Monday, August 3, 2009

Uncertainty grips Kg Buah Pala

2031: The villagers held a candlelight vigil and have now ended their gathering. Guan Eng was not in.

“We heard on the eight o’clock news that they are definitely coming in tomorrow to demolish,” said a worried villager.

2021: About 50 villagers, many of them children, are now gathered outside the Chief Minister’s residence. This has upset the Chief Minister’s people, who believe they have been trying hard to resolve the crisis and that certain quarters are making use of the villagers for their own ends.
The villagers, meanwhile, are desperate as the Cooperative has said it will carry out demolition tomorrow.

1700: Radio news announces that the developer has “rescheduled” its demolition to tomorrow to “allow residents more time to leave”.

But the residents appear to be standing firm and they are not going anywhere. Between 50 and 100 activists and residents – some of them sitting in the porches of houses and under a canopy near the main lane cutting through the village – are keeping watch at the village. Others have called it a day.

One villager told me they had never been offered RM200,000 each as compensation. “All that was talk – we have never seen anything in writing to that effect,” he said. What they were offered earlier was an apartment worth RM75,000, along with a temporary monthly rental, or RM90,000 cash.

They residents are also worried that the proposed double-storey terrace houses which the state is said to be trying to arrange as compensation could turn out to be small cluster ‘matchbox’ houses that would be too small for their extended families. It is not uncommon for each house here to be shared by several families.

Meanwhile, many are still waiting for the final outcome of the state investigative committee’s probe into the Kampong Buah Pala land transfer. What are the political interests (if any) and developer connections behind Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd? Who is the contractor for the Oasis project likely to be? And in particular, who is the main shareholder – Mohamad Faridz Karim of Balik Pulau, who has close to an 80 per cent interest in Nusmetro’s parent company, Asia Link-up Sdn Bhd?

1142: About a hundred demonstrators from Hindraf, MIC and PSM are at Komtar now. They have just handed over a memo for the chief minister.

USM students at Kg Buah Pala

Crowd gathers, no sign of demolition - Malaysiakini

Some 300 people have gathered in support of the Kampung Buah Pala villagers in Penang after the deadline for the villagers to vacate the land expired yesterday.

Among those present are members of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), MIC, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and non-government organisation Jerit.

Until now, there is no sign that the village would be demolished.

According to journalists on the ground, "There are no bulldozers, policemen or local council officers at the site."

Luxury condominium project

The villagers face eviction to pave the way for luxury condominium project, called the Oasis, to be built by Nusmetro Venture.

The developer has given the villagers until today to move out before their 20-odd houses are demolished to make way for the project.

However, the Penang government - which has come under intense pressure over the issue - last week revoked the development order and it is unclear whether the developer will proceed to evict the villagers tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Penang Government Officers Cooperative, the sole owner of the Kampung Buah Pala land, remained adamant that the houses would be demolished today.

Cooperative chairperson Abdul Razak Mansor said Nusmetro had been instructed to obey the Federal Court decision, which has granted ownership of the land to the cooperative.

"We are not cruel, but our decision to demolish the village still stands because the court has decided the land is ours," he said.

Moment of truth for Kg Buah Pala (updates)

2000: The Penang Government Officers Cooperative is adamant that it wants to demolish the Kg Buah Pala houses tomorrow, reports the NST/Bernama here. “We are not cruel, but our decision to demolish the village still stands because the court has decided the land is ours,” the cooperative chairman Abdul Razak Mansor is quoted as saying.

This effectively throws a spanner in the ongoing talks between the state government and the developer, Nusmetro, to resolve the crisis, according to a source.

Meanwhile, villagers reportedly have taken a week off from work to protect their homes from demolition. They are also expecting many activists and sympathisers to turn up tomorrow to lend their support, reports theSun.

1500: The developer and state government leaders are believed to be holding round-the-clock talks to resolve this crisis, a source informs me. The talks, which could continue tomorrow, may be extended if they fail to come up with a solution.

1300: The villagers are now waiting for a detailed blueprint from the developer/state for them to evaluate the proposal that they could co-exist side-by-side with the condominium project, says Sugumaran, the chairperson of the residents committee.

The villagers are in the midst of a heritage festival in the village.

0058: Today is the the day – the deadline given for Kampung Buah Pala residents to vacate their land.

There’s still considerable uncertainty over what will happen tomorrow.

According to one activist, as late as yesterday, the villagers were still hoping for the state to intervene and save their land by acquiring it.

Today, the villagers will be holding Ponggal celebrations with mixed feelings.

They will probably issue a press statement as well.

And then, who knows what tomorrow will bring.