PETALING JAYA - Purchase of properties does not guarantee automatic residency in Malaysia, says the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
This comes a day after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that foreigners would not be allowed to buy residential units in the Forest City project in Johor.
His office has now clarified that Malaysia imposes certain "conditions and information" for foreigners purchasing properties, irrespective of their nationality.
The conditions and information, said the PMO, are publicly available.
"Purchase of properties does not guarantee automatic residency in the country.
"For foreigners wishing to make Malaysia their permanent residence, there is a government programme called Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H).
"Conditions are clearly spelt out for those interested and information on this programme is also publicly available," said the PMO in a statement yesterday.
But the statement made no reference to Dr Mahathir's remarks on Monday in which it was reportedly said that foreigners would not be allowed to purchase properties in the US$100bil (RM410bil) project.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia "is not going to give visas for people to come and live here".
On foreign tourists, it said Malaysia welcomes all tourists, including those from China, adding that there were no restrictions imposed if they meet all the necessary immigration requirements.
"In the case of China, tourists are given a single entry 30-day visa into the country.
"Last year, Malaysia attracted some 2.3 million Chinese tourists and is looking to attract up to 10 million in the coming years," said the statement.
The PMO also said it welcomes foreign direct investment, which contributes to the transfer of technology, provides employment for Malaysians and the setting up of industries.
In Putrajaya, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said she had been instructed by Dr Mahathir to form a committee to scrutinise and reassess agreements and deals related to the sale of residential units in the Forest City project.
Zuraida said besides her ministry, the committee would consist of representatives of the Finance Ministry, Johor state government and developers.
"That statement (prohibition on the sale of houses to foreigners) will be studied, and we will call the relevant stakeholders for a meeting to discuss the matter," she told reporters after the National Physical Planning Council meeting yesterday.
Zuraida also pointed out that the project had no links with her ministry or the council.
In Johor Baru, former mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said he was not surprised with the supposed ban, adding that Dr Mahathir had been consistent with his objections to the project.
"But we in the Umno public policy council felt that it should not be done all of a sudden with just an announcement and targeting one project," he said.
Without an official policy as a base, he said the government would be seen to be discriminating against the development of Forest City.
"It gives the impression that the constraints and restrictions on foreigners to own properties in Forest City were made due to political sentiments and not based on an objective consideration," said the Umno vice-president.
Mohamed Khaled said such a move should not just be "exclusive" to Johor but adopted as a "government policy" nationwide.
He also said the government must provide clear and strong reasons for the move, such as to safeguard the interest of Johor and Malaysia.
"We urge Forest City to come out and explain about their contributions to the state, including the taxes paid to the state government, social projects for the community and other assistance to the community. All these will help to overcome the prejudice and negative perception of the Malaysian public about Forest City not benefiting locals," he said.