In February 1948, our first National Laureate, Keris Mas, wrote Menjual Tanah Air. It is a story of a local leader who colluded with a Jewish agent from Singapore to transfer ownership of Malay Reservation land, rich in tin, to an European company.
The deal was done. Poor villagers were displaced as the company grabbed their land. The closing scene was of the local leader, Datuk Penghulu Muhammad Syah, attending the funeral of the protagonist Amir (who had tried in vain to stop the scheme) in his new car delivered from Singapore.
This story is fiction. However, writers like Keris Mas are sharp observers and critics of society. Their writings contain important lessons for us all. Seventy-one years after Keris Mas wrote this story, his concerns and worry still ring true. Eerily true.
This concerns a statement from a former minister about selling Malaysian property to rich foreigners from China and Hong Kong.
To me, selling Malaysian property to foreigners is not in our interests and is a dangerous idea.
Firstly, it will jeopardise our sovereignty. History demonstrated that British colonialism started with foreign settlements in Penang.
At first they leased, then they forcefully acquired. Finally, the whole country became their colony. The lesson here is that facilitating foreigners to own property in Malaysia is a dangerous route to take.
It is true that many Malaysians cannot afford decent housing. However, encouraging foreigners to access the Malaysian property market will only further limit our ability to own homes. The Australian housing market had proven this.
Chinese buyers — with their higher purchasing power — had increased the prices of real estate in Australia, making them beyond the reach of ordinary Australians.
This glut of high-end property is the fault of the developers themselves. They decided to cater to a market that does not exist, ignoring the needs of the Malaysian masses. Now they are saddled with unsold properties.
The developers should try to woo the Malaysian upper crust to buy these properties. Alternatively, they can bring the price down to a level that’s more affordable for Malaysians.
If the developers refuse, they can keep the properties and risk further devaluation.
Why must property remain in Malaysian hands? Independence without land (real estate) ownership means very little.
That is why the fourth prime minister and his team embarked on the Dawn Raid mission in 1981, to regain ownership of land held by foreigners. Independence and sovereignty ring hollow if we do not own the land.
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