Friday, 30 October 2009

Kampung Buah Pala: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the background to the Kampung Buah Pala dispute?

Kampung Buah Pala is a small village in Bukit Gelugor, Penang. It is inhabited mostly by Indians who are the descendants of plantation workers and cattlemen of the former Brown Estate. The village is popularly nicknamed ‘High Chaparral’ due to its elevated location on Bukit Gelugor. The land on which Kampung Buah Pala is located was given in trust to the government of the Straits Settlement by Helen Margaret Brown, the landowner of the Brown Estate, before returning to Britain in 1956. The land given in trust was then transferred to the state government which subsequently provided temporary occupation licenses (TOL) to the villagers who paid an annual TOL rental.

When did the TOL arrangement for Kampung Buah Pala land change?

In 2005, the previous Gerakan/Barisan Nasional state government stopped collecting rent for the TOL. This gave rise to residents’ suspicions that something was amiss.

Who sold the land to Koperasi Pegawai-Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang (Koperasi) and how much was it sold for?

The previous Gerakan/BN state government sold the Kampung Buah Pala land to Koperasi Pegawai-Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang(Koperasi). This decision was indicated in the executive council meeting minutes dated 18 August 2004 and 8 June 2005. It was undertaken without consulting the residents. Initially a premium of RM6.42 million (or RM20 per square feet) was agreed. However, these figures were later reduced further still to a premium of RM3.21 (or RM10 per square feet) under the recommendation of the UMNO Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdullah – a reduction of 50 per cent. The decision was taken with the unanimous support from all the BN executive council members – Gerakan, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

A video clip shows Dato’ Seri Abdul Rashid Abdullah, the former Deputy Chief Minister in 2007, witnessing the signing ceremony between Koperasi and the developer. Letters were issued in 2006 giving development orders before issuance of title and that the land would revert “absolutely” to the Koperasi upon payment of land premium without any mention of a specific time frame.

When was the land transfer completed?

The title to the Kampung Buah Pala land was finally transferred to the Koperasi on 27 March 2008.

Are the Kampung Buah Pala residents victims of a Gerakan/BN land scam?

Yes. Since the prevailing market rate in 2005 was at least RM50 per square feet, the price offered by the Penang Gerakan/BN state government was obviously significantly below what should have been offered to the residents. Further, even the paltry initial offer of RM20 per square feet was reduced by 50 per cent.

What was offered in terms of compensation to the residents?

The Gerakan/BN state government and the developer offered each household RM1,000 in relocation expenses and a flat unit worth RM75,000. This was done on the basis that the residents were not ‘illegal squatters’. In contrast the PR managed to obtain RM 8,000 relocation expenses and a double-storey landed property with 99 year lease worth RM 600,000/-.

What is the role of the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government in the land transfer?

The current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat Chief Minister, Y.A.B. Lim Guan Eng, has not given a single approval or signed a single document in favour of Koperasi or developer. All the approvals and development orders were approved and signed during the administration of former Chief Minister, Dr Koh Tsu Koon and his executive councillors.

Why has the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government not been able to stop the land title transfer?

This matter was decided by the Federal Court in favour of the Koperasi and developer. The land transfer was consequent to the approvals given by the previous Gerakan/BN administration. Once the decision of the previous executive council had been conveyed by approval letters for land alienation and development orders sent out to Koperasi and the developer, the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government was legally bound.

In other words, the DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government has been powerless to legally stop the land transfer. Both the State Legal Adviser and DAP Chairman and prominent lawyer, Karpal Singh, hold the same view. The Federal Court has subsequently affirmed that there is nothing the DAP/Pakatan Rakyat government can do as it is bound by the decisions approved by the previous administration.

Why has the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government rejected the suggestion that it acquire the land under the Land Acquisition Act?

Based on the current market price, it has been estimated that to forcibly acquire the land would cost the state more than RM100 million, a quarter of the state’s budget of RM371 million. This is a sum that the citizens of Penang simply cannot afford for 24 houses. Those who claim that the acquisition of the Kampung Buah Pala land would cost RM30 million or less are mistaken. Under the law no state government in Malaysia is allowed to acquire land at a sum far below the market price, even for the ‘public interest’.

Why is the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government unable to exchange Kampung Buah Pala land for an alternative piece of land for the developer?

Penang island has limited suitable land for housing development. The current Penang state government had indeed offered few pieces of alternative land for the developer but these have been turned down by the developer. More importantly, most of the housing units with the new development project at Kampung Buah Pala have been sold.

How did the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government save the village from being demolished by the developer?

The current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat government never issued an eviction notice (under emergency laws). All eviction notices were issued by the previous Gerakan/BN government. Furthermore, the Deputy Chief Minister II, Y.B. Professor P. Ramasamy, and state executive council member, Y.B. Abdul Malik bin Abdul Kassim, have stopped the developer from entering the village with bulldozers several times last year when a court order was obtained. It was only because of the efforts of the present DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government that Kampung Buah Pala still existed until 2009.

Who authorised the developer to demolish the houses?

The developer obtained a court order that allows it to demolish the village. The decision has nothing to do with the DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government. The state government did not even instruct local council enforcement officers to be involved in the operation. Hence the developer could only proceed with the demolition with the help of the police which is a federal agency.

Why did the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government not defy the court order?

The DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government is simply not in a position to defy the court order since it governs to uphold the rule of law and is compelled to respect any court order issued. The state government is bound by the decision of the Federal Court.

Does the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government respect the residents’ human rights?

Yes. The DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government recognises the rights of the residents and their supporters to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, has instructed state officials to respect these rights and accept any memorandum submitted. To protect the residents, Y.B. Ng Wei Aik, Political Secretary to CM faced police reports and investigations for “obstructing the police in carrying out their duties to arrest the demonstrators”.

What is being offered to the residents by the developer and the current DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government?

The DAP/Pakatan Rakyat state government has treated the residents as landowners who were allowed to stay by the original British landlord nearly 150 years ago. The state government has worked hard to compel the developer to offer the residents a double-storey terrace house with 99-years lease worth RM600,000 each. The developer has agreed to the state government’s request to share a portion of their land with the residents by offering a 1,200 square feet double-storey terrace house with a built-up area of 1,400 square feet and a 99-years lease.

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Monday, 26 October 2009

A ride with CM

Friday, 16 October 2009

Happy Deepavali

Wednesday, 14 October 2009
















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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Online Public Survey on Road Signs Within Georgetown Heritage Zone 乔冶市古迹区中文路牌繁简网上民意调查

The Chinese (Mandarin) wordings for bilingual road signs within Georgetown Heritage Zone should be exhibited in:

- Traditional Chinese 简体
- Simplified Chinese 繁体

Please vote at:

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