Pepper Estate community faces uncertain future


A community of about 300 households in Pepper Estate on Penang Island is facing an uncertain future after it emerged that the land they are living on has been quietly sold to a developer.

The estate was opened up in the late 1960s for people to build their houses and it was run by the Eow Thoon (deceased) Estate.

Although the houses belong to the residents, the land itself belonged to the estate, and each household had to pay around RM40 monthly in ground rent to the estate.

But a land search revealed that the estate sold the land to Beverly Heights Properties Sdn Bhd and the sale was registered with the land office on 23 May 2012.

The estate stopped collecting ground rent by the end of 2012.

Now worried residents have received some kind of letter from lawyers.

“Many of us built our homes with a high degree of trust and hope that our continued possession of the land would remain undisturbed,” said one resident. “Pepper Estate has been like a safety valve for the lower socio economic sector, providing affordable housing with easy access to urban facilities. Residents work hard to make ends meet and are grateful we have no bank mortgages to grapple with.”

This is a community that integrates and supports the disabled, the low-income groups as well as extended families with a significant number of senior citizens well into their 70s and 80s for whom Pepper Estate has been home for the past 40 years, said the resident.

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“What happens when a community of 300 homes, with over 1000 residents, is dismantled? With a compensation of RM 40,000 or thereabouts, what can residents buy in Penang? The purchase of low cost apartments will require bank loans which many may not succeed in obtaining.”

Added to their plight is the worry of how their extended families will be accommodated in a small space of 650-700 sq ft. Like most rapidly diminishing kampungs on Penang Island, the village house has provided for the well-being of extended families under one roof.

The residents have petitioned the state government. In particular, they are asking for a 12-month moratorium on any house demolition starting from the date of negotiation for vacant possession of the land. This will stop the developer from immediately and sporadically demolishing houses as they gain vacant possession. For the residents still trying to negotiate, they do not need to be subjected to a distressed environment filled with demolition debris.

In their petition, the residents noted:

‘Green’ Penang is also about housing preservation and conservation of resources. Pepper Estate (alongside other endangered villages; Hong Seng Estate, the Chinese village of Tanjung Tokong) represents the architecture and character of lower income homes built in the 1970s. Not historical when compared to Georgetown but still complete communities with shared values. There is simplicity of architecture, distinctiveness in layout, a good physical infrastructure, and generally a low impact on both the physical and visual landscape. It is sympathetic to the surrounding state forest. The homes are well-ventilated without the need for energy draining air conditioners. Certainly Pepper Estate as it stands is not a drain on the physical resources nor does its carbon footprint reach anywhere near that of the new concrete, high-end developments.

Meanwhile, the residents are seeking the assistance of their local elected reps.

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Will another community have to make way for expensive high-end property development? ‘Development’ for whom?

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  1. It is only natural that those staying there for so long would not expect to be moved.
    However, before we make any comment, we must know who and what type of residents are there.
    Don’t be surprise, later we discover some are having apartment for rent in downtown.
    Out of the the 1000 residents, how many are able working class. How many are old folks.
    The able must move out. The Estate owner was kind to the first generation only.
    The developer to Preserve the GREENERY. Add more fruit trees to the area. Realign the houses if necessary, and turn the area into a ‘China’s Hutong’.
    In Beijing China, a Hutong is an area with old houses,and shops with shady old trees, and its a tourist attraction.

    “This is a community that integrates and supports the disabled, the low-income groups as well as extended families with a significant number of senior citizens well into their 70s and 80s for whom Pepper Estate has been home for the past 40 years, said the resident.”

    The fact that the estate sold the property to a developer without the knowledge of the land office do raise some questions.

      • Why should it be to the knowlegde of the residents? Is it required legally? Come on, let’s be air to the owner. They had be leaving for almost free for the last 40 years or so. Who would want to invest or purchase land in Penang if they cannot developed it? Do we want to see Penang backwards like an old folks home where the young people had all left for better prospects in other countries? As it is, there are many young folks who had left Penang and leaving only their parents behind. The Hillside area is full of them. My 3 kids are in UK, Australia and Singapore because of better prospects.

      • a: Why should it be to the knowlegde of the residents? Is it required legally?

        It is easy to surmise such indifference with hot air if one (old retiring hack) has an exit strategy – rich children residing overseas who can (anytime) send him/her a one-way ticket to join them for perpetual oversea retirement.
        Some old folks in Pepper Estate may have had worked like dogs all their lives without a comfortable nest egg to save, let alone 3 warm meals on rainy days. It is only humane on the part of the richie land owner to at least ‘prepare’ them for a transition of abodes, with the help of state housing or whatever deem civilised.

        In a society that worships “No Money, No Talk (or No Honey)”, let there be some soft space in us for humanity of thoughts & actions for the less socially/economically mobile or those with nothing to show.

      • refer to comments by a:

        “they have been leaving for 40 years for almost free…does not need to be informed…”

        Excuse me, we are not squatters!!! we pay ground rent.

        he does not know the facts and talks nonsense. We pay RM40.00 a month. we have receipts. commenter is rich, his children all overseas – good luck – no need to show off u got children in diff countries. To each his own if you are educated enough to understand this.
        The previous land owner has an obligation to inform; we are not squatters.
        go read the rent tribunal act.
        they collect … money cash(no receipts) each time a transfer takes place. If you are not staying there u do not understand cos u are not affected.
        just be decent and shut up.
        we are only asking for dialogue and mutual resolution, not challenging their rights…
        we have rights too…
        a resident .

    • Anil netto,

      The main points are:

      1. why does the previous master landlord kept quiet about the sale of the land? The landlord has a duty/obligation to officially inform all HIS ground tenants in writing about the situation , at least through their lawyers ?

      They have sold the land without vacant possession I think. They collect rent from us and we have receipts to prove it; including S&P agreement counter-endorsement with RM3,000 fees paid each time a change of house ownership/ground tenancy.

      We have documents to prove that.

      2. Many arguments about rights,etc. All have their merits. They have a right to develop their land, no doubt about that. BUT, do it professionally and in dialogue with the residents instead of quietly settling and demolishing 4 units(so far) and causing anxiety and fear amongst the residents. A lot of old folks in their sunset years staying there.

      3. Be a gentleman; come forward and discuss and find a solution/mutual agreement for the residents. Win-Win solution that’s what residents want.

      4. To prevent them from development is also not fair. If they have a multi-billion project, compensate the residents adequately or befits their present abode.

      5. Build 2 blocks of reasonable apartments(easily 150 units per block) and relocate them in same location if cash was not the option? Those that opt for monetary option, then a reasonable amount – not RM40k – what can u get?

      6. Announce what sort of development is happening there?

      7. Let the residents have option to contra(in lieu) and buy one unit(s) there; some may opt for that. They have to top up the balance price?

      8. Keeping quiet is the chagrin on this matter. Keeping quiet means you have hiding something.

      The state govt should mediate and resolve amicably.

      All other readers’ comments and philosophies noted but speak for yourself; you do not know what it is like IF YOU DO NOT STAY THERE FOR 40 YEARS AND YOU DO NOT HAVE A GOVT OR PRIVATE PENSION FUND TO SUPPORT YOU.

      Thank you for reading.
      The pro-tem committee is doing a good job but keep a level head.
      Decency shall prevail.


  2. Thank you Anil MAYBE the 300 households should form a committee and appoint a trustworthy lawyer to bring this state of informal Tenancy for arbitration or to Court for compensation! In this type of limbo that IS the only recourse as the land belongs to a Private Individual and his heir(s).
    They paid nominal or token rent for the land that their houses have been built on from 1960 (53 years) but the landlord(s) have the right to dispose of their land as they deem fit!
    Most probably each of the house owners may be compensated as squatters from 2012, on the respective value he has spent building it in Court.
    Life can be unfair but that is the risk one takes when no Agreement on paper has been made for occupancy!
    As such the best option for now is to apply to LGE’s Government for LOW – COST flats as tenants or purchasers. After 53 years of easy and low rents many will believe they may have enough saved to afford Penang’s cheapest form of Flats!
    DAP did promise to put the People’s welfare foremost too! Lack of land in Penang cannot be used as an easy excuse to displace so many residents like in Kg. Buah Pala! Let the Gerakan and BN be the only people to offer lip service and empty meaningless slogans!
    What was that Najib said?
    Rakyat First? `Pencapaian’ what? Likely stooorry. you just wanted them votes… .

    • I think they have already formed a committee and have approached a couple of elected reps for assistance. Not sure what their next move is, though. But not all will be able to afford alternative housing though.

      • Cuepacs made nosie that half of civil servants cannot afford to buy houses, even 1Prima that cost RM250K. Even BN has no solution!

  3. Agreed with Kevin. Lets face it. I do not want to side with anybody but the fact is the land belong to the owner and the owner has the right to sell or develop it. In fact the owner or developer at least have some conscience by providing a 40k+ compensation.

    And it come to my mind, what would happen if the 99 years leasehold flat, house or condo that we have just brought are up. There many many such properties.

    I was asking myself this question !!!. Would we be compensated if the apartment, flats, condo were to be pulled down and developed.

    You may not be compensated because you have signed the agreement for leasehold and you may have to pay a certain fee if you continue occupying the land. But there are many unanswered question and answer just like these squatter areas. HISTORY WILL REPEAT ITSELF AGAIN & AGAIN

    That is why I am only buying freehold.

    • No compensation offer has been made so far. The RM40K is just a hypothetical figure. Residents unclear what is going to happen.

      • Gerakan, MCA, MIC & UMNO are fatique to champion this case ?

        If this case is happening right before election time, we can witness more fanfare ???

        May be the state gomen can give priority of Penang HDB-type housings ????

        May be Penang tychoos like Jimmy Choo & Boon Siew clans can create jobs like shoes and bike industries for these dusplaced folks ????

        think ot of box many opportunities in crisis ?

  4. Do worry. Each resident will get 1 million house as usually claim by Yang. Look at Kg Buah Pala.

    So sad about this land grabbing trend since 308. Errr, should we blame previous Gerakan gomen in this case ???

  5. It is important we establish who the rightful owner of the land was. It does not matter whether you build a palace or a shack on the land, it is still not yours until and unless the land title says you own the land. Even though developers disgust me, it would be an injustice to the owner of the land if he/she or the estate cannot sell his own land just because he had previously, out of kindness allowed these ppl to live there for a mere RM 40 a month. How are you going to get that rate in Pg nowadays? Even the rental of a shop in MPPP complex is more than that. We cannot make it a precedent that just because the owner allowed you to stay there for RM 40 a month for decades, you now claim it as a perpetual right and he is obliged to let you remain there for as long as you desire. One may be poor and in hardship, like millions of others but financial poverty is no excuse for poverty of character. In todays world, nobody gets a free lunch. The duty of caring for the poor lies with the government, who should provide for their reasonable needs but it cannot fall on a land owner. My grandfather was very poor and had to make a living repairing pipes in the 1940s right through to the 1960s and sure he had to move his home many times when the rent went up, from George Town to Air Itam but he never once claimed what was not his. In fact, he wouldn’t have asked for a single cent as compensation if he was after 40 years told to move because ultimately, the land is not his. He would in fact thank the owners for providing his family with a place to stay, almost for free, for such a long time.

    • I appreciate your uncle’s industry and perseverance in difficult situations.

      But I think the circumstances in this and other cases today are quite different from those days.

      In those days, perhaps…

      – affordable housing wasn’t as difficult to come by.
      – there was more land for displaced people to settle on elsewhere.
      – developers were not looking to build for wealthy foreigners and locals (the top 1 or 5 per cent) while being reluctant to build for the masses.
      – property prices in relation to income levels weren’t as astronomical as they are today.
      – community solidarity and the extended family network were stronger, especially in villages where extensions to homes could be built. Displaced people could perhaps more easily find temporary accommodation. These days many people are unable to accommodate even their ageing parents for one reason or another.

      In the case of Pepper Estate, among the residents are the disabled, mentally challenged, and residents in their 70s and 80s.

      It is not just the responsiblity of the government to provide for these residents. We too have a say in calling for proper policies to be put in place to cater for displaced people, to protect vulnerable communities and to keep house prices within reach of the people.

      • I do not deny that like everywhere else, there are people in this community who are deserving cases and who direly need a roof over their head. I’m just saying that we cannot deny the owner(s) of the land their right to sell the land for development. To me they have done no wrong unlike in other cases where village land with valid land titles are forcefully taken over in the name of development (eg. Kg Tg Tokong). Society must provide for these people by allocating decent, comfortable and affordable housing, not expect a private land owner to do that. If we can build highways and tunnels, I am sure we can put a few hundred people into decent homes. In this regard, the govt should step in to offer such help to the residents, not merely cash compensation as advocated in their welfare state slogan. In fact, this should be done state wide and not limited to residents of Pepper Estate.

      • Anil, what “appears” today as “affordable” from 1960s was as demanding back then. We moved from georgetown and bought a semi-D as far as paya terubong (much farther than air itam) for what today would appear to be a pittance of RM16,500. Our parents had to sell their wedding ring for the down payment. With the road condition and early work, our parents fell off motorcycles and broke many bones many time commuting to work in Georgetown.

        My grandma lived in Pepper estate many years ago, and we sold the unit cheap more than a decade ago, when reports were going around that the landlord would take back the land.

        This is not new news and the residents should have known it long ago. From my background, my feelings and sympathy are with the residents. But the fact is they have been living on the kindness of other people and they should have planned for it.

        It is not temporary charity from the owner, because it has lasted for decades even when there is no rent control outside of Georgetown. I have no relationship with the owner, but it should have been seen as compassion and not meanness.

  6. Another case of durian runtuh for the folks like the Kpg Buah Pala saga?
    I think no one should complain, right?

  7. An open letter to Penangites

    By Marina Emmanuel

    DEPLETING RESOURCES: In recent times, the island has seen an increase in the destruction of its greenery and environment
    MY dear Penangites, this letter comes to you in the wake of so many happenings this month which have hurt me, as I look back to happier times when I was a green and cool island with plenty of open spaces.
    It pains me to write this but I must, before further destruction is done. I realise that it may be pointless to talk about the good old days when my resources, such as land, hills and even the waters surrounding the island, were not taxed as they are now, but please indulge me, anyway.
    Your ancestors may have led simpler lives and not clogged my streets with their cars because their needs were simpler and the population was not as large as it is today. This is probably reflected in the expanse of greenery everywhere, along with wide stretches of land and hills.
    Along with such healthy surroundings to thrive in, I was in a position to offer you more flora and fauna than I do today, streams of fresh clear water, pristine beaches and lush hills.
    Your unfortunate greed for progress and in wanting more of everything have seen a great spike in economic activities and these have been manifested through land clearing, tree felling, land reclamation, polluted waterways and factory emissions.
    All these have affected my health and I have no choice but to sometimes place your lives and property in danger because my resources are fast depleting and I cannot save you any more from harm’s way.
    I understand that my resources may be over-burdened because your needs have multiplied due to an increase in your population. But surely you can find ways to carry out things in a more sustainable and kinder manner to the ecosystem?
    What is this obsession in clamouring to live on an already heavily populated island, where your properties in the sky and on land are tagged ridiculously and only the rich can buy homes?
    You will soon have an extra bridge to supplement the existing one and the iconic ferry services linking the island and Seberang Prai.
    Why don’t you encourage more of your population to move there where their chances of owning landed properties are much higher than they are on the island and children will have more space to run and play like your forefathers did?
    This is, of course, provided that a repeat performance of what you have done to me on the island in depleting my natural resources is avoided.
    My shape and size as an island have altered considerably because it is getting more and more difficult to accommodate so many human beings and nurture them.
    My appeal to you now is to please increase your level of awareness and affection for me. For the sake of your future and that of your children, you must tend to my needs first in order to look after yourselves.
    The choice is now yours, of whether you wish to continue exploiting my natural wealth and adversely affect the survival of us all.


    Mother Earth

    Read more: An open letter to Penangites – Columnist – New Straits Times

  8. Developers Rule Penang ?$$$$? Developers must adhere also to CAT principles ?
    Welcome to the reality of capitalistic world ! No money No Honey.
    Penang not Spore where the general people have great income opportunities as well as excellent public amenities. Don’t just develop concrete condos and not develop public amenities in parallel.


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