Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Darshan's our only legal rep, say High Chaparral residents - Malaysiakini

Kampung Buah Pala residents overwhelmingly decided that their representatives would be accompanied by lawyer Darshan Singh Khaira when attending Thursday's meeting with the Penang Chief Minister.

In announcing this on Monday night, M Sugumaran (below), the Kampung Buah Pala residents association chief, effectively retracted a statement made hours earlier, in which he said Darshan Singh was not the villagers' legal representative.

Sugumaran's about turn may not go down well with state government legislators. The DAP-dominated government has been against the presence of Darshan ever since the villagers appointed him as their legal representative earlier this month.

Apart from Darshan and Sugumaran, four other committee members - vice chairperson N Arumugam secretary Stephen J Draviam, assistant secretary C Tharmaraj Sugumaran and assistant treasurer M Pasu - will now represent the villagers at the meeting.

After a fiery one-hour meeting on Monday night, the villagers also chose three non-committee members to attend the meeting as observers. Thursday's meeting will be held at 8pm at Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's office at Level 28, Komtar.

Statement made under duress

Sugumaran came under fire from the villagers for meeting Lim earlier on Monday afternoon, apparently arranged by Seri Delima assemblyperson RSN Rayer.

Sugumaran explained he went to meet Lim at Dewan Sri Pinang at 1.30pm to fix an appointment for the Chief Minister to have a heart-to-heart talk with villagers to resolve the 'High Chaparral' crisis.

He told the villagers that he had gone to meet Lim because he wanted to erase public notion that the villagers were arrogant enough not to meet the Chief Minister until now.

After the meeting with villagers, Sugumaran made the retraction and claimed that his earlier statement was made under duress. He said he was overwhelmed by the presence of government leaders at the brief meeting with Lim (right).

"I have to admit I had made the statement under pressure. I have made a mistake by saying that Darshan Singh was not the villagers' legal counsel. Darshan Singh is the villagers' sole lawyer," he said.

Sugumaran has earlier given his word to Lim that the villagers would not bring their lawyer, Darshan Singh to Thursday's meeting.

Darshan our man at all meetings

He also apparently broke a gag order imposed by the association's committee members on themselves that "no villager should meet state government leaders without the committee's prior consent or knowledge."

The committee had also decided that they will always bring along their legal adviser Darshan Singh to any meeting with the state government officials.

A proposed similar meeting last Wednesday was aborted when the state government refused to allow Darshan (left) to accompany the villagers.

Kampung Buah Pala villagers face eviction after Aug 3 to pave way for a lucrative condominium project called Oasis.

The developer Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd issued a notice of eviction on July 2.

Kampung Buah is also fondly addressed by locals as 'Tamil High Chaparral' for its populace of cowherds, cattle, goats, other livestocks and lively Tamil cultural features.

It's the last remaining Indian traditional village in the state, which many civil societies and even politicians want preserved as a state heritage.