Show fortitude in leading Johor, Khaled Nordin tells MB

Ben Tan
Mohamed Khaled (pic) said it was time Osman stood up and be counted, instead of remaining silent and agreeing with decisions made by the federal government. — Picture by Hari Anggara

JOHOR BARU, Aug 28 ― Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said he wants Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian to state his stand on the issue concerning foreigners not being allowed to buy real estate in Forest City.

Mohamed Khaled said it was time Osman stood up and be counted, instead of remaining silent and agreeing with decisions made by the federal government.

“There is an urgent need for the Johor mentri besar to state his stand on this matter.

“The previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government was very consistent in defending the development of Forest City despite the criticisms from various parties, especially from Johor Pakatan Harapan (PH),” said Mohamed Khaled in a statement today.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was quoted as saying that Malaysia will not allow foreigners to buy residential units in the US$100-billion Forest City project in Johor.

He declared that foreigners will not be granted visas to live in the Forest City development.

“One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners,” Dr Mahathir said at a media conference.

Mohamed Khaled reminded Osman that the state government linked company (GLC) Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor Berhad (KPRJ), that is chaired by the latter, also holds interest in the Forest City project.

“Johor needs a mentri besar for the state and not one that serves the interests of Kuala Lumpur,” said the 59-year-old former Johor mentri besar.

Mohamed Khaled also criticised yesterday’s statement by Dr Mahathir as being driven by political sentiment and not led by objective policy considerations.

He said Umno’s public policy council is of the opinion that it is important to make decisions concerning foreign property ownership in a clear and organised manner.

“First of all, the decision to curb ownership of property by foreigners is not a foreign policy to the government.

“Many countries including developed countries like New Zealand have introduced such a policy. However, it is implemented clearly and well-organised and in a constitutional manner.

“It is not a sudden announcement that only deals with a particular property project and the government appears to have taken action that may be considered discrimination against property development in Forest City,” said Mohamed Khaled.

Mohamed Khaled also cautioned the government that restricting the ownership of property by foreigners should not be exclusive to Johor only.

On the contrary, he said it should reflect the government's general policy on foreign property ownership in Malaysia as a whole.

“This cannot be done selectively as the government did not provide clarification on any new policy to be implemented to control property ownership by foreigners,” he said.

Mohamed Khaled said Dr Mahathir's statement yesterday was like the decision to not proceed with the Pedra Branca appeal and would certainly have been very favorable to Singapore, which was initially concerned over the sustainability of the project.

“In fact, some parties in Singapore have publicly criticised the implementation of the project and spread doubts about its success.

“As such, the government must be able to produce clear and sound grounds that the moves are intended to safeguard the interests of Johor and Malaysia, and not Singapore,” he said.

Mohamed Khaled also expressed his concern that if the decision to restrict property ownership by foreigners in Forest City continues, this would inhibit the country’s economic growth, especially for Johor.

He said Johor is a state that has seen massive property development and has been involved in leading global industrial players from China.

“The move to prevent foreigners from owning property will create a housing glut in Johor. The failure to sell these high-valued properties will undoubtedly put pressure on Johor’s economy and its growth,” he said.

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