Putrajaya not seeking more say on land rights, says minister

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar.

KUALA LUMPUR: The federal government has no intention of seeking a constitutional amendment to give it more say on land rights, Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar said.

He said land rights had been promised to the state governments as part of an agreement during independence.

“We are engaging all the states in regards to land use and maybe set an SOP (standard operating procedure) to safeguard the interests of the states as well as individuals,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.

He said the SOP would only be a guideline for states to use before degazetting land for other purposes and was not “binding”.

On reforms to the National Forestry Act 1984, the Kuala Langat MP said these were in the pipeline.

He said the reforms were mostly related to enforcement and punitive action against those who trespassed forests illegally and those who carried out illegal logging.

The proposed amendments to the Act would be brought to Parliament next March, he said.

This comes on the back of the Sungai Pulai golf course controversy which saw the de-gazettement of part of the Sungai Pulai mangrove reserve and protected wetlands in Johor to make way for a golf course and hotel project.

Xavier said investigations into the matter by his ministry had ended and the Johor government had reassured Putrajaya there would not be any more “intrusions”.

He said the status of the part of the mangrove reserve where the golf course was located “definitely is no more a mangrove reserve” and that the state government was most probably the owner of the land.

Activists had raised the alarm over the opening of the first of three golf courses by a foreign company, which they claim was within the Sungai Pulai mangrove reserve in Gelang Patah, a well-known riverine mangrove system.

Sources close to the issue told FMT the first golf course and hotel project, which opened its doors to the public late last year and reportedly cost RM2 billion, encroached on the Sungai Pulai Ramsar site as well.