Friday, January 28, 2011

Kampung Buah Pala returns to haunt

A banner put up during the Thaipusam festival has irked nine former residents, who claim to have been shortchanged by the state government.

GEORGE TOWN: Some issues just refuse to die, and the now extinct Kampung Buah Pala is one such case.
Despite the Pakatan Rakyat state government’s attempts to lay the ghost to rest, the demolition of the Indian village two years ago continues to haunt Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s administration.

A political banner put up during last week’s Thaipusam festival claiming that Lim had delivered his promise to the village folk had irked nine ex-residents.

Kampung Buah Pala Residents Association chairman M Sugumaran called it a misrepresentation of facts.
“The banner implied that all affected residents have been compensated. Regretfully, nine more families are still waiting for compensation,” he told reporters.

The nine included two cowherds who were also seeking alternative land to breed their cattle.

“Our ranches were demolished ruthlessly by the developer two years ago. But until today, the state government refuses to give us alternative land to rear our cows, which are sacred to us,” said cowherd K Sivanantham, 41.

He said the state land office once offered a swamp-like waterlogged land near the Kuala Sungai Pinang coastal area in the Southwest district.

“Any cowherd will know that one cannot breed cows in a wet area. It has to be dry land,” he said.
Sugumaran blasted the state government for still refusing to compensate the nine “merely because they stood
up to defend their  rights”.
“Where are the houses for the nine? Why are we not compensated?” he asked.

Court hearing next week

The banner presumably was put up by former villagers thanking the Pakatan government for compensating them with double-storey houses.

It featured portraits of Lim, Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, and photographs of the ongoing construction of the posh Oasis condominium project on the land.
The banner was put up near the DAP thaneer panthal (refeshment shed), located outside party national chairman and Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh’s house in Jalan Utama, Waterfall.

The 200-year-old Kampung Buah Pala was demolished in September 2009 to make way for the Oasis, undertaken by landowner Penang Civil Servant Cooperative Society and developer Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd.

The 6.5-acre plot was sold to the cooperative for only RM3.21 million.

The village was once known to the locals, especially Indians, as the Tamil High Chaparral due to its high population of Indian cowherds and livestock as well as unique cultural features and festivities.

Originally, some 33 families lived in the village when the Oasis project was hatched by the previous Barisan Nasional state administration some six years ago.

However, the Gerakan-led state government inserted a clause to compel the developers to settle the compensation issue with the villagers first before the land title could be transferred.

Nine families moved out from the village some six years ago after agreeing to the original compensation package offered by Nusmetro.

The package was either a RM75,000 worth 800 sq ft low medium flat unit in the Oasis or cash.
But 24 others stayed put to fight for the land, which they claimed was given to their ancestors under trust by their colonial plantation master, the Brown Family.

When the village was demolished, the Pakatan government agreed to compensate the families with a double-storey house each, to be built on a 1.5-acre plot of land at the project site.

However, nine out of the 24 families did not get the house.

The houses were instead given to villagers who had already left after agreeing with the original compensation package.

According to the official version, the nine families failed to ink the documents for the houses in time.
However, the deprived nine pinned the blame on Lim and his personal vendetta.

The nine families had already initiated court action seeking a full trial over the Kampung Buah Pala land status.
They argued that since the land was under a federal trust, the state government had no right to transfer the land to a private developer.

Moreover, there had been no documented evidence to show that the federal government had ever transferred the land title to the Penang government, read the affidavit.

The case is up for hearing at the High Court next Monday.