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High Chaparral: Penang Kampung Buah Pala controversy – Koh Tsu Koon should speak up as to whethe

Contributed by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 01 @ 02:42:46 CDT

National: Politics
Lim Kit Siang, July 01 2009
The former Penang Chief Minister and now Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should speak up as to whether he would make amends for his decisions as Penang Chief Minister in the Kampung Buah Pala, Penang controversy by securing a Federal Government grant to Penang State Government to resolve the issue with “a stroke of the pen”?


The Penang Pakatan Rakyat government is now caught in a vice created by Koh’s administration although it had prevented the eviction of the residents in the area since the middle of last year. Firstly, Koh must explain why as Chief Minister, his Executive Council had approved the state government land of Kampung Buah Pala to Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang, first time on 18th August 2004 and second time on 8th June 2005 at a very low premium of RM6.42 million or RM20 per square feet. Secondly, why Koh and his Exco subsequently halved the premium to RM3.21 million or only RM10 psf on the recommendation of the Umno Deputy Chief Minister – far below the market price of the prime land.

Thirdly, why Koh and the Penang State Government had not consulted the residents concerned before alienating the land which is now to be developed into the 14-storey luxury-living Oasis project with a Gross Development Value of RM150 million, comprising 490 condominium units (priced from RM240,000 to RM290,000) on the 2.6 hectare site. It has been said that the Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng can resolve the Kampung Buah Pala issue with “a stroke of the pen”. Yes, it can be resolved with “a stroke of the pen” but involving compensation for the RM150 million Oasis project. Can the Penang State Government afford such a compensation? Is Koh prepared to raise in Friday’s Cabinet meeting that the Federal Government make a grant to the Penang State Government for the amount needed to resolve Kampung Buah Pala issue with “a stroke of the pen” by the Penang Chief Minister? Time has come for Koh to speak up or he will be failing his own KPI although he is the Cabinet monitor to oversee the KPIs of all Ministers.********Koh To Consult Penang Gerakan On Kampung Buah Pala Controversy     -->
KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 (Bernama) -- Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon will consult Gerakan members in Penang before making any comments on the Kampung Buah Pala issue.

His aide told Bernama this after reporters tried to get Koh's comment on the Kampung Buah Pala issue which was brought up by DAP advisor and Ipoh Timur Member of Parliament Lim Kit Siang at a news conference here Wednesday.

Lim had said: "Koh Tsu Koon should speak up as to whether he would make amends for his decisions as Penang chief minister in the Kampung Buah Pala controversy by securing a federal government grant for the Penang state government."

Yesterday, both Penang deputy chief ministers, Mansor Othman and P. Ramasamy went to the ground to meet the Kampung Buah Pala squatters facing eviction on Thursday by developer Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd, as demonstrations on the matter took place in Petaling Jaya, Penang and Ipoh.

After the meeting with Mansor and Ramasamy, villager A. Drabiam, 84, urged the state government to have the village returned to the residents as promised by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during the general election campaign last year. He claimed that Anwar had not visited the village since.

Supporters of the banned Hindu Rights Action Force also took part in the demonstrations against the DAP-led Penang government.

-- BERNAMA

********
Kampung Buah Pala Residents Want Penang CM To Resign By: Ramjit--> PENANG, July 1 (Bernama) -- The Kampung Buah Pala Residents Association in Bukit Gelugor Wednesday urged Lim Guan Eng to step down as Penang Chief Minister for having failed to serve and help the people in the state.

Its spokesperson, C. Tharmaraj said the association also felt that Lim who is also DAP secretary-general was not able to discharge his duties and keep his promise.

"He is a big liar and always makes contradicting statements. He doesn't know anything about Penang because he is from Melaka.

"The promise he made to us during the last general election to return our rights on the land was never fulfilled. I think it's better if he resigns," he told reporters here today.

The residents have been in a tussle over recent years to save their cattle-rearing village, dubbed Penang's High Chaparral, from being demolished to make way for development projects.

Meanwhile, Thomas Chan, the director of Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd, said that as the project developer, the company had suffered a loss of RM6 million annually due to the postponement of the project which should have kicked off early last year.

"Ten families have been compensated to vacate the land so far but 22 others still won't budge," he said, adding that the company would convene a meeting with the state government within this month to solve the problem.

He said like it or not, the residents had to vacate their homes as the Federal Court on June 24, had maintained the Court of Appeal's decision ordering the residents to vacate their homes.

"If they fail to do so by Aug 2, action can be taken against them for contempt of court," he said.

In PENANG, MIC Youth chief, T.Mohan also called on the federal government to help solve the problem faced by the Kampung Buah Pala residents.

"We are concerned that if prolonged, it would create racial problem in the country," he said in a statement here.

He said the silence and uncaring attitude showed by the Opposition-led state government only proved that they were not ready to face the problem, let alone to take on the challenge to solve it.

Mohan said the village which comprised 41 homes with over 300 residents, was the only Indian settlement of over 100 years of age in the state.

Hence, he said the MIC Youth hoped that the issue would not be politicised by anybody.



-- BERNAMA
*******Mexican standoff at High Chaparral II: Threats and warnings By ANN TAN, CHRISTINA CHIN and TAN SIN CHOW The Star
GEORGE TOWN: The Kampung Buah Pala situation took a turn for the worse Wednesday with exhortations for the state leader to quit, strong words against activists fighting for the villagers, and a warning by the developers concerned that the time for negotiations was over. The villagers at what has been called Penang’s High Chaparral want Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to resign for failing to help them over their problem, where they will have to vacate their land to make way for a housing development project. Their representative C. Tharmaraj said they did not want a chief minister who could not meet with them to explain his stand but instead sent “agents.” “Lim is more keen on protecting the developer’s interest rather than that of the people. “All we want is for the state government to correct the malpractices of the previous state government. “Is this too much to ask? If Lim can’t do this for the people who voted for his government, he should resign and go back to his home state of Malacca,” he said in a press conference at the village on Wednesday. He also rebutted Lim’s press statement on Tuesday that Kampung Buah Pala was still standing today because of the intervention of his state government. Tharmaraj said the residents won a court order in 2007 from the High Court to stop the eviction and not because of the efforts of the Pakatan Rakyat state government. Meanwhile, Lim when met at another function, asked residents whether they would accept a compensation up to RM200,000 if it was offered to them by the developer. “I do not want to go into a dispute but I received information from state executive councillor Abdul Malik Abul Kassim that they are not willing to consider any amount,” he said, referring to the 23 families. Responding to this, Tharmaraj said Lim was trying to create the perception that the residents were greedy. Tharmaraj said if there was to be an offer of RM200,000 for each family, a house with an average of five families each would be getting RM1mil. “There are 65 families here. If they are only going to pay for 23 families, what about the rest?” he said. Tharmaraj said it was not an issue of money. “All we want is to preserve the place as an Indian heritage settlement. We want our home.” Lim, in a press statement, refuted claims that acquiring Kampung Buah Pala would cost at the most RM30mil, or even much less. “Where is it stated in the land acquisition laws or approved by the courts that the government can acquire land for public interest at a sum far below the market price?,” he said. Hindraf asked to retract statement
Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy lashed out at the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), saying it should not threaten the state government by calling for street protests over the issue. He said the state had never given its consent for the developer to tear down the village. “If not for our timely intervention last year, the village would have been as good as gone. Where was Hindraf and its chairman P. Waythamoorthy at that time? “He should have returned from abroad if he is sincere in fighting for the Indian community,” he said at a press conference at his office. Dr Ramasamy said Hindraf should stop turning the matter into a racial issue by calling Lim a racist. “This is slanderous. The labelling has given the state a negative image. We want him to retract his statement,” he said. Sri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer, who was also present, said, “I also want to remind Waythamoorthy that it was the DAP which helped Hindraf when five of its leaders were detained under Internal Security Act. “Again, where was he then?” said Rayer. Dr Ramasamy said the land in the village was sold at “a dirt cheap price” by the previous state administration headed by Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon. “To acquire the land now, we will have to pay market rates. The developer would reap enormous profits without having to put in a single sen,” he said. That’s it, villagers told
The developer of the proposed housing project said it will not hold any more compensation negotiations with Kampung Buah Pala residents. The villagers will have to move out by Aug 2 when the one-month grace period given by the developer expires and there will be “no more extensions,” said Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd executive director Thomas Chan. Chan said his company was in the midst of working out a “goodwill payment” to the state government which can choose to deal with the residents as it wished. Ten houses are now vacant while 22 others remain occupied. “If they do not vacate the premises by then, they will be in contempt of court and the police have said they will assist us. We have a writ of possession and we are going in. “We don’t enjoy bulldozing homes -- although we could have bulldozed the houses a long time ago, we did not,” he told a press conference. He said under the law, developers are under no obligation to pay a single sen to squatters. “We have made offers ranging from RM140,000 to RM260,000 to the temporary occupation of land (TOL) holders as well as their immediate and extended families. “I believe we have set a record for the highest compensation in the state. “We even offered one of the two cattle ranchers there RM330,000 including a five-year rent-free deal for land in Balik Pulau -- he was on the verge of accepting before he was influenced by certain quarters,” Chan claimed. “We will not cave in. Despite them going to the press, we never issued any statements until now because we respect the due process of the law,” he said, adding that the “real victims” were members of the Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang Bhd (KPKN) which owns the land. KPKN chairman Abdul Razak Man said there was no question of any irregularity as to how it came to own the plot. “In the late 1990s we were got a plot of land in George Town where the new court building is located. “The state asked us to give it back as they needed the land for its court expansion plans. In return, we were given Kampung Buah Pala. “We appealed for a 50% premium reduction based on our long-standing service to the government,” he said. The village comprises 33 houses and some of the residents have been living there for decades. They received a notice on Aug 30, 2007, asking them to move out so that their houses could be demolished while compensation talks were ongoing. After a series of appeals, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the landowner and developer on June 24. The village has been earmarked for a low medium and medium-cost housing project comprising 740 units, eight shoplots, a community hall and a kindergarten. About 40% of the units have been sold. According to the developer, the one-and-a-half-year delay caused by the residents have cost the company “RM6mil and counting.”**************
Waytha slams ‘racist’ Guan Eng The Star
KLANG: The chairman of the banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) P. Waythamoorthy has accused Penang’s DAP-led government of not doing enough for the state’s Indians. He said the Pakatan Rakyat coalition has failed to live-up to the expectations of the state’s Indian electorate by not solving the problems faced by the Kampung Buah Pala residents. Waythamoorthy’s disdain was fuelled by the state’s alleged ineffective role in solving the land dispute involving Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang Bhd, Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd and the villagers. The residents of Kampung Buah Pala, said to be the last Tamil heritage village in Penang, are facing eviction and claim there was foul play in the transfer of the land from the state to the co-operative in late March 2008. Waythamoorthy lambasted Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng for not exercising his power to use the National Land Code and the Land Acquisition Act to settle the problem. He said the residents were not asking for compensation. “All they want is to continue living in Kampung Buah Pala and practice their heritage and culture,” said Waythamoorthy in a telephone interview from New Delhi where he was meeting Indian leaders. He chided Lim for initially having pushed the matter to deputy Chief Minister ll Dr P. Ramasamy. “This is not an Indian problem. It is a state problem and the DAP leadership was racist in pushing it to Ramasamy,” said Waythamoorthy. He also accused Ramasamy of being the “DAP’s Indian mandor (overseer)”. Waythamoorthy also reproached Lim for currently having transferred the issue from Ramasamy to deputy Chief Minister l Mansor Othman. “Why can’t Guan Eng handle the matter personally as both the deputy chief ministers do not wield the power that he has to solve the matter?” he asked. He said the DAP’s claim of protecting the democratic rights of the underprivileged was just an eyewash. Waythamoorthy also alleged that there appeared to be a hidden agenda to get rid of the last remaining Tamil heritage village in Penang.

 
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