Eviction of decades-long dwellers is unfair – law experts

It would be unfair to evict dwellers of 50 or 100 years, especially when the judges have been accused of corruption in relations to land scandals, legal experts and the victims of land seizures said.

As the country’s real estate prices skyrocket reaching up to billions of kyats in certain purchases, judges are more likely to demand hundreds of millions in bribe in settling land cases. Therefore, authorities from related fields such as the Parliament, judicial and legislative affairs need to take action against pending bribery and corruption, commented a law expert.

“The law says those who have land grants are owners. All the land issues should be dealt with in accordance with the existing laws such as the property transfer law, Yangon City Development Act and Lower Myanmar Land Tax law. Thorough inspection should also be conducted on corruption cases,” said Pho Phyu, a legal consultant from Purple Equality Law Firm.

The family who had been living on a three-acre land plot in Thingangyun Township, Yangon for more than 60 years clashed with the township court officials on November 15 after they were asked to evict the plot.

The land is said to be the centre of a legal case in relations to inheritance for more than 20 years. According to some people in the neighbourhood, the land owner family did not have the knowledge of the court verdict but they have lodged an appeal to the Union Supreme Court.

A lawyer, Han Shin Win, said courts can decide on some cases such as inheritance for example. He however said such cases could involve bribery as it is rampant in the country.

A local private newspaper also covered a news story on Saturday that a Lower House MP, Le Le Win Swe, received a complaint from the dwellers of a ward on 13-acre plot Tamway Township over interrupted construction of apartments.

The complaint says a man named Than Myint from 155th Street has sent a letter of protest to the Yangon City Development Committee against the construction of some apartments in the ward by saying that Yangon East District Court decided so under the right of inheritance and management. The MP promised to raise the issue in Parliament, the news stated.

Regarding the case, a local resident, Thet Oo, said: “I have been living in this area for a long time. Few houses have land grants. Most are ancestrally inherited while some have been sold into others. Now, Than Myint has come to interfere with apartment construction on a contract basis and sales of houses saying the pretext of law.”

According to Thet Oo, Than Myint even insisted on owning the land of a fire service department and a school but all the ward dwellers had known that the land was already donated by a school teacher.

When asked how to cope with such land issues, a YCDC official said: “The land issue in Thingangyun township is related to inheritance. Our department has nothing to do with it. According to the procedures, the court has to hand over related documents to those who won the case. As far as I know, those living on the land have protested against it because they are part of inheritance. That land is ancestrally owned but they don’t have a land grant.”

As regards the land disputes, it is crucially important that the court decision is right and unbiased. Every court decision cannot be correct. It is proved by the fact that different verdicts are often reached for the same case in township, district and regional courts. In some cases, there is bribery and corruption and they need to be exposed, said a lawyer.

“Court decision regarding with land ownership must specify the details. No matter how long one has lived in a place, the ownership documents are important for the court. Actually, the government has no authority over ancestral land,” said Lawyer Kyaw Hoe.
“If there are disagreements over land ownership, they have to be filed to the court. The judge will decide according to the civil law. The prosecutor must show the evidence such as ownership documents. Also in eviction cases, the prosecutor have to give the evidence,” said Lawyer Ko Ni.

Last August, Rakhine State Judge Si Si, who was directly appointed by the President in March 2011, faced a corruption allegation by the regional parliament. She allegedly took bribes and gave protection to a rice trader, who made a fraud on local farmers. Later, she was “allowed to resign” without getting punished for her alleged misconduct.

“Anti-corruption law was passed on 7-8-2013 to be instrumental in ensuring the rule of law and a successful judicial system. Judges must abstain from taking bribes and must serve the country so as to build up the judicial pillar that the people can trust and rely on,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo told the judges at Yangon Region High Court on October 26.

President Thein Sein also said the rule of law is of utmost importance. Efforts must be made to bolster the judicial sector to be stronger and independent, he said in his monthly radio speeches.

For the judicial pillar to be stronger and independent as the president said, respective authorities must investigate whether there are corruption cases behind the court judgments on land disputes, law experts remarked.

In August 2012, just within a week the Parliament formed the committee on the rule of law and stability, complaint letters on land grabbing and court judgments reached the committee.

Similarly, the Parliament’s judicial and legislative committee, chaired by Thura Aung Ko, received nearly 1600 complaint letters within August 2012.

Source: ELEVEN Myanmar

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