Saturday January 12, 2013
Church gets to keep land after Governmentt withdraws acquisition application
By SIMON KHOO
KUANTAN: The St Thomas Church here will get to keep its land after the Government decided to withdraw its acquisition.
Datuk Bastian Vendargon, acting for Rev Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, said Justice Mariana Yahya issued the consent order in her chambers after senior federal counsel Kamal Azira Hassan informed the court of the Government’s decision to withdraw the application.
“The respondents have agreed to withdraw the acquisition of the land pursuant to Section 35(1) of the Land Acquisition Act 1960.
“On our part, we will not seek any other costs or order against the respondents,” he said when met outside the courtroom.
On Nov 16 last year, the High Court granted leave to the Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur to challenge the Government’s decision to acquire a part of the St Thomas Church land.
The Archbishop had named the Education Ministry and the Pahang Land and Mines Department director as respondents in his suit to quash the Government’s decision.
Lawyers Wong Fook Yong, Gene Anand Vendargon and Annemarie Vendargon also represented the Archbishop.
St Thomas parish priest Rev Father Mitchel Anthony hailed the decision of the Government to withdraw the acquisition process.
“The fact that we have been allowed to come this far shows there is an increase in confidence and independence of the judiciary.
“This is a positive sign for the country and the people in voicing out and fighting for our constitutional rights,” he said.
Rev Mitchel also expressed his gratitude to all parties for giving their support to the church on the matter.
He said they would proceed to develop the land for church use and give the school time to relocate.
On June 21 last year, the Land Office issued a notice to the church to acquire 0.704ha or 56% of the total land area for the upgrading of the existing SM St Thomas in Jalan Gambut.
Subsequently, the church committee filed a notice to challenge the acquisition at the Kuantan High Court.
The SM St Thomas was established by Rev Father Louis Guittat in 1956 on the church land which it purchased in 1910.
In the beginning, the school’s administration was under the patronage of the Marist Brothers and later, the Brothers of St Gabriel.
In 1996, it was agreed that the administration of the school be handed over to the Government but not the ownership of the land.
The Archbishop wrote a letter to the Education Ministry in 2008, stating the church’s intention to reclaim the land by the end of last year.