Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nine Kampung Buah Pala residents seek justice

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By Athi Shankar - Free Malaysia Today

GEORGE TOWN: Nine disgruntled former residents of Kampung Buah Pala in Bukit Gelugor have filed an application seeking a court review and declaration on the land status of the demolished village.

Kampung Buah Pala Residents Association chairman M Sugumaran said senior resident M Ayamah, 69, filed the application on the behalf of the ex-villagers in the High Court here two weeks ago.

Lawyers Danny C Navaratnam and V Sivagurupatham are representing the nine families.

In her affidavit, Ayamah has also sought a court order to instruct the Penang government to compensate the nine adequately over the loss of their livelihoods and homes.

The nine households are until today denied any compensation by the DAP-led state government, which advocates competency, accountability and transparency (CAT) as its official motto of governance.

The nine are V Odayappan, 88, Draviam Arul Pillay, 84, M Karupiah Thevar, 81, M Ayamah, 75, I Muniandy, 73, P Kaliammal, 66, I Pasunagi, 61, R Indiani, 60, and R Supramaniam, 58.

“We have sent four legal notices of action to the state government seeking compensation for the nine households.

“However, until today the state government had kept a deafening silence on the issue,” Sugumaran told reporters at the former village site today.

In her affidavit to support her application, Ayamah has sought a court redress on how the land status of the village, kept as Brown Estate Trust under federal trust, was changed into a state temporary occupation licence (TOL) land.

Ayamah also wants a court’s verdict on how the current Pakatan Rakyat-led state government could have transferred the land title to a civil servants cooperative society, Koperasi Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang, when the land was still under federal trust.

“We want to know when and how a federal trust land had changed status to a state-owned TOL land, and subsequently sold for a private project, ” Sugumaran said.

He said the villagers wanted a court declaration on whether the land title transfer approved by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on March 27, 2008 was legitimate.

Kampung Buah Pala was once known as Penang Tamil High Chaparral for its population of cowherds, cattle, goats and other livestock, unique Indian cultural features and festivities.

Harsh lesson

The 200-year-old Indian traditional village was demolished last September by developer Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd, while families were still living there, to pave the way for a posh condominium project called the Oasis.

The nine were the only residents among the original 33 left uncompensated.

The nine had accepted the compensation and shifted elsewhere, leaving behind the 24 families to fight out their case in court.

Following a Federal Court’s refusal to allow a full trial to determine the status of the village land mid-last year, the developer moved in swiftly to demolish the homes.

The state government had given an assurance that the 24 families, including the nine, would get a double-storey house each.

But until today, no sales and purchase agreement has been signed between the developer and former villagers for the double-storey houses.

Sugumaran called on the state government to show proof, if any, that the houses had been documented and legalised.

He also slammed Lim, his deputies Mansor Othman and P Ramasamy, Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh and Seri Delima assemblyman RSN Rayer, for their incompetence in resolving the compensation issue.

“All of them have neglected their duties to the Kampung Buah Pala villagers.

“These are the leaders who have promised to save the village for us,” said Sugumaran.

Meanwhile, the association assistant secretary C Tharmaraj called on Hulu Selangor voters to cast their ballot wisely on Sunday.

He recalled that Ramasamy and Rayer had vowed that the developer would have to demolish the village over their dead bodies.

He also recalled that PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim made a pre-election promise to save the village if Pakatan came to power.

“But now our village has gone and will be replaced with houses for the rich, courtesy of Guan Eng.

“Hulu Selangor voters should learn a harsh lesson from our predicament,” he said.