooted by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on 24 Sept as part of his “road map” to abolishing the Internal Security Act (ISA).

On 5 Oct, Perak state executive councillor A Sivanesan said that the Pakatan Rakyat-led Perak government would look into the legal avenues to see how the state could reclaim the land alienated to the federal government to build the camp.

The state, he said, would look into the Land Acquisition Act to see how it could order the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to move the camp out.

In a report on 8 Oct, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar scoffed at the suggestion to relocate Kamunting, saying that properties under federal jurisdiction cannot be easily taken back by the state.

Lawyer Derek Fernandez, an expert in local government and town planning law, said while there is no provision in the Act that prohibits the state from acquiring land from the federal government, it depends on the nature of the agreement between them. Attempts to find out the status of the Kamunting land from Perak Legal Advisor Datuk Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid were futile.

Fernandez however agreed that Articles 83 to 86 of the Federal Constitution may hamper the Perak government’s effort.

“The state government cannot acquire the land if the grant of the land is given to the federal government for a public purpose which is in the national interest,” he said.

But this point is open for interpretation.

“The question is whether the existence of Kamunting [camp] is in the national interest,” Fernandez said.



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