Monday, October 25, 2021

Ex-minister Xavier says never told of CBN’s lease extension application

He says he would have approved the application if it had been brought to his attention, and urges the authorities to do so now.

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The former minister in charge of land today said he had not been informed of any application by Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) to renew its lease, following the recent announcement by the authorities that the lease for the 120-year old school would not be extended.

Xavier Jayakumar, who was the water, land and natural resources minister under the Pakatan Harapan government, said if the application by The Lady Superior of the Society of Saint Maur, which owns the lease of the land of the iconic school, had been brought to his attention, it would have been approved.

“It is my opinion, however, that the lease be extended as this school has not only proven to be a school of excellence and immense service to the country in education, but also because of the immense history that this 122-year-old institution and building holds,” he said in a statement.

This comes after Federal Territory Land and Mines director Muhammad Yasir Yahya assured that the school would not be demolished as earlier feared.

But more questions were raised over his explanation that the land was reverted to the authorities in order to ensure that the school received full government aid.

The school’s 60-year lease is slated to end in September.

It is understood that an application for extension was submitted to the land office on Oct 4, 2017, but a reply was only received on Dec 18, 2020, to state that the lease would not be renewed.

Following growing criticism of the decision, Yasir said the Federal Territory Land Executive Committee had transferred ownership of the land to the federal land commissioner, adding that the school would benefit more from the move.

But town planning expert Derek Fernandez questioned the reasoning, as well as the involvement of the land office.

“Normally the FT land and mines office does not get involved in such type of public deliberations nor does it make such policy decisions. Such policy decisions are made by the Cabinet after input from the relevant ministers as they involve the continued role of mission schools in Malaysia,” he wrote in MalaysiaNow today.

He also urged Yasir to state whether he had informed the school of the benefits it would get if it gave up the land.

“Was such a letter issued or were there various meetings held to explain the situation to the school as would be expected of the government when dealing with a 120-year-old school of national reputation?” he asked.

Xavier meanwhile said he hoped the government would renew the school’s land lease while extending all financial support and benefits.

He called for a special committee to deliberate on the extension of land leases involving missionary schools.

“It is my opinion, however, that the lease be extended. SMK Convent Bukit Nanas and its buildings must be preserved as a heritage site as it predates even the independence of our country and it should be done with the full support of the government,” he added.

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