Malaysian Church fights govt land acquisition
The case was initially supposed to be heard on Sept 19 but was postponed to Sept 24 and later to Oct 10.
The postponements were apparently to allow the various parties to resolve the matter out of court, according to the Malaysian Catholic weekly, Herald.
The case involves the government trying to take over part of the land where St Thomas Church and Sekolah Menengah St Thomas (St Thomas Secondary School) are located.
The Herald quoted parish priest, Fr Mitchel Anthony Joseph, saying in a statement that the current Sekolah Menengah St Thomas was established in 1956 on land purchased by a priest, Fr Anthony Duvelle, in 1910.
The school’s administration was under the patronage of the Marist Brothers and later the Brothers of St Gabriel up to 1996 when the administration was handed over to the government but not ownership of the land.
It was also agreed then, that the Ministry of Education would build another school at a new site.
Fr Joseph said that “as there was no progress on the relocation of the school, the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, as the legal owner of the land wrote to the Ministry of Education and the various educational authorities at state as well as federal level, on July 16, 2008, expressing our intention to take back the land where the school is located not more later than December 31, 2012”.
Fr Joseph noted that “out of the blue, we received a notice from JKPTG” [the government’s arm for land acquisition] on June 21 on the government’s proposed acquisition.
“We have set up a legal team and will file a notice to challenge the acquisition at the High Court,” he said.
The Herald reported that Archbishop Murphy Pakiam has written a letter stating that “the government action comes as a shock. We feel it is unfair to the church. This action in essence deprives the St Thomas Church of the school’s facilities for religious classes and the church development plans for Catholics in Kuantan”.