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High Chaparral: High Chaparral update

Contributed by Anonymous on Sunday, July 05 @ 21:19:57 CDT

National: PoliticsMurugiah in bid to help High Chaparral folk By : Phuah Ken Lin
NST, Jul 06 2009

GEORGE TOWN: The Federal Government is looking at how it can help the residents of Kampung Lorong Buah Pala. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator Datuk T. Murugiah said: "I will read the memorandum submitted by the residents before working out an amicable solution.


"I will discuss the available options with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak."

He did not rule out the possibility of giving financial assistance but declined to commit himself further.

"The ministry can only decide on providing monetary help after it completes a financial viability study."
Murugiah said Barisan Nasional leaders would do what they could to help the residents of the settlement who have to make way for development.

But he said the issue of the land title came under the state government, so it was difficult for the Federal Government to intervene.

The village residents' association committee said the land on which Kampung Lorong Buah Pala in Bukit Gelugor stands is not freehold, as claimed by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Committee assistant secretary C. Tharmaraj, in rebutting Lim's statement reported by Bernama yesterday, said a search at the state Land Office revealed that the land was held on a leasehold.

"Lim does not even know the status of the land. Is he getting accurate facts from his people?

"If he cannot get such details right, I think he should go back to Malacca and leave Penang to someone more capable," he said at a press conference.

Tharmaraj distributed to pressmen copies of the do*****ent which showed the 99-year lease on the land expired in March 2107.

He also alleged that the state government had on Saturday instructed one of the village residents, who was a Parti Kedilan Rakyat member, to read out a statement praising its handling of the issue at a press conference.

"The statement read out to the press was prepared for her. Such action does not help us. Instead, it has made matters worse and confused residents.

"Such false remarks have affected the state government's integrity."

Despite all that, Tharmaraj said the residents still wanted to meet Lim to find a solution to their problem.

He said an official letter seeking an appointment to see Lim would be delivered by hand to his secretary today at Komtar.

"We will also bring two cows to Komtar with us to show him we are serious."

Committee chairman M. Sugumaran said what the residents wanted had been made clear to the state government many times.

"We just want to remain on this land. Compensation is an issue that does not arise."

Kampung Lorong Buah Pala residents have until Aug 3 to vacate the land to make way for development.
**********
A Pig in a Poke
by G. Krishnan, Limlitsiang.com, Jul 05 2005
High Chaparral, the pig abattoir, the race card, double standards…. What you see is not what you get. It seems as if many politicians – and I use that term to also include some activists – have gotten all hot under the collar about the DAP’s failings in the Kampung Buah Pala and for locking horns with PAS on the pig abattoir matter in Kedah.
Get a grip people. First, Hindraf and Uthayakumar needs to cool-off; perhaps have some refreshing chendol and think through the High Chaparral matter a bit more constructively. Does he really think Lim Guan Eng is in bed with the developers? For a lawyer, he must know better the potential implications of a breach of contract – in this case, a contract the former state government – had undertaken – under the former chief minister’s watch. Yes, perhaps a stroke of the pen by the current chief minister may save the homes of the residents of Kampung Buah Pala. But at what cost to the rest of the residents of the state? Now that the current DAP state government finds itself in a dilemma like this, does it not matter what it might cost the rest of the residents of Penang to go back on their word? As I’m sure we all – including Hindraf and Uthayakumar – surely understand, the former state government under Gerakan/BN was supposedly acting on behalf of the welfare and interest of the state when it undertook the agreement the developers. This is where Gerakan has put the residents of Kampung Buah Pala and the people of Penang. No, unlike what some might like to think, it doesn’t just take a stroke of the pen, to undo the BN’s mess. Indeed, Uthayakumar ought to know better. If he’s worried about the marginalised Indians in Kampung Buah Pala – as is understandable – just imagine the legal and financial bind a stroke of the pen by the current chief minister to undo the agreement with the developer may cost the state government. The multi-millions that this will cost the people of the state will inevitably impact lots of other marginialised people who again will have to endure the consequences of further depletion of the state’s resources. Am I suggesting the residents of Kampung Buah Pala should therefore just become sacrificial pigs? No. They’ll have to accept the reality that the former Gerakan/BN state government did them in. And they have to be willing now to work with Lim Guan Eng and find a solution that can be a win-win situation for them, the developers (who now have a legal stake in the property), and the rest of Penangites who also have a big stake in the matter. Probably much like the hullabaloo about the pig abattoir controversy in Kedah, what you see about the Kampung Buah Pala is not all that simple and straight forward as some would make it out to be. So, Hindraf, sit down with your one hope – the DAP and Lim Guam Eng and find a compromise where the residents can be reasonably compensated and relocated while the rest of Penangites are also not unduly screwed by your intransigence due to a situation created by the DAP’s predecessor.
The Star
Monday July 6, 2009 Buah Pala villagers refute Guan Eng’s freehold claim
GEORGE TOWN: Kampung Buah Pala residents have hit back at Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, claiming that their village sits on leasehold land and not freehold as stated by him. They passed out certified copies of a state land registry do*****ent detailing the transfer of a 2.6ha piece of land on which their village is located.
All quiet: Aerial view of Kampung Buah Pala, which the residents claim sits on leasehold land.
“The do*****ent clearly says that the property has been leased to Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang Bhd for 99 years until March 26, 2107. “Lim claimed that the land is freehold and too expensive to be bought back. We give you proof that it is a leasehold property,” said Kampung Buah Pala Association assistant secretary C. Tharmaraj. “I don’t know if his officers are giving him the wrong information or he just isn’t doing his job. Maybe he should go back to Malacca,” he told a press conference yesterday. When shown a copy of the do*****ent, Lim said he would “check and see” before commenting. On Saturday, Lim stressed that the land on which Kampung Buah Pala stands was freehold and earmarked for development and therefore very expensive to buy back from the developer. At the press conference, residents also claimed that there was foul play in the transfer of the land alleging that the state cooperative was linked politically to an ex-personal assistant of former state Land Committee chairman Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya. Yesterday, Lim said he would write to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, asking the Federal Government to consider paying for the cost of acquiring Kampung Buah Pala. The state government, he said, could not afford to pay for the prime land as the sum was much higher compared to the original selling price of RM3.2mil by the previous state administration. “All those fighting for the residents must work together and put pressure on the Federal Government, especially (former chief minister) Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon who should raise the matter in Cabinet,” he told a press conference after a meeting with former ISA detainee V. Ganabatirau and six other members of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) at his office yesterday. Lim said he was willing to meet the residents without any outside influence for a heart-to-heart talk. Ganabatirau who is also Hindraf’s legal adviser, said the victims were the residents, and that the Federal Government, the state and the developer should give the residents other options and draw up proper plans. “My humble request is for all the relevant parties, including Barisan National to solve the issue,’’ he added. In Bukit Mertajam, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said it was not necessary for Lim to visit the residents as he was already helping them find a solution to their problem. “If he (Lim) has the time, I am sure he will visit the place. “But if his deputies and state exco members go there, I personally would not make it a rule, even from my past experiences, to be on site every time there is a problem,” he told reporters at PKR’s operations centre in Yayasan Aman here yesterday.******Monday July 6, 2009 DAP under extreme pressure Comment by BARADAN KUPPUSAMY
The controversy in Kampung Buah Pala has given DAP’s enemies – and its allies – the chance to attack the party for failing to live up to the ideals it had championed before it seized power. PERCEPTION is everything in politics and the DAP, which has a sound record on this score, should know this. But with the Kampung Buah Pala controversy dragging on, the party is taking a big hit on the perception front. The DAP is facing concerted opposition for “failing” to save the village from demolition. Even its own political allies in Pakatan Rakyat – PAS and PKR – are lined up with the 200 residents of the village along with Hindraf, NGOs like Suaram and Aliran, and not to mention the BN – especially the MIC – and three Tamil newspapers that are giving front-page treatment to the issue. The same type of anguish was seen during the demolition of the Mariamman Temple in Shah Alam a week before Deepavali in 2007, an inconsiderate act that sparked the Makkal Sakthi movement that eventually toppled the BN Selangor government. Within the DAP too, a debate is raging between the top leadership and its Indian leaders who are taking the heat from their community for failing to speedily resolve the controversy. They are discussing several solutions but nothing firm has emerged as yet except that residents should accept compensation and vacate the 2.6ha land. Party sources said even veteran DAP veterans like life adviser Dr Chen Man Hin and DAP chairman Karpal Singh are worried the party would be seen as “cold and heartless” if a humane solution is not found. The 200-odd villagers have been issued with eviction notices and face forced expulsion if they don’t vacate the land they and their forefathers have lived on for over a century. The developer has given a lifeline – a one-month extension - before demolition takes place. Among the general public, Indians especially, there is rising clamour for DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his deputy Dr P. Ramasamy to come out of their comfort zones and grapple with the real issues of unequal and lopsided development. NGO critics ask whether Penang needs another massive development that would alienate the people and turn this resort island into a concrete jungle. They say the state can use its inherent powers to enforce just, fair and humane solutions instead of blaming the eviction order, previous government and the developer. What is at stake is a traditional way of life which cash cannot buy – arguments made famous by the DAP at numerous forums pre-March 8. Part of the reason that DAP is not sticking its head out to “save” Kampung Buah Pala is Guan Eng himself. He goes strictly by the book and is famously adamant in demanding his way on any given issue, believing it is the fit, proper and right way. Most of the time, he is right and the party defers to him because he goes by the book – he’s tough but fair. In the Buah Pala case, he has rejected acquisition as a solution because the court has already ruled for an eviction and acquisition would cost a bomb. He is wrong in taking such a narrow view. The issues in Buah Pala – repossession, dispossession and alienation of helpless people – are all issues familiar to Guan Eng and his deputy, Dr Ramasamy. A former academician who devoted much time trying to give voice to the voiceless, Dr Ramasamy was elected to high office with the expectations that the poor would also get the attention and protection like the rich and powerful. Likewise, Guan Eng had championed the voiceless, promoted holistic development and protection of the marginalised. Both are under attack now from various quarters for failing to live up to the ideals they had preached. The MIC and the Tamil media are lambasting Dr Ramasamy for “doing nothing” to save Buah Pala, accusations that he himself had levelled against the MIC pre-March 8 over numerous issues. The Buah Pala controversy offers an opportunity to the Pakatan Rakyat generally and the DAP especially to show compassion to people caught on the wrong end of development. Previously when people and capital clashed, most of the time the people lost. They were either evicted or offered cash as compensation. They were uprooted and their traditional way of life destroyed and they ended up thoroughly alienated. These are the same people who had backed Pakatan Rakyat, expecting better treatment and protection from eviction, desperation and alienation. Lim’s competency, accountability and transparency principles are truly admirable and is bringing great benefits to the state but it is missing another element – compassion. Cold efficiency in politics and administration is just not enough to win the hearts and minds of the people. People need a caring and sharing government that is humane and compassionate in its policies and that protects the helpless from the powerful and rapacious. In Buah Pala village, the DAP has an opportunity to show compassion before it is too late. After all, politics is all about perception and the DAP should know.*******The Sun, Jul 01 2009Kampung Buah Pala holds its breath
THERE is an old well, said to have been dug some 100 years ago in Penang’s Kampung Buah Pala, a charming settlement of cowherds and planters, which still provides fresh groundwater for many villagers. So remarkable is this well that during the national water crisis of the late 1990s, it became the lifeline for thousands of Penangites who made a bee-line to collect its water when all other supplies failed.
Which way now... Will Kampung Buah Pala be declared a historic
communal settlement or be demolished to make way for apartments?
About five years ago, the inhabitants of this settlement – who trace their ancestry to at least five generations – were shocked when told that the land on which the well and the village stood was earmarked for a development project. The venture, which included four blocks of apartments, was called "Oasis". What had happened was that in August 2004 and July 2005, the state executive council reportedly approved the sale of the land at a premium of RM20 a sq ft or RM6.42 million. In 2007, the executive council halved the premium. The current value of the land is estimated at RM30-RM40 million. What made the situation even more peculiar was that the buyer was a cooperative for government officers in Penang – Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang. The co-op has about 3,600 members – all civil servants who effectively made up the internal organs of the state machinery. Villagers asked to see the alienation letter and transaction do*****ent, but none was forthcoming. They then sued the cooperative and the developer, Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd, and were vindicated when the High Court ruled in their favour in October last year. That decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal on May 11, giving the cooperative and Nusmetro vacant possession. Undeterred, the villagers took the case to the Federal Court, but on June 24 it too dismissed their case on grounds that they did not have locus standi. "Our families have lived and worked on this land for more than a century, and suddenly we are told that we are trespassers," said one of the village leaders, C. Tharmaraj. "Some day in the future, if my son asks me why I did not fight to keep this land, how would I answer him?" What hurts the residents most is that by leaving they would be made to discard an important legacy. Their ancestors were indentured labourers brought in by the East India Company to work for the Brown Estate more than 150 years ago. The owner and employer, Helen Margaret Brown, settled them in separate plots of land with space to rear cows and goats, and to plant fruit trees. The land became categorised as a vested crown for housing trust. The idyllic village has been called Penang’s "High Chaparral", after the American cowboy TV series of the 1970s. Years ago, when Penang’s general hospital was being built amid a shortage of infant formula milk, the colonial British administration relied on the cows from the village to supply patients and children with some 300 litres of milk everyday. There are today 41 families and other residents remaining in the village. And now they want the land back. Most have refused compensation on the principle that land had allegedly been fraudulently transferred. They have clamoured for the village to be identified by the authorities as a historic communal settlement, just like the Chitty and Portuguese villages in Malacca, or the Chinese clan jetties in Weld Quay. But last Saturday, the residents were called in for a meeting with the George Town district police chief and the developers, and told to cooperate with a court bailiff, scheduled to serve a writ of possession today. The developer, they were told, could begin demolition after that. The developments stirred an outpouring of emotion. Community rights group Hindraf barged in, demanding the state conserve the land as a heritage enclave – the only remaining traditional Indian village on the island. And ironically, it is the Pakatan Rakyat state government, which only came into power in March last year, which has had to feel the brunt of the anger. But the state has been working hard behind the scenes. Deputy Chief Minister (II) Prof Dr P. Ramasamy even warned the developer: "If you don’t negotiate and provide a just solution with the settlers, you can expect to see a lot of hurdles … We are not a lame duck government." On Tuesday, the developer gave in, agreeing to hold back demolition by a month. It would buy some much needed time for the villagers and the state administration to work on new legal avenues and investigate the land transaction, to forestall the eviction. Meantime, the old village well and the cattle that graze the grounds, will just have to wait and see if the heritage they have borne for so long will be able to endure for the many generations to come, or be replaced by concrete buildings. Himanshu is theSun’s Penang bureau chief. Feedback: letters@thesundaily.com.


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