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Kampung Buah Pala demolition put off after tense standoff

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on August 13, 2009

THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

Villagers protesting the impending demolition of Kampung Buah Pala battle with riot police of the Federal Reserve Unit after heavy machinery was sent to the site today.

PENANG, Aug 13 — The controversial demolition of Kampung Buah Pala has been postponed to Sept 1, after a tense standoff today between villagers, the land owners and police.

George Town OCPD Azam Abd Hamid said today an agreement had been reached with all parties to postpone the court-ordered demolition.

Bulldozers were sent in this morning into the village to demolish the houses whose residents refused to move out of the disputed piece of land.

Police had earlier cordoned off the village as the deadline for the residents to move out ended today.

The residents had earlier refused to take up the developers’ offer of double-storey houses to move out.

Scores of residents and members of non-governmental organisations sat in the rain to form a human barricade to prevent the heavy machinery from destroying their homes.

Police presence was heavy and some villagers claimed that the police were resorting to “violence” to disperse them.

There was much shouting and pushing throughout the morning, with villagers, representatives of NGOs and political parties trying to prevent demolition work from starting.

Kampung Buah Pala residents have argued that they are victims of a land scam perpetrated by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

The DAP-led Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government had negotiated an offer from the developer of double-storey terrace houses in return for the villagers moving out.

But this was rejected by a majority of the villagers.

Last week Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said his administration would wash their hands of the controversy since the offer had been rejected.

The land owners, who want to build apartments on the land, had won a court case against the villagers to have them evicted.

But the villagers, backed by Hindraf leaders who claimed the village of cowherds was an Indian heritage, wanted the state government to sign over the land to them.

The original settlers of the village had been workers in a British-owned plantation. When the planters left the original settlers were allowed to live on the land based on a trust administered by the colonial administration.

After independence the land was converted to temporary occupational licence (TOL) status as the new Penang state government in 1957 was unwilling to act as trustees.

During Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon’s administration, the land, which belonged to the state, was sold.

Hindraf and MIC leaders have attempted to turn the issue into a racial dispute, but the issue has not gained much traction, and public sympathy appears to have swung against the villagers after they rejected the offer of double-storey houses.

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