Malaysia’s PM to halt visas for Forest City foreign buyers

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. (AFP)
Updated 28 August 2018
0

Malaysia’s PM to halt visas for Forest City foreign buyers

  • “We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here,” Mahathir said
  • Mahathir was not in favor of what he considers to be expensive extraterritorial enclaves populated mostly by foreigners

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad on Tuesday declared that the government will not issue visas to foreign buyers in Malaysia.

This followed an earlier remark regarding the barring of foreigners from purchasing homes at the upscale eco Forest City near Singapore.

“Purchase of properties, however, does not guarantee automatic residency in the country,” Mahathir said in a press statement on Tuesday. He added that Malaysia imposes certain conditions on property bought by foreigners.

Mahathir told reporters on Monday that Forest City “cannot be sold to foreigners,” saying that he was against the idea. “We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here,” Mahathir said.

“Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not meant for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats,” he said.

However, Malaysia’s Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr. Xavier Jayakumar’s told Parliament recently that the government’s decision to continue allowing foreign buyers to own freehold property in Forest City was in accordance with the ruling issued by the National Land Council in 2014.

Country Garden’s Chairman Yeung Kwok Keung said in a statement on Monday that Mahathir’s remarks “may have been taken out of context” as his comments were not in line with the discussion at a closed-door meeting between them recently. 

“This must be a new policy proclamation, which the new government has the right to enact,” Dr. Oh Ei Sun, Malaysian political scientist, told Arab News, adding that foreigners can buy residences in Malaysia over $250,000 according to Malaysia’s previous housing policy.

Ever since his campaigning days and after coming to power, the Malaysian premier has not been in favor of such luxury homes for foreigners and has wanted those homes to be made affordable to local buyers instead, Dr. Oh said.

“Mahathir was not in favor of what he considers to be expensive extraterritorial enclaves populated mostly by foreigners, at a time when there is an affordable housing crisis domestically,” he said.

Developed by the Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings Co, Forest City is a futuristic, massive-scale $100 billion real property project located in the state of Johore, which is separated from Singapore by the Johore Strait.

The ambitious project was envisaged to house 700,000 residents in four man-made islands, about three times the size of Singapore’s Sentosa island.

On the company’s website, it has been trying to attract foreign buyers more than Malaysians for sales of apartments: “Forest City will offer wealthy international buyers luxury homes, the most advanced 3D multi-layered urban planning concept, flush green surroundings with no vehicles traveling.”

“Sales at many of these similar projects have been stalling in recent months due to China’s tightened currency control measures barring large amounts from going overseas,” Dr. Oh said. Developers have been launching huge marketing campaigns mostly in China, he said.

Last year, 70 percent of apartments were purchased by Chinese nationals, 20 percent by Malaysians and the rest from 22 other countries including neighboring Asian nations. However, the development of Forest City has been slow as only a fraction of the planned reclaimed land of 20 sq km was built.

In the heated reaction following Mahathir’s foreign-buyer ban remark, the government reiterated that it welcomes “foreign direct investment that contributes to the transfer of technology, provides employment for locals and the setting up of industries.”

The government also reassured tourists from China that the government welcomes “all tourists including from China” and is looking at attracting 10 million Chinese nationals for tourism in the coming years. 


Media urged to deny Christchurch shooting accused the publicity he seeks

Updated 44 min 37 sec ago
0

Media urged to deny Christchurch shooting accused the publicity he seeks

  • “We’re just going to be very careful we don’t become a platform for any kind of extremist agenda,” say Radio New Zealand chief
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier urged the public not to speak the gunman's name to deny the infamy he wants

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: The media has been urged to stop naming the man charged with the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch last week that left 50 people dead.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that she would never speak his name. In a speech to parliament, she urged the public to follow suit and deny the gunman the infamy he wants.
“I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them,” she added. “He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name.”
Arden said the media can “play a strong role” in limiting coverage of extreme views such as his.
“Of course, people will want to know what is happening with the trial,” she said. “But I would hope there are ways that it could be covered without adding to the notoriety that this individual seeks.
“But the one thing I can assure you – you won’t hear me speak his name.”
The man accused of the mass shootings has so far been charged with one count of murder, but New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush has said further charges will be brought against him. The man said in a manifesto posted online shortly before the attacks that he intended to survive so that he could continue to spread his ideals, and that he intends to plead not guilty. He has said he plans to represent himself in court, although a judge can order a lawyer to assist him.
There have been calls for the media to refuse to report anything he says during the trial. Paul Thompson, the chief executive of Radio New Zealand, said his station will exercise caution and asked editors at all media outlets to take part in a discussion about covering the case.
“We’re just going to be very careful we don’t become a platform for any kind of extremist agenda,” he said, explaining that the station does not want to inflame the situation or become a party to the accused killer’s agenda.
Thompson described the case as “uncharted territory” but said he remains confident that his reporters will do their jobs professionally.
Dr Philip Cass, a senior lecturer in journalism at Auckland’s Unitec Institute of Technology, said the media will have to make “a very fine judgment” about what is reported if the accused killer uses the court as “a forum for the expression of his opinion.” He was wary, however, of calls to completely avoid reporting what is said in court.
“If you do that then we are moving into an area of censorship,” he said, adding that it is the media’s responsibility to provide a record of what is said and done.
Dr Catherine Strong, a journalism lecturer at Massey University, said she is confident that the media in New Zealand media will act responsibly. There is no legal or ethical imperative for journalists to report everything the accused says in court, she pointed out. The country’s media has already shown maturity by not using the name of the accused in headlines and by focusing on covering the shootings from the perspective of the victims, Strong added.

Hal Crawford, the chief news officer at MediaWorks, which owns TV3 and RadioLive in New Zealand, said, "Newshub is open to an industry-wide set of guidelines for reporting on Tarrant's trial, and we are in discussions with other newsrooms. Our aims are to minimise publicity of damaging ideology while reporting the workings of justice objectively." 

The man, who has not yet entered a plea, is due to appear in court again on April 5.