KUALA LUMPUR - The Mahathir Mohamad government on Thursday (Oct 24) raised its offer to landowners of Kuala Lumpur's biggest Malay enclave of Kampung Baru, from the RM850 (S$277) made last month to RM1,000 per sq ft.
But many of those who are still holding out on selling appeared unimpressed with the better offer.
Successive prime ministers since Tun Dr Mahathir in the 1980s have eyed this piece of land, a stone's throw from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, for redevelopment but previous attempts to woo its owners have failed.
Landowners, who have until Nov 30 to respond to the offer, which was announced by Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad at a news conference on Thursday, will be paid RM850 per sq foot in cash.
The remaining RM150 will be in the form of shares in a special purpose vehicle (SPV) of the development project in Kampung Baru to be set up.
They will also be given a 15 per cent discount on properties in the new development.
A total of 1,371 landowners of the 2,500 who attended a townhall session last month have responded to the previous government offer, with 96 per cent agreeing to take it, said Mr Khalid.
But many of the respondents are not sole owners of their lots.
This has been the crux of the problem behind numerous failed redevelopment attempts in the area since the village there was founded as a Malay Agricultural Settlement (MAS) by the British colonial government in 1900.
Not only is there difficulty in getting consent from landowners, the situation is further compounded by Muslim inheritance laws that split the parcels into smaller plots, with many beneficiaries. Some of the lots can have up to 100 heirs.
Getting all the landowners, now numbering around 5,700, to allow the government to redevelop has proven to be impossible.
The issue is also a highly emotive one, as the village is historically significant, being the site for many political events and rallies.
In an attempt to allay fears that the government is pushing Malays away from the city centre, Mr Khalid said: "We want Kampung Baru landowners to remain here, and own shares. Accusations that we are pushing Malays out of Kampung Baru is not true."
In September, the minister had presented landowners with the option to sell their land in exchange for cash, or a completed house, a combination of cash and a house, or becoming a shareholder in the project.
Kampung Baru landowner Shahrom Mohd Harun, who was at the press briefing on Thursday, said: "We need to have a full explanation on how the shares option will work. This is something that has got to be clear."
Mohd Farid Rahmat, who owns a portion of the house he lives in in Kampung Baru, said the latest offer was "still too low".
"If I sell at that price, I need to rent a small flat far away from the city centre. I need to share with 10 other cousins. So, even if the land price is RM3 million, each person gets around RM270,000. It is not enough," he said, adding that the issue would cause family members to fight with each other.
"My cousins don't want to sell, most people I asked, none of them want to sell," he said.
MAS honorary secretary Shamsuri Suradi said: "Kampung Baru landowners are not interested about the offers to sell their properties. Landowners want the government to develop according to their needs, not the government's need. Money is not everything nor what the Malays value."
Spread over 90ha, slightly larger than Singapore's Botanic Gardens, Kampung Baru is a mix of old village houses and ageing apartments, a far cry from the swanky condominiums and gleaming office towers just across the narrow Klang River where a small condo unit sells for RM2 million.