Saturday, September 26, 2009

Three-cornered debate on Buah Pala mooted - Malaysiakini

The High Chaparral fiasco takes another turn today as the Penang Gerakan Youth challenged Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng for an open debate over the demolition of Kampung Buah Pala.

Hindu rights movement Hindraf followed this up with the suggestion to turn the event into a three-cornered debate.

Gerakan Youth chose the village as the venue for the proposed debate, and mooted a date and time - Oct 4 at 8.30pm.

The movement chief Oh Tong Keong today handed an invitation letter for the open debate to the chief minister through Lim's special assistant Ong Beng Guat at Komtar.

In an immediate response, Lim rejected the invitation saying that it was inappropriate for him to debate the issue with Gerakan Youth leaders.

He said he preferred to debate Gerakan president and former chief minister Koh Tsu Koon.

Lim and Penang Gerakan chairperson Dr Teng Hock Nan has been involved in an on-going public spat over who was to be blamed in the Kampung Buah Pala fiasco.

Teng accused the DAP government of finalising the land deal and selling off the village land to Koperasi Pegawai Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang without resolving the residents' predicament.

He said the previous Barisan Nasional government had inserted a contractual clause in the land deal compelling the landowner and developer to settle all issues pertaining to compensation, relocation and resettlement of the affected residents.

The Gerakan leader accused Lim of not complying with the clause when he effected the transfer of the village land title to the cooperative society on March 27 last year.

Lim: Koh a 'land robber'

Lim in return has accused that the previous government of being the real culprit behind the fiasco and described Koh as a “land robber”.

In its invitation letter, the Gerakan Youth stated that the debate be conducted in Bahasa Malaysia to allow all parties, including the village's residents committee, former residents, political parties, civil society groups and general public, to fully follow the discussion.

He also dared Lim to reveal his administration's executive council meeting minutes pertaining to the village land deals.

H'ng said the village was chosen as the debate venue was appropriate and ideal given that “Lim has never set foot in Kampung Buah Pala.”

“If Lim is brave enough to accept this challenge, he will be meeting our youth members at the debate. We have sufficient information and qualification to take him on in this matter," he told journalists after handing over the invitation letter.

H'ng said Lim should not be debating Koh as the Gerakan president was no longer active in local politics.

"Let us take Lim on," he said, adding that Lim should accept the challenge to show he had the guts to tackle the party's youth wing.

The developer and landowner have since early this month begun demolishing the houses in Kampung Buah Pala early this month after the villagers agreed to leave in return for compensation.

Lim said he wanted to debate the issue with Koh although he was not an elected representative and had even lost to Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy by some 10,000 votes in Batu Kawan parliamentary contest in the last general election.

'I respect him as the Gerakan president and would like to debate with him over the issue. If Koh dare not debate by himself and sends his assistants instead, I don't think that's the quality of a leader," he said, recalling that it was Koh who debated him on another land matter last year.

Hindraf wants in too

Meanwhile, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) wants to be included should the debate materialise.

Hindraf national advisor N Naragan said it was important that civil movement be given the chance to argue their side of story over the whole Kampung Buah Pala imbroglio.

He said among the questions that Hindraf would seek clarification are:
  • Was the government right in allowing the demolition of Kampung Buah Pala?
  • Was there any heritage lost in the destruction of the village?
  • Did the villagers deserve what they got?
  • Was the demolition of Kampung Buah Pala unavoidable?
  • Were there other social or moral issues - and not just legal and commercial issues - involved in the village demolition?