Land Law – or Lost Land?

Just yesterday the Selangor Government has opened investigations into allegations of massive land cheating cases in the state. Malaysian land law is based on the Australian Torrens system. Under the law, a person who bought a piece of land in good faith is allowed to keep it, regardless of whether the land was fraudulently sold to him.

One of the most famous case is the Boonsom Boonyanit case whereby a Thai woman lost two pieces of land in Tanjung Bungah, Penang, to Adorna Properties after unscrupulous parties forged her signature to sell and transfer the land. The argument was that Adorna Properties is an innocent buyer with “an indefeasible title to the land.”

The Star further states that land scams usually involve syndicates working with the help of staff from the land and district offices. Computerised land registration systems did not solve the land fraud problem as the syndicates used insiders to help forge land titles resulting in the lost of millions of ringgit.

The argument of Boonsom Boonyanit do not seem convincing as it shows that a forged land title is able to defeat the original owner’s ‘indefeasible’ land title. This would indirectly mean that an individual’s right of ownership is being threaten as people could forge the land title and transfer ownership of any land to an innocent third party.

Land law is similar to laws regulating copyrights and intellectual property. Both copyrights and intellectual property works as an incentive to make people invent and innovate existing goods and services with the knowledge that their creation is being protected by the law.

Steve Jobs would not have invented the iPod only to have his creation copied exactly the same way a few months later. Should the Malaysian Land Law be weak in terms of governance, foreigners and the local inhabitants would be wary to purchase any land in Malaysia. Why purchase something that might be stolen with a few strokes of a pen? Laws should be used as an incentive to encourage the welfare of the economy and the people instead of being used as a tool for illegal business dealings.

Facts – BBC

  • Full name: Federation of Malaysia
  • Population: 26.6 million (UN, 2007)
  • Capital: Kuala Lumpur
  • Area: 329,847 sq km (127,355 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese dialects, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam
  • Major religions: Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism
  • Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 77 years (women)
  • Monetary unit: 1 ringgit = 100 sen
  • Main exports: Electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, chemicals, palm oil, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles
  • GNI per capita: US $4,960 (World Bank, 2006)
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