Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guan Eng to meet Kg Buah Pala residents on July 16

Guan Eng with Sugumaran (R) at DEwan Sri Pinang yesterday. - Bernama pic

PENANG, July 14 — In a move to nip the Kampung Buah Pala issue from brewing further, Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng has agreed to meet the residents in two days time.

The meeting came about after the residents, comprising 23 cowherd families in what is dubbed Penang’s High Chapparal, apologised to Guan Eng for misunderstandings in their effort to stop their eviction.

Kampung Buah Pala Residents Association chairman M. Sugumaran extended the apology to Guan Eng in a brief meeting at the Dewan Sri Pinang.

“On behalf of the residents of Kampung Lorong Buah Pala, I wish to extend our apologies to the Chief Minister for what had transpired in recent times and we hope the Chief Minister will accept our apologies,” Sugumaran said.

The first-term Penang chief minister accepted the apology, telling The Malaysian Insider that he would meet the residents as it is the residents’ right if they want to meet with him, as he is also their state leader.

“What is important now is how we can work together to resolve this whole situation. Sugumaran has agreed to arrange a heart-to-heart talk between us and the affected families this Thursday at 8pm,” he said, adding each family can send a representative for the meeting.

The Kampung Lorong Buah Pala residents are hoping to stay on in the village despite the Federal Court judgment that they have no rights to the land and ordering them to vacate it without getting compensation.

They want the Penang government to solve the issue by acquiring the land, which the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government sold for RM3 million to the state officers’ cooperative.

They claim Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders have promised to save the village in last year’s election campaign, attracting the outlawed Hindraf to demand the village be saved or the opposition coalition will lose Indian support and George Town its Unesco’s heritage city status.

Penang has since de-classified the minutes of all state executive council meetings held by the previous state government that are related to the transfer of the land ownership to Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang Bhd and developer Nusmetro., which is promoting a RM150 million project on the site.

The residents had wanted to meet Guan Eng previously but he had refused if lawyers or Hindraf leaders joined the delegation. - The Malaysian Insider

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.