Kg Buah Pala: Residents picket Penang CM’s home

By Tan Sin Chow & Ann Tan, The Star

About 30 residents of Kg Buah Pala picketed the Penang Chief Minsiter Lim Guan Eng's rented bungalow in Pin Horn Road.

Carrying candles and placards, they began the picket at 7.30pm and dispersed at about 8.20pm after being told to do so by police.

They want their village to be saved.

Kampung Buah Pala residents held a peaceful gathering at Komtar on Monday. – ZAINUDIN AHAD/THE STAR

Meanwhile, the demolition in Kampung Buah Pala did not take place Monday as scheduled, with land-owner Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang's chairman Abdul Razak Mansor saying that the villagers have been given a one-day reprieve.

Bernama quoted him as saying that the delay was for sympathetic and humanitarian reasons to allow the villagers time to remove their belongings.

Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd executive director Thomas Chan said that the writ of possession is only until Aug 3, after which “the demolition can take place anytime within a year.”

Some 200 people turned up at Kampung Buah Pala at 8am on Monday to show their support for villagers who refused to vacate their homes.

Cars were parked along both sides of the road leading to the village and people milled around anticipating bulldozers and policemen, holding placards and shouting slogans.

Among those present were representatives of the MIC and non-governmental organisations.

At about 10.30am, a group left for Komtar to hand over a memorandum to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng urging him to use his powers to save the village.

The memorandum was received by his political secretary Ng Wei Aik.

Earlier at the village, MIC Youth coordinator T. Mohan said the party was willing to pay RM3.2mil to acquire the land from Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang and transfer the title to the villagers.

“We will bank in the money within three days if the state government can acquire the land and offer it to us,” he said after meeting the villagers.

Ng, who was also present at the village to show the state’s support, said the Penang government was “standing at the same line with the villagers.”

“Although time is running out, we are still trying our best to deal with the developer and land owner.

“The state has appointed Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh and Seri Delima assemblyman R. S.N. Rayer to file an application to invoke Section 116 (1)(d) of the National Land Code.

“We have sent the documents to the district officer for his signature and would be filing the application after that,” he said.

Housing rights advocacy group Save Ourselves (SOS) coordinator Ong Boon Keong said the state government should come out with a policy to handle land issues like this.

“There will be more of such incidents to come and if they don’t handle it well, they will lose the support of the people sooner or later,” he said.

At a press conference later Monday, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said although the state could use Section 25 of the Town and Country Planning Act (1976), it still could not go against the decision of the Federal Court.

Commenting on the land title where the land cannot be transferred, mortgaged, pawned, sub-let or used as a business instrument, Lim said these could be “legalised” in the state executive council and a full council meeting.

“The land office issued a letter stating that if there are no objections, they would endorse it; and a full council meeting by the then Barisan Nasional councillors adopted it,” he said.

He said that since the previous administration had legalised the sale of the land and approved the development, “Section 25 might not get you very far.”

On calls from parties such as MIC to acquire to land at RM3.2mil, Lim said the state government would have to abide by the law and follow the market price, which puts the value at more than RM100mil.

“We cannot acquire the land at the original price. Our yearly budget is only RM477mil and I cannot sacrifice the interest of 1.5 million Penangites by allocating almost one-quarter of the budget to save the homes of 23 families.

“The state is not involved in the demolition. We are trying to find a (way) to achieve a win-win solution,” he said.

On the statement by Abdul Razak that they would “demolish the houses first and talk later,” Lim said if the co-operative and developer went ahead with the demolition without any reasonable compensation, the state government would disallow and revoke the development approval.

“If they want to bring it to court, then so be it. The Deputy Chief Minister I Mansor Othman has tried to meet up with them but they refused to see him — their claims that the state government has refused to see them are not true,” he alleged.