PETALING JAYA, 3 July 2009: The Penang government needs to intervene and solve the Kampung Buah Pala issue even though the problem was caused by the previous Barisan Nasional administration, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) said today.
“[W]e urge the Pakatan Rakyat government to resolve this issue politically using the mandate given by the people of Penang to them in the last election,” PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan said in a statement today.
He said the party did not believe in a legal solution as there have been precedents in other cases where the courts ultimately favoured the rich and powerful.
He said PSM believed that the Kampung Buah Pala residents, who have lived in the village for decades, have a legitimate right to the disputed land.
“The historical facts support their existence and their right over the land,” said Arutchelvan, who visited the village yesterday with PSM national deputy chairperson M Saraswathy and other party leaders.
Describing the village settlement as “old, traditional, and very beautiful”, Arutchelvan called on the Penang government to stop all forced evictions until the state’s probe into allegations of power abuse and corruption in the land transfer was completed.
“Any forced eviction, if carried out, is going to be ugly and will have serious consequences as the people are very determined to safeguard their home, livelihood and heritage,” he said.
“We will stand by the villagers if there is any attempt to evict them forcefully,” said Arutchelvan, adding that PSM would also mobilise other settlers and organisations to stand by the villagers.
Arutchelvan also said the issue was primarily a class dispute between the developer who had obtained the land and the villagers who have lived and developed the land for decades.
“We would denounce any attempt by any groups to stir this issue into a racial issue,” he added.
Located in the eastern part of George Town, Kampung Buah Pala, also known as High Chaparral, is the last urban village occupied by Indian Malaysians on Penang island.
The 6.4-acre site was sold for RM3.21mil to Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang Bhd in 2007, which later joined forces with Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd, to develop the area.
Koh Residents objected strongly to the development project and also appealed to former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon, but to no avail.
On 30 Aug 2007, the 45 families in the village received a notice requesting them to evacuate while compensation talks were still ongoing. After a series of court appeals, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the landowner and developer on 24 June 2009.
On 1 July 2009, angry residents demanded for Lim’s resignation, saying he had failed to fulfill his election promise to return villagers their land rights.
Yesterday, around 100 residents protested near the village entrance when officials attempted to enter it to serve eviction notices. The villagers were given one month notice, till 3 Aug 2009, to vacate their premises.
Yesterday, Lim also issued a warning to the developer who had threatened to send bulldozers to the village on 2 Aug 2009 to forcibly evict the residents and demolish their houses.
Today, the residents have threatened to sabotage George Town’s World Heritage status by sending a letter to Unesco should the Penang government fail to prevent the demolition of their village.