Thursday, August 13, 2009

Resilient villagers stop bulldozers in their tracks - Malaysiakini

This morning, bulldozers had rumbled into Kampung Buah Pala. With their engines firing, the mechanical monsters were all set to devour the houses standing on a bitterly disputed piece of land.

However, the machines, scores of workers and policemen faced a major hurdle - angry villagers who were determined to save their homes.

Women and children had joined the menfolk to form a human barricade, to prevent the sledgehammer-armed workers from putting their tools to work.

At one point, a melee erupted between the villagers and members of the police's Light Strike Force (LSF) unit, who attempted to plough through the barricade.

It was alleged that several villagers were hurt during the commotion.

M Mahadevi, 51, was said to have been hit with batons, resulting in her sustaining injuries to her stomach. She was later taken in an ambulance to the Lam Wah Eee private hospital for treatment.

Another villager, S Kamini, 18, claimed that she and her 50-year-old mother were assaulted by the police personnel.

P Pathma (left), 44, alleged that she was hit by a baton (seen in photo) flung at her direction.

Villager M Salligan, 58, also alleged that he was 'beaten up' by police personnel. According to him, at least 10 villagers were hurt.

Kampung Buah Pala association assistant secretary C Tharmaraj accused the police of 'resorting to violence' to disperse the villagers.

Police chief: It's all rumours

Contacted later, George Town police chief Azam Abd Hamid denied that the police had assaulted the villagers and accused them of spreading rumours.

He denied giving any orders to employ force and called on the villagers who claimed to have been assaulted to file police reports.

Earlier in the morning, some 50 demolition workers had attempted to enter the village through the back entrance, but were spotted by the villagers and driven away.

It was also reported that the villagers had a ready stockpile of cow dung, which was supposed to be used to pelt the workers with.

The police had also stopped the media from entering the village, but some journalists have managed to slip through.

At present, negotiations are underway between the developer and the villagers. Sources claimed that the demolition could be postponed until the end of the month.

Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) officer NV Subarrow told Malaysiakini that all DAP legislators had (allegedly) switched off their mobile phones.

"I have tried to contact almost all DAP elected representatives to inform them about the demolition, but could not reach them," he said.

In the morning, police escorted court bailiffs and developer Nusmetro Sdn Bhd director Gary Ho to paste a court demolition order at a house.

At about 12.45pm, the villagers' lawyer Darshan Singh Khaira arrived at the scene but was stopped by the police.

Using a loud hailer, the lawyer told villagers that the demolition would be the 'graveyard' for the DAP government in Penang.