Guan Eng disappoints villagers again

(NST) GEORGE TOWN: The much anticipated meeting between Kampung Lorong Buah Pala villagers and Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng yesterday ended up as a farce.

The villagers, who arrived about 11 am, never got to Lim's office at Level 28 of Komtar.

The trouble started earlier at Level 3 of the Penang Island Municipal Council office when the 20 villagers were told by Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer and Lim's political secretary Ng Wei Aik that their legal adviser, Darshan Singh Khaira, would not be allowed to join the meeting.

The residents were also told that Lim wanted to talk to their association chairman, M. Sugumaran, before the meeting.

Darshan said it was strange that the residents' legal adviser was not allowed to be present when the state government could have theirs in the meeting.

"Is Lim denying the people their fundamental right to be represented by a legal adviser?"

Sugumaran said he had talked to Bukit Gelugor member of parliament Karpal Singh on Tuesday and was told that Lim would meet five representatives from the village.

"But there was no mention that our lawyer would not be allowed to be present at the meeting. I am also confused why Lim wanted to meet me alone first? If he is sincere he should just meet all of us."

The association's assistant secretary C. Tarmaraj accused Lim of trying impress the people that he was working overtime to solve the crisis.

When Rayer and Ng returned again after conveying to Lim the residents' refusal to meet him without Darshan, Sugumaran was showing reporters a message on a piece of paper to Lim, urging him to fulfil his election promise to save the village.

The message was received by Rayer, who said Lim was ready to meet all the residents for a heart-to-heart talk to understand their demands and grouses, and would address their lawyers later.

"We are not denying the people's rights to legal advice," Rayer said amidst protests by the residents and Darshan in public.

He said residents would not meet Lim because they would not be on a level playing field without the presence of Darshan.

The residents, their legal team and supporters left Komtar after more than an hour there. Lim then held a press conference and said the state government was looking into invoking the National Land Code to stop the developer from demolishing the village.

Sugumaran said the state government should acquire the land as the residents would not budge.

"Just fulfil your election promise. Save our village and then find a way out. How much you have to compensate the developer is not our problem."