Unused lands with federal interest should be transferred back to respective states

I WELCOME the recent suggestion by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that undeveloped state lands that have federal interest should be returned to the respective states within a period of three months.

Hundreds of acres of land allocated to the federal government for educational, health and recreational purposes have not been developed.

Most of the lands are lying idle covered by shrubs and secondary forest preventing the state governments from developing them. This is particularly so among states that have land shortage.

But these state lands with federal interest (kepentingan Kerajaan Pusat) cannot be developed without the approval of the federal government.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

In the past, given the fact that the federal government and some state governments were controlled by political coalitions on the opposite side of the political divide, it was near impossible to develop state lands with federal interest.

Even though such land was of no use to the federal government, there was no decision made regarding their development.

Penang is one example of a state that suffers from land shortage but there are state lands with federal interest without any prospect of development. Without the decision of the federal land authority, these lands will not be developed.

Recently, there was an application by a state agency for the development of eight parcels of land in Penang, both the island and the mainland. Some of these land parcels are situated in prime lucrative commercial centres in Penang.

But unfortunately, the agency was refused the ownership the land because of the prevailing federal interest.

The Penang state has requested the land department to look into the matter with the objective of getting approval from the federal government.

In this respect, the decision by Anwar to return the lands with federal interest is something timely and appropriate.

Perhaps a Cabinet decision in this direction might be most appropriate to hasten the process of land transfers.

Speeding up the transfer of undeveloped lands with federal interest to the respective states might be good for development especially states under the duress of land shortage.

However, if the federal government needs some of these lands, then the states must be informed.

Years of indecision, political rivalry between the two layers of the government and others have impacted negatively on development.

Anwar’s decision to transfer lands with federal interests has come at the most opportune time. Hopefully, both the federal government and the state authorities will give effect to Anwar’s decision. – Jan 21, 2023


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: Sahabat Alam Malaysia

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