Buah pala or nutmeg, along with other spices bearing exotic flavours, once drew hordes of traders to these parts. Today though, the mention of Buah Pala is enough to leave a bitter taste as the village that bears its name – where the descendants of those who laboured in the spice plantations of yore now reside – faces demolition.
Folks today are more interested in ‘whacking’ the villagers for their political miscalculations and for being “greedy” because they did not jump at the offer of “double-storey terrace houses worth RM500,000”. At the same time, the Koperasi/Nusmetro’s greed is rarely mentioned; they have already made a huge unrealised profit on the land, even before any work has begun, after having bought the land for peanuts. (Purchase price approx RM10 per sq ft vs market value approx RM100 psf ==> for 6.5 acres, that works out to a cool RM25 million profit just on the vacant land).
The villagers are the real victims of a land grab – but, ironically, they are the ones receiving the most flak, and all because they had the temerity to try and preserve their village. Weird how the tables have been turned against them. Many “hardcore” Pakatan supporters just want them to disappear so they can get on with the BN vs Pakatan political game. We must see the Big Picture, they argue. But they forget it is the little pieces of the jigsaw puzzle – pieces like Kg Buah Pala – that make up the Big Picture.
Moving beyond the BN-Pakatan blame game, however, the loss of the village, which hearkens back to a different era when people lived more in harmony with Nature, is a source of mourning.
The demolition of this and other kampungs is a sign that the concrete jungle is taking over our increasingly unsustainable habitat. It appears as if it is Developer Power – rather than People Power – that rules. Look at how developers may now be granted an increase in the (plot-ratio) density for projects in certain areas. More profits for the cosy network of developers!
The partisanship surrounding the Kg Buah Pala saga is disturbing. The human rights angle is hardly mentioned, in particular, the primary rights to land and to shelter, and the right of communities to live in dignity.
Where are the partisan political supporters – Pakatan and BN – when it comes to the Penan who are engaged in a lonely struggle to protect their ancestral lands and the rainforests (what’s left of it) from the rapacious greed of logging companies? Is the silence because there is no BN vs Pakatan angle there? My posting on the Aljazeera video of the Penan received just 14 comments. Why the lack of interest towards their plight and the loss of our rainforests? I am not talking about donating to charity here; I am referring to the entire mindset that supports unsustainable corporate-led development while ignoring the devastating impact on local communities.
In a number of areas – notably, our attitudes towards marginalised communities and the environment – our mindset has not yet changed, even after 8 March 2008. Many of us have simply transferred our loyalties from the BN to the Pakatan, but are still unprepared for a more sustainable model of development that does not harm communities nor damage our priceless heritage.