Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kg Buah Pala - Is the Pakatan Rakyat with the people of Kg Buah Pala, or with the Developers?

Kg Buah Pala ... raises a lot of interesting issues. Why? Because in Malaysia, there are a lot of people who are and have been living on land that legally is not registered in their name. There is no issue, and the government do most of the time ensures that they do get roads (tarred roads even), piped water, electricity, etc... but do nothing to make sure that they get the title to the land they live and work on.

Kg Buah Pala - it is not just a question of new hopes, but also the question about land for the grazing of their cattle...The cows, I do believe, is an important source of income. That is why I believe that giving them just an 'expensive' house as compensation would not do..

As a matter of policy, State governments must not hand over land on which there are people living and/or earning a living to some other....

It is happening not only in Kg Buah Pala... I believe that this is also predicament faced by some Malaysian Chinese farmers in Perak, and other parts of Malaysia.

As a matter of principle, land that has been used by farmers for the cultivation of vegetables, etc should also be given to these farmers for that purpose...

There can always be conditions placed on these leases - conditions that it be used for the purpose given, and conditions that it cannot be transferred and/or sold without government permission. This should also be the condition imposed on those who have got lost-cost homes, or will get low cost-homes in the future...

Plantation land was given at a very nominal rate by State governments for the planting of rubber (and then oil palm) ...i.e. agriculture. When these big plantation companies now want to convert these land for commercial/housing, this should not be allowed by the State government. But alas State Government allows this ....and plantation companies like Guthrie did sell off land at a rate of 100s of thousands per acre... [The cost they can demand is high because they have a very big plot of land - something they got because they were going to plant rubber/oil palm...]. I believe, that the formerly Bukit Tinggi Estate land was sold at about RM300,000 per acre...

State government have been lax with all the big and rich companies and persons - but behaves differently when it comes to the poor people... Seeing how the courts, police, etc were all on the side of the Developer, and not on the side of the people just shows how things are...Now, police says that 'outsiders' should not get involved. Unless, these 'outsiders' come forward in support of the 'weaker' people of Kg Buah Pala - the rich with its cronies will certainly bull-doze away their homes and their rights. Remember, there is also an appeal to the Federal Court that is yet to be heard...

St John's Chapel issue in Triang is just like the Kg Buah Pala case - here the case involves an 80 over years church of the Catholic community in Triang - and they are far from being the rich and powerful. And here again, the State government tries to demolish this church...see earlier posts:

An article from Star that one should read...

The cheap sale of the ‘High Chaparral’ is a clear example of how land is very questionably alienated to the detriment of those occupying them.

AT THE time of writing, the bulldozers were standing ready to demolish the over-150-year-old Kampung Buah Pala residential area which is occupied by descendents of Indian indentured labourers, who, among other things, graze cattle there.

The 40-odd families are making a last-ditch stand against the developers Numestro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd who are in joint venture with landowners Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang.

The train of events indicates a sorry tale of unfair deprivation of their land through questionable means although many, including Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, dismiss the residents as a mercenary lot holding out for higher prices.

That no one, including the new Penang state government, whose members promised to stop the development if they came to power, could do anything to help the residents is a real pity and reflects poorly on the processes by which land is alienated and allocated in our country.

Kampung Buah Pala raises a series of questions the answers to which will pin the blame squarely on those responsible, establish clearly whether there was a breach of law and by whom, and lead to a more equitable solution which will take into account the fact that the current residents can trace their ancestry on the land back to at least five generations.

It is useful to trace the events that led to this standoff. We have depended on press reports. In 2004 and 2005, the Penang state executive council then approved the sale of the 2ha-plus land at a premium of RM20 a sq ft or RM6.42mil to the Penang government officers’ cooperative.

This was halved to RM10 per sq ft or RM3.21mil in 2007. The current value of the land is estimated at as much as RM40mil, over a dozen times the price the state government got. This implies that the land was allocated at a tiny fraction of the market value.

Question 1: Why was it allocated so cheaply and who was responsible?

Apparently, the cooperative entered into a joint-venture with Nusmetro to develop the land into high-end luxury condominiums.

The villagers, who trace their ancestry on the land back 150-200 years then sued the cooperative and the developers, claiming that they were given the right to stay there. Their ancestors were indentured labourers brought in by the East India Company to work for the Brown Estate.

The owner and employer, Helen Margaret Brown, settled them in separate plots of land with space to rear cows and goats, and to plant fruit trees and the land became categorised as a housing trust, the villagers maintained.

Question 2: Why were the villagers not offered the right to purchase the land at the same price the cooperative paid when it is beyond dispute that the villagers and their ancestors have stayed in the same area for 150-200 years?

The villagers were not so lucky when they took their case to court. Initially, the High Court ruled in their favour last year but in May it was overturned by the Court of Appeal. They took their case to the Federal Court but lost it in June.

They have now applied for a revision of the Federal Court judgment that ruled against them and the application is fixed for mention on Aug 18, according to press reports.

Records at the Companies Commission indicate that Nusmetro is a dormant company with an issued capital of a mere RM250,000. It is in turn majority-owned by a company called Asia Link-Up (240,000 of the 250,000 shares), another dormant company.

Question 3: Why is the Penang government officers’ cooperative going into joint venture to build high-end condominiums with companies which clearly have no ability to do so? Who is responsible for this?

Residents are now questioning the Penang state government’s failure to invoke Section 116 (d) of the National Land Code although the state government said a month ago that it could stop any demolition attempt at Kampung Buah Pala.

According to the clause, any building on alienated land cannot be demolished without approval of the relevant authority.

Residents maintained that Chief Minister Lim had assured the residents that if the villagers rejected the offer, the state would file an application in court to invoke Section 116 (d).

Question 4: Why has the Penang state government not invoked Section 116 to protect the villagers?

Obviously, there are a lot of questions which demand answers and there is a great chance of impropriety indicating that the land could have been unfairly taken away from the villagers. Our courts have not shown themselves to be particularly sympathetic to aggrieved parties as indicated by this case and others.

Perhaps it is not in their power to investigate. However, a report has already been lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC). But so far, MACC has not approached the developer of the Kampung Buah Pala land for questioning although “graft reports over the land transaction were filed separately last month by Deputy Chief Minister (II) Dr P. Ramasamy and political secretary to the chief minister, Ng Wei Aik”, according to news reports.

“The MACC has not come to us for any investigation,” Nusmetro managing director Thomas Chan was quoted as having said when queried by reporters.

Question 5: When there is urgent public interest to be served and when the fate of over 40 families hangs in the balance, why has the MACC not investigated this case and urgently?

This is important because if it is established that the transfer of the land is fraudulent, then the transfer may not be valid.

Clearly, residents are getting the wrong end of the stick here, notwithstanding Lim’s attempt to negotiate a settlement for them, demanding that their lawyers not be present. That is a strange request for laymen to come to a complicated negotiation without the benefit of lawyers.

At the time of finishing this article, the bailiff ended the standoff by deferring it to the end of the month on humanitarian grounds and to avoid bloodshed. That’s wise, but still there is a crying need for a just solution.

No matter how the issue eventually ends, one thing is abundantly clear – there are many fishy deals on land and it is more than time we put a stop to all that.

Managing editor P. Gunasegaram says that land is a dwindling resource that the government must guard carefully, give to the right people and get a good price for. - Star, 14/8/2009, Case of a severe land malady - By P. GUNASEGARAM

Anil Netto also raises questions in his blog:-

It’s like a bad dream… but it’s more than that. At least with a nightmare, we can soon forget about it. But no matter how hard we try, Kg Buah Pala won’t go away. When an injustice has been perpetrated, it will fester like an open sore, causing the entire body pain and anguish. In our anguish, the questions linger:

Why is it taking so long for the MACC to carry out its investigations after several reports have been lodged?

What is the outcome of the probe into the land deal by the Penang state government’s investigative committee?

Why are Koh Tsu Koon, his former deputies and those in charge of land deals back then not shedding more light into this fiasco? Why was prime land sold for peanuts?

Why is Mohd Faridz Karim, the main shareholder of Asia Link-up Sdn Bhd (the parent company of Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd) keeping very quiet?

How was MPPP permission given before the land title was registered in the name of the Koperasi?

Why is the Koperasi proceeding with its condo development plan with Nusmetro when there is a restriction on the temporary land title forbidding any transactions? - Anil Netto's Blog - Kg Buah Pala just won't leave us alone

See also the ALIRAN article..

In many ways, Kg Buah Pala reminds us of the life-style we once had - but have now all but lost in our anonymous concrete jungles, observes Anil Netto.

Yesterday's unsuccessful demolition of Kg Buah Pala revealed how strongly the villagers feel for their homes and the affinity they have for the land.

Women, men and children marched up to confront grunting bulldozers and a menacing demolition team backed by red-helmeted riot police. The developer and his team were clearly taken aback by the resilience and determination the villagers displayed in defending their homes.

The legal technicalities aside, few outsiders can understand what the Kg Buah Pala residents are going through. Some may say the villagers have been manipulated by BN politicians to hold out for a higher offer of compensation.

But the reality is that the villagers do not seem to be the least bit interested - even with the compensation offer of "double-storey terrace houses", which on the surface appears reasonable. Many Penangites were thus baffled - even outraged - that many villagers rejected the offer. "What do they want? Why are they so greedy?" These were the indignant questions asked.

What do they want? From the looks of it: all they want is to be left alone. They would much rather live in their old wooden houses perched on hillocks covered in lush greenery and surrounded by coconut, neem and rambutan trees - like they and their ancestors have done for more than a century. Not far away, cows and goats, munching grass, gaze curiously at passers-by.

It's a community where everyone knows most of the other village-folk; they may have their differences, but it is their community, their village, their life. Compared to the rustic village houses they have there - and without romanticising it - "double-storey terrace houses" may not seem as attractive as they might be for other urban dwellers.

In many ways, Kg Buah Pala reminds us of the life-style we once had - but have now all but lost. In our grey concrete jungles and mass housing estates, community life has all but evaporated. In guarded and gated condominium complexes and housing estates, most middle-class Malaysians would be hard pressed to know those beyond their immediate neighbours, whom they greet with polite "hellos".

We have exchanged the greenery for concrete. We no longer know how to grow our food and rear livestock to supplement our daily needs. We have forgotten what it feels like to live off the land, in a community - to experience the scent of fresh coconuts, to savour the tranquil sight of a village well, brimming with clear water, and to gaze at deep red rambutans bursting from a towering tree.

Places like Kg Buah Pala remind us of what we have lost. It would be a pity if the entire village itself has to make way for yet another luxury condominium complex in our unsustainable and often soulless concrete jungle.- Kg Buah Pala: Oasis amidst concrete jungle

The small people of Malaysia are watching and seeing how Pakatan Rakyat deals with this issue...

It seems that the Developer seems to be resolving to a divide and destroy strategy - and now we have 4 have accepted the offer, and have abandoned the rest of families behind. It is indeed sad - for, I believe, the people should have stood united in all that they decide to do...Complicity of the state in this matter is disturbing..

Four of the 24 Kampung Buah Pala houseowners have agreed to the compensation offered by developer Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd.

Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer said the four signed the agreement last Friday before the offer expired on noon that day.

“Initially, 15 houseowners agreed to the offer but only four turned up to sign the deal at Deputy Chief Minister II Prof Dr P. Ramasamy’s office.

“It is most unfortunate that the rest who did not sign have prepare for the worst,” he said last night. - Star, 11/8/2009, Kg Buah Pala: Four accept house offer by developer

It seems that Pakatan Rakyat government of Pulau Pinang is saying ' Take the Developer's Offer and abandon your homes...."

Were there any Wakil Rakyat from the Pakatan Rakyat on site when the Developer (with the Court Bailiff and the police) were there recently threatening to demolish the hopes of the RAKYAT of Kg Buah Pala.... (If they were, I hope some reader will post a comment to state that the PR MPs/ADUNs were there with the people preventing the demolition of their homes....)


ken said...

So? u expect Penang gov pay over 100 million to developer? If Penang still under BN, sorry lar! no much talk just ruin down every thing. So i dun think LGE really do nothing. We all know this is a scam but how to fight without a substantial evidence. The victims were offer with terrace house but honestly better then nothing. Penang gov is not communism gov can just stop the project relentlessly, i think the only mistake was they should make the promise prudently.

Why no one blame KTK?

vengai said...

Should ask this to Koh Tsu Kon and the BN umno Regime to answer and NOT the Pakatan which only rule Penang for more than a year.This question should been ask during that Regime rule. All keep their mouth shut at that time and now only wants to make noise and complaint these and that.MIC another Pariah Dog. That SUPPI fellow was an MIC Exco during that regime rule and keep his mouth shut shut and now only wants to bark like a dog.Samy wants to buy that for 32 million.Ask that ass hold to settle the Maika Holdings Money to the contributers which he wag from the poor and now tell cock and bull story and find a scapegoat as an excuse.As an Indian i support the Pakatan Goverment in Penang. All sane people will know how to think positive. Only those insane and with coudang brain will follow emotion and condem the PR.

raj raman said...

When it's a Indian problem its "No Man" problem.
When its a Bumiputera problem -its a National problem.(valid for umno members)
When it's a Chinese problem it's a DAP and MCA problem.

rajraman666.Politician of both side PKR/Barisan consider Indian problem not important & no problem.(*not devil/godworshipper*)