Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hindraf vs Lim: War of words continue - Malaysiakini

The public attrition between the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) and the Penang government over the 'High Chaparral' controversy has reached new heights with both sides continue to trade barbs.

penang kg buah pala 010709 guan eng respond to villagersHindraf leader P Waythamoorthy today sharpened his attacks by accusing Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng of being a party to the allegedly fraudulent transaction of Kampung Buah Pala village land in Bukit Gelugor.

Waythamoorthy said since the village land transfer happened under Lim's watch, he should be held responsible for the transaction.

He pointed out that Lim had conceded that the land deals were carried out in dubious manner by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

The land was transferred from state ownership to a civil servants' cooperative society – Koperasi Pegawai-Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang - on March 27 last year, 19 days after Pakatan Rakyat was catapulted to power in the 2008 general election.

kampung buah pala 110609The transfer is said to have been done without the knowledge of the state government despite Lim's directive to the Land Office to halt all land transactions on assuming power.

The London-based Waythamoorthy pointed out that Lim could have easily cancelled the subsequent transaction on grounds of insubordination or non-approval from the state cabinet.

“What I knew was the village's lawyer had even advised Lim to cancel the deal and take administrative action against the culprits. But he did neither,” he told Malaysiakini.

State can invoke Land Acquisition Act

Waythamoorthy also refuted claims by Lim that Hindraf had misled the public in implying that the state government could acquire the village land at RM30 million or below the market price.

hindraf kampung buah pala protest at dap hq petaling jaya 300609 05He said it was Lim's political secretary Ng Wei Aik in his own blog posting which suggested that the land would cost the state government tens of millions of ringgit.

Accusing Lim of putting the cart before the horse, he further questioned Lim's wisdom in coming up with such a “ridiculous” sum.

“Perhaps he is not getting the correct advice from his state legal adviser,” said Waythamoorthy, who himself is a trained lawyer.

He said the legal avenue to acquire the land was under sections 18-35 of the Land Acquisation Act, which clearly stated that the quantum of the compensation to be paid shall be assessed by the land administrator after valuations and survey.

If the awarded compensation was unacceptable, he said Lim can invoke provisions under sections 36-51 to seek the court to determine the appropriate sum, with the assistance of assessors.

“He should not blame Hindraf for his own ignorance of the law,” said Waythamoorthy.

Compensation offer dismissed as 'peanut'

He also rebuked Lim for claiming that acquiring a piece of land such as Kampung Buah Pala was beyond the state government's financial capabilities. Waythamoorthy argued that the village was not exactly developed land.

kampung buah pala penang 250609 01“In any case, the village was developed by the villagers, who have lived there for past 200 years, with their sweat and blood, not by the government or developer.

“If the land is worth hundreds of millions of ringgit because it is developed then the compensation should be awarded to villagers, who are the rightful owners and real developers of the land,” he said.

Waythamoorthy rapped Lim for colluding with the developer to deny the basic human need of having a 'roof over one's head' and uprooting the villagers with the “peanut” compensation offer of RM90,000.

He said Hindraf was willing to sever the movement's friendship with DAP over the issue.

“This issue is not about money, but the preservation of the villagers' right to exist in their hereditary cultural homes.

penang kampung buah pala condominium project  macc report  090609 05“As a responsible chief minister and DAP leader, he should be the first to protect and preserve their homes,” he said, calling on Pakatan Rakyat leaders to pressure Lim on the issue.

Developer Nusmetro Venture has given the villagers until Aug 2 before moving in to flatten the village and make way for a high-end condominium project.