Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kampong Buah Pala

Staff from Jabatan Penilaian Perkhidmatan Harta(JPPH) is also here

TV3 is also here

The protest

The Police is here

The developer & court personnel are coming...

The residents and supporters are waiting...

Police leaving?.....

The reporters and TV men are here..

Kampong Buah Pala,is located at Bukit Gelugor, popurlarly called "Tamil High Chaparral". It is due to its traditional Tamil settlement,which consists of cowherds.The village is called Penang’s "High Chaparral", after the American cowboy TV series of the 1970s. Years ago, when Penang’s general hospital was being built amid a shortage of infant formula milk, the colonial British administration relied on the cows from the village to supply patients and children with some 300 litres of milk everyday.

The place is near Kampong Kastam,Taman Tun Sardon, Bukit Gelugor, Taman Brown(or Brown Garden)which is named after the owner of Gelugor Estate. It has some of the largest Indian community in Penang. There are 300 residents,involving 65 families in 24 houses. The residents are the descendants of the Tamil workers from India employed by David Brown,the owner of Gelugor Estate, who planted nutmeg and other spices.

David Brown and his descendants,being the largest land owner during the Strait Settlement; has donated land to schools,The Snake temple, Padang Brown( Datuk Kramat Padang). A memorial of him can be found at the corner of Anson Road and Perak Road.

The original owner of the once coconut plantation area was David Brown, which was part of Gelugor Estate, his descendant Helen Margaret Brown, settled them in separate plots of land with space to rear cows and goats,and to plant fruit trees. It was given to the villagers’ forefathers nearly 200 years ago.The land was vested in the crown for housing trust,called Helen Brown Housing Trust under the Housing Trust Act,1950. It was named after their owner and employer, Helen Brown. Shortly after the British left, the state government took over the village in the capacity of ‘trustee’ and began collecting annual TOL(Temporary Occupation Licence) rents.

State executive council reportedly approved the sale of land in 2004 and 2005, at the premium of RM20 per square feet or RM6.42M. In 2007, the executive council halved the premium. The current value of the land is estimated at RM30-40 million.The issue here is that if it is still consider a trust land, who is the trustee of the trust? Did the trustee comply with the terms of the trust deed that there is the right to sell ? Did state government obtain the consent from the beneficiary, the resident of the trust? Did the selling price fair compare to the market value,and for the benefit of the beneficiaries? Is the sale conflict with the intention of the donor?

The buyer was a cooperative for government officers in Penang, Koperasi Pegawai-Pegawai kerajaan Pulau Pinang. The cooperative has more than 3,600 members, all civil servants which made up the internal staff of the state government. The issue is that is the selling of said land by the state government to organization related to its staff, a conflict of interest? It is morally correct?(Note: Previous CM said it was the exchange of property for the extension of court building in town, but the price for the exchange need to be fair too)

However, in 2005, the land office alienated the land to the state government without dissolving the trust which is a requirement under law. If this is true, can a trustee become a legal owner?

It was reported that Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) had given planning approval in 2007 to Nusmetro before the land was legally transferred to the cooperative. This is reported to be breach of the council’s building by-laws, if it is true.

The land was only transferred on March 27 last year - nine days after Pakatan Rakyat captured Penang in the general election.The land transfer was done by certain land officers without the knowledge of the current government. If it is true, why such a hurry?

Villagers lobbied for the village to be identified by the authorities as a historic communal settlement, just like the Chitty and Portuguese villages in Malacca, or the Chinese clan jetties in Weld Quay. They also asked to see the alienation letter and transaction documents, but failed to obtain it.

The villagers then sued the cooperative and the developer, Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd(reported to be politically linked) were vindicated when the High Court ruled in their favour in October last year. That decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal on May 11, giving the cooperative and Nusmetro vacant possession. Undeterred, the villagers took the case to the Federal Court, but on June 24 it too dismissed their case on grounds that they did not have locus standi. The judgment was that the issue of locus standi over the land was not properly addressed.

Lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, appearing for the families, submitted that the land was given to one Margaret Helen Brown in the early part of the 20th century and that she had invited the ancestors of the families to live and work on the land. The property was later vested in the "Crown", as Penang was part of the British Straits Settlement and was designated for public purpose. The property later came under the Housing Trust Act 1950 and the land came under the jurisdiction of the Federal Land Commissioner when the legislation was dissolved. Malik said the state government could not alienate the land and that the eviction notice issued against the families was illegal.

The counsel for the cooperative and the developer Karin Lim , told the Federal Court that the land was alienated in 2005 and premium was paid on the following year. The residents were on TOL, and had no locus standi once the land was alienated to the coorperative. He said it was unclear whether the property was vested in the Federal Land Commissioner ,then it must belong to the state government.(source: NST)

Last Saturday, the residents were called in for a meeting with the George Town district police chief and the developers, and told to cooperate with a court bailiff, scheduled to serve a writ of possession today. The developer, they were told, could begin demolition after that.

Hindu community rights group Hindraf join in demanding the state to conserve the land as a heritage – the only remaining traditional Indian village on the island.

The Pakatan Rakyat state government, which only came into power in March 2008, which has had to feel the brunt of the anger. But the state has been working hard behind the scenes. Deputy Chief Minister (II) Prof Dr P. Ramasamy even warned the developer to provide a just solution with the settlers.

(Reference: NST, The Sun, Malaysiakini)

It seems that the state government(C.A.T) is taking over a thorny issue from the previous government. The Chief Minister has another tough task on the status of Heritage City in his hand, similarly left over by previous government, tough challenge ahead for Chief Minister Lim.......Moreover his official residence was attacked by termites, he has to move to a rented premise for the family.....he need to attend Parliament session today, there are many national and state issues to resolve.... not easy to be in the government.
The C.A.T. need to be in action fast , otherwise their reputation will be affected. If there is anything fishy about the rightful owner of the trust land, it need to rectify and report it to the relevant authority, and put it into proper footing , within the jurisdiction of the law.... regardless of the political background of the party involved, that is C.A.T.(Competency, Accountability, and Transparency)......

The photo was taken today.

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