The Malaysian Insider
By Clara Chooi
IPOH, Dec 8 — The Perak PKR has threatened to call in the graft busters on the Perak government if Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir fails to stop the practice of giving land meant for the poor to rich Umno cronies.
Its vice-chairman Chang Lih Kang revealed recently that 10 plots of land under the planned Sungai Itek village programme were allocated especially for members in the Gopeng Umno division.
He said a list obtained from the district land office showed that a special quota of land plots was apportioned for the division members and village chiefs as those selected to be participants under the programme.
Also in the same list were the names of identified squatters in the area as well as the poor and landless who had already been interviewed by the district land office.
Of the total 127 plots, 35 were allocated to squatters, 52 to interviewed participants, 10 to Umno Gopeng division members, and the remainder to village chiefs.
Their names will be displayed for 14 days until Dec 13 at the district land office as participants under the programme to give time for objections to be made before the list is finalised.
“What we do not understand here is why there is a quota for Umno members when there are so many others in the constituency who are poor and need the land,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Chang said that those who were listed in the Umno quota were already well-off and did not need the land.
“I do not know if this is common practice in all the other districts to allocate a special quota to Umno members but this is not the way things should be done.
“Many of those who had appealed for the plots were turned away although they should have been qualified to receive them,” he said.
Chang said that under such planned village programmes, a 30 per cent quota of the total land plots would be allocated to the government to distribute to the poor.
“This should be given out to the poor and for the purpose of squatter relocation. But in this case, it is clear that some of the plots are simply being given to Umno cronies,” he said.
He urged Zambry to review the state government’s land policies to ensure that such a practice was stopped for good.
“If he fails to do this, I will lodge a report to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC),” he said.
Chang added that he would check to see if the plots of land under the Sungai Itek planned village programme were actually given to the Umno cronies after the objection period this Dec 13.
“If they are approved, we will lodge a report with the MACC for corruption and abuse of power,” he said.
He told The Malaysian Insider today that he had not been the one to decide on who would get the plots of land.
“Naturally when there are schemes like this, there is nothing wrong for us to apply for the land. However, it is up to the district land office concerned to make the decision on who should get it,” he said.
He added that as the Gopeng Umno division chief, he too had a duty to serve the rakyat in the constituency.
“I was bidding for that plot of land so that I can be closer to the constituents there and help the people,” he said.
Hamzah insisted that he had no power over the decisions made by the district’s land committee and hence had no say over who should get land.
“Naturally we would put in our applications and it is up to them to select whomever they see as qualified. There is nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Hamzah’s words were however contrary to the information that The Malaysian Insider obtained from district land officer Ahmad Kamaruzzaman Hamzah later today.
According to Ahmad Kamaruzzaman, the plots of land were not meant to be used for the personal interests of those listed under the quota for the Umno members and the village chiefs.
When questioned by The Malaysian Insider, a surprised sounding Ahmad Kamaruzzaman said that the quota was created because those in it were supposed to help the district land office to identify the truly poor and landless.
“I asked them for help and this is why the quota was created. It is not for their personal use. They are supposed to help us locate those who are really poor and need the land,” he said.
He added that although interviews were conducted to identify the poor, not many interviewees were truthful of their economic situations.
“This is why we enlisted the help of these locals because they would know better than us,” he said.