Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New offer: Residents have 3 days to decide

G Vinod and B Nantha Kumar - FMT

BUKIT JALIL: The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has deferred the demolition of houses in Ladang Bukit Jalil today, offering the 41 families involved a flat each for RM35,000.

The former estate workers have been given till Friday to decide, after which their present houses would be bulldozed.

A standoff was expected this morning after residents defied DBKL's order to vacate their houses.

However, DBKL gave the former estate workers an offer letter each to purchase units at a nearby flat for RM35,000, originally priced at RM80,000.

There was a commotion when a DBKL officer went up to the residents to talk to them, many of whom had camped there since last night.

“We only want to talk to a superior officer, not his henchmen,” K Balakrishnan, the estate's action force committee member, told the DBKL officer.

The officer, known only as Fairus, explained that DBKL had no plans to demolish their houses today and he was only there to negotiate.

He then left and returned a few minutes later with DBKL's deputy director-general Mohamad Amin Nordin.

However, Amin was heckled with chants like “Umno: 2Malaysia, Jangan Hina Masyarakat India and Selamatkan Ladang Bukit Jalil.”

'Many are illiterate'

Meanwhile, Balakrishnan told FMT that the time-frame given was not sufficient.

“Many of the people here are illiterate. How do you expect them to sign on something blindly. They need more time to consider this new offer.

“Another issue is how are they going to get bank loans. Some will not fulfil the requirements needed to be eligible for the housing loan. How is DBKL going to solve that problem?” he added.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arutchelvan, who was also present, questioned DBKL's move to use the Emergency Ordinance to vacate the residents, when the ordinance is only used to evict squatters.

“These people are estate workers staying at a former estate housing scheme. DBKL should not group them under the squatter category. They should not have used the ordinance,” he said.

This view was shared by Ibrahim Mohamed, a former Bukit Jalil estate worker, who said that DBKL had no right to call them squatters as they were living on estate land.

“My father worked in this estate many years ago. I was born here 47 years ago and I even studied in the Tamil school here. Who is DBKL to call us squatters? ” he said.

'Swear in a mosque'

Ibrahim said initially when negotiating terms with DBKL on the eviction, the latter had only offered a compensation of RM6,000 without even hearing any details from them.

“They have been promising things for the past three years and that's the only thing they know, making empty promises,” he added.

He lambasted Amin for saying that the land would be cleared to build a new cemetery.

“Even those living do not have a place to stay but now they are offering this place for the dead,” he said, adding that estate existed even before DBKL came into existence.

“During general elections, even the Election Commission used the Tamil school here as a polling booth. So how come a government agency is using a squatter premise as a polling area?” he asked.

He then challenged the DBKL deputy director to swear in a mosque that they would actually build a cemetery there.

“I am a Muslim and so is he. I dare him to swear in a mosque,” he said, adding that there was more than what meets the eye.

Meanwhile, a source revealed that the residents planned to stay put, even after the deadline, until a decision was made on the new offer.

“This is an important decision. There are so many aspects that should be taken into account before we make a decision. Until then we are staying put. We are not moving.

“Even if they come back on Friday, we will still be here. They need to clarify all the questions we have. Until then, this standoff will continue,” he said.

In a related development, DBKL revealed that only 12 out of the 41 families were former estate workers and the rest were squatters.