CM rejects swapping another piece of land with developer

(The Star) GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has all but rejected a proposal from Kampung Buah Pala residents to offer another piece of land to the developers in exchange for their village.

Speaking to reporters after opening the Penang International Halal Hub task force meeting in Komtar, Lim said: “Which piece of land is available (to swap)? What about the cost involved? And we also have to look at the precedence (it sets).

“I sympathise with their plight but the state has to abide by the rule of law,” he said, adding that the Federal Court had held that the 2.6ha land known as High Chaparral belonged to the developer.

“The other solution is to ask the Federal Government to compensate the developer and take over the land or get the developer to pay the compensation previously offered, which is RM200,000 a family.”

Lim said the state was now in a predicament as the developer had rejected further negotiations to offer compensation and the residents had rejected receiving any payment, hoping to continue staying there.

“The state government cannot afford to buy back the land. It has been earmarked for development and on top of that, it is freehold.

“Compared to the Tang Hak Ju (land scam) case which may end up costing the state RM40mil, the magnitude and costs of the Kampung Buah Pala case are frightening if held in comparison,” he said.

Lim refuted claims he was evading the residents, saying he was willing to see them but not the opportunists.

Meanwhile, Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) legal adviser P. Uthayakumar suggested that Lim sign the compulsory purchase order under Section 76 of the National Land Code 1965 read together with the Land Acquisition Act to secure the land on grounds of public interest.

Telling Lim not to keep blaming his predecessor, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, he advised him to undo the injustice against the residents.

“The village is the last of its kind in Penang and should be preserved. The land was given to the residents by Helen Margaret Brown who created a trust in favour of the workers at the coconut plantation more than 200 years ago.

“A trust cannot change without a valid court order. I ask Lim to produce the order that did away with the trust within a week,” Uthayakumar told a press conference at the village.