Have these folk been taken for a ride?

The poor families of Batu Kawan say they were promised free houses by BN in 1999 and by Pakatan in 2008. 

(Free Malaysia Today) – BATU KAWAN: Forty poor families in Batu Kawan have accused both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat of falsely promising to provide them with free double-storey homes.

The families, whose ancestors had been plantation workers since colonial days, live on land formerly called Ladang Batu Kawan. The Penang Development Corporation (PDC) bought it from Taiko Plantation in 1998.

They claim that the promise of free homes came from BN during the campaign for the 1999 general election and from Batu Kawan MP P Ramasamy and Bukit Tambun assemblyman Law Choo Kiang in the run-up to the 2008 election. Ramasamy is now one of Penang’s deputy chief ministers and Law is a state executive councillor.

Last April 2, the Ladang Batu Kawan Residents’ Rights Committee reminded Pakatan of its promise in a memorandum addressed to Ramasamy and Law, with copies to Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, DAP chairman Karpal Singh, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, Deputy Chief Minister I Mansor Othman and Penang DAP chief Chow Kon Yeow.

The committee, headed by M Mahendran, 34, is still waiting for a response.

Law has told FMT that the issue was under the purview of a special committee headed by Ramasamy.  Ramasamy has not responded to text messages or phone calls.

Batu Kawan lies in the southern part of Seberang Perai, surrounded on three sides by the sea and separated from the mainland on the east by Sungai Jawi. Bukit Tambun is adjacent to it.

Some 6,000 acres of land, including the estate land, have been earmarked for a new township.

According to the memorandum, PDC’s takeover of the estate land in 1998 spelled the beginning of trouble for the Tamil-speaking residents.  PDC promised to provide each of about 60 affected estate families a house worth RM25,000, with a RM10,000 discount as monetary compensation.

But during the 1999 election campaign, the memorandum said, BN leaders told them they would get double-storey homes, instead of low-cost homes, and they would not even have to pay anything for them.

They waited for the promise to be fulfilled until, in 2003, developer Abadi Naluri Sdn Bhd offered to build the houses and sell them to the residents for RM25,000 each with a RM10,000 discount. The developer also promised that the houses would be ready within 24 months. (The project was in fact completed only this year.)

After the 2004 election, Abadi Naluri raised the price to RM52,000 with no discount.

“Due to all these empty promises by the BN administration, we voted for a change in 2008,” Mahendran said. He said the residents were especially encouraged by the promise of free houses from Ramasamy and Law.

Businesses and jobs

According to the memorandum, Ramasamy’s promise had a caveat: he would try to get the houses for free, but if he could not, he could definitely get a RM15,000 discount for each house as well as loans from PDC for the purchase. The repayment would be RM150 a month.