Call for change in 50-year land lease system

National 2 minutes, 44 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

Members want lease to be converted into ownership

REPRESENTATIVES of the state from all four districts yesterday questioned the Minister of Development on the issue of ownership of land deeds which were acquired through a leasing period of 50 years during State Legislative Council yesterday.

The representatives of the state said that this system had been around since the administration of the British Resident and the government should consider revising the system so that the 50-year lease can be converted into permanent ownership.

According to Hj Sulaiman Hj Arshad, the state representative of Temburong District, some of these land ownership deeds were granted to the owners through the recommendations of lower officers of the British Resident administration.

He added that the old system creates many complications and confusions especially for those who are unable or incapable of renewing their leases for another 50 years due to low income.

The representatives added that the ministry should realise that due to low income the owners are unable to renew their leases for another 50 years even with the current monthly payment for seven years which is also quite high for them.

With the revision of the system, the representatives added, land owners will only have to pay the annual land tax.

The issue was raised by the representatives as some have questioned the state's decision to grant permanent ownership of land to those with Temporarily Owned Land (TOL) which according to the government ideally should be used for development purposes.

The minister in a bid to clarify the situation said that it is a common misconception that land ownership was granted by the British Resident during its administration and that land ownership was claimed by Bruneians by the previous state legislative council members.

Land ownership was granted to the owners as a means for them to carry out economical activities such as stated in the land grants.

However, the government soon realised that most of these land owners are not using the lands as stated in the deeds instead are using the land as speculative instruments. There are instances where the previous commissioner of land had said that land codes that were used at the time were duplicated from the British Resident without proper safeguards.

Therefore, the minister added, what has happened was that a few uneducated were ready to pawn off their land in the hope of getting profit in terms of loans or putting them up as collateral for loans.

Not knowing the consequences of these actions, he said , many have defaulted which in turn resulted in the loss of the rights to the lands which have now been sold off.

He said the government has discovered that when it tried to reclaim the land for development purposes it had to acquire the land by purchasing at much higher price.

What the government realised then was that the system that was in place at that time was not protecting the best interest of the government (meaning people and most importantly the future generations).

In view of this problem, he said a new system was introduced in the early 50s which is the leasing system so that the land will no longer be used as a speculative instrument which is being practised even to this day.

The Brunei Times