16-year wait for displaced Raja Uda settlers draws to a close

16-year wait for displaced Raja Uda settlers draws to a close

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After a 16-year long wait, displaced descendants of the original settlers of Jalan Raja Uda are finally receiving some compensation from a developer who took over an abandoned commercial project along this bustling street in Butterworth.

Over 300 households scattered over 50 acres lost their family homes to the Raja Uda Commercial Centre project in Butterworth, originally undertaken by Cherating Development Sdn Bhd. Work on the project, comprising rows of new shophouses fronting both sides of a one-kilometre stretch of Jalan Raja Uda towards the intersection with Jalan Telaga Air/Jalan Siram, began in 1996.

The affected residents are mainly descendants of Teochew and Hokkien-speaking settlers who had arrived in Kampung Simpah (as Jalan Raja Uda was then known) in the 1920s and 1930s from Kwangchow, capital of Guangdong province in southern China. Many of the original settlers built wooden houses and toiled as farmers or reared livestock in the area.

Some 200 of the affected households accepted cash compensation ranging from RM20000 to RM60000 while 72 others signed compensation agreements in 1996/97 for a medium-cost apartment worth around RM80000. (Another 50 households or so are affected by the latest phase of the project.)

Of those 72 households, 27 chose to find temporary rented accommodation elsewhere while 45 were given temporary housing i.e. 600 sq ft two-bedroom units in rows of long-houses near the site.

The 27 who opted for rented accommodation while waiting for the apartments were given a RM400 monthly rental subsidy, but this stopped after about 18 months, say village committee members. Some of them have since found low-cost housing.

The 45 households in the long-houses, not built to last, found conditions worsening as ceiling boards and roofing began giving way while termite infestation crept in. Not surprisingly, 11 of these 45 households left after finding their own alternative housing – leaving 34 families still in the longhouses.

But the medium-cost apartments the 72 households were promised never materialised. Work on the project was abandoned in 2008 in the aftermath of the East Asian financial crisis. Two years later, Woolley Development Sdn Bhd took over the land and Cherating’s liabilities and attempted to rehabilitate the project.

Negotiations between Woolley and the settlers proved tough and were heading towards an impasse. In the meantime, 14 of the 72 household heads, mainly children of the original settlers, who had signed the compensation agreements passed away.

The outcome of the 2008 general election gave the displaced community’s campaign fresh impetus. They organised meetings, pressured state government officials and refused to cave in.

Finally, after 16 long years and with a general election looming, a deal was hammered out: the developer would award RM55000 to the 72 displaced households who had originally been promised medium-cost apartments (which would have been worth around RM125000 today).

At a celebratory dinner for the Raja Uda settlers on Sunday, I asked Penang state exco member Lim Hock Seng, the state assembly member for Bagan Jermal, what would happen to those households who wouldn’t be able to find alternative housing with the RM55000 that they are receiving.

Hock Seng whipped out a file and displayed a list of 11 names out of the 72 who had signed compensation agreements. “I have written to (State Town and Country Planning, Housing and Arts Committee chairman) Wong Hon Hai and Perumahan (the housing department) seeking low-cost flats for these 11,” he said, flipping the pages of the correspondence. These would be flats at Ampang Jajar near Mak Mandin priced at RM42000, though renovations might be needed, he said.

Hock Seng noted that the Raja Uda settler issue is one of two long-standing problems in the area, the other being the case of the ‘Rumah Hijau’ longhouse dwellers in nearby Mak Mandin who have been waiting for over four decades for alternative housing.

Also present at the dinner was Richard Woo, the tall youthful-looking managing director of Woolley Development Sdn Bhd, who appeared relieved that this saga was drawing to a close. “This has been the most challenging project I have been involved in,” he said, his voice barely audible as right behind us, on stage, a mini-skirted singer entertained the diners to loud music. Richard said his company had taken over the project including existing liabilities to financial institutions amounting to millions of ringgit after the previous developer went “MIA” (missing in action).

Seated next to Richard at the main table earlier was Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who clambered on stage to brief the crowd of about 300 diners about his plans for quality affordable housing in Batu Kawan to be designed by Singapore Housing Development Board consultants.

In Raja Uda, there are still lose ends to be tied up as not all the 72 households have received the full RM55000. According to Goay Weng Leng, the settlers’ committee adviser, 10 households have not yet received anything while 15 have received RM50000. These households will be coming together in a committee to stake their claims. Lim Hock Seng has indicated that the developer would make full settlement by the end of March 2012, said Weng Leng.

For Weng Leng, who has stuck with the residents from the beginning, the struggle is nearly over. “We didn’t get what we were originally promised (the medium cost apartment) but RM55000 is better than what Woolley was initially offering (RM40000). The negotiations were tough as we had to pressure the developer and state government leaders until at one point relations got a bit strained when we felt the government was not taking strong enough action against the developer.”

He hoped the state government could allocate another 15 low-cost flats for those households whose monthly income is just above the eligibility threshold of RM1500 but who are nonetheless unable to afford alternative housing with the RM55000 compensation.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Rightly so, nobody should claim ‘do good’ in this long dragged case.

    As for this fiasco:
    The price of a 800 ft2 flat presently is RM135,000, which the squatters are supposed to get. The cash consideration of RM55,000 are big discount for the Developer, meaning that the developer paid only 35% of the value.
    Hope this will not set a precedence for delinquent developers to commit such … no matter what scale in future….

     
  2. The problem of neglect on responsibilities by the Developer shouldnt have drag on for 16 years. The BN government have not put a stop to the nonsense by the Developer for so long.

    The Pakatan government shouldnt claim a success on this settlement because the squatters are supposed to be compensated with a unit of 800 ft2 flat basing on a signed compensation agreement.
    The price of a 800 ft2 flat presently is RM135,000, which the squatters are supposed to get. The cash consideration of RM55,000 are big discount for the Developer, meaning that the developer paid only 35% of the value.

    Both BN and PAKATAN do not deserved to be praised for this outcome. Rather the squatters should be praised for their patients and acceptance of the generous discount.

     
  3. Honestly, THIS is truly remarkable – while justice was not completely served and impossible, no justice would have been a crime. Truly it gives hope that the Malaysian will not demand only superman instead of UMNO/BN.

    Grerakan/BN can’t seem to learn this is a country consist of mostly people who are not jerks like them.

     
  4. Expensive home not just in Penang but nationwide cities.

    For those with teenage children now and still want to stay in the cities, and can afford bigger home then better look for bargain homes as very likely your children (or extended family of in-laws/grandchildren) will be staying with you.

    Read this interesting article :
    In Msia, A growing homeless generation
    http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/in-malaysia-a-growing-homeless-generation/

    ps so Sungai Petani, Kulim & Taiping are still good option at this moment for those Penangites thinking of domestic migration.
    If you think it’s boh bin chui (no face) to do now; you may live to regret to see your children/grandchildren “homeless” in KL, Penang ….

     
    • Boh Bin Chui or Phai Seh are the antics of the rich and famous.
      So expensive properties are built solely for them on the island since the mainland is not their ‘preference’.
      The cannot afford ones are the ones with Bin Chui & Boh Phai Seh to move to the mainland. They have to ‘bite the bullets’ due to manipulated reality, not fantasies of 308 Manifesto. Get real men.
      So don’t mix up the preferences of the 2 extremes of social class already entrenched in Penang due to change of direction of CHANGE.

       
  5. At least they (not the already dead) got some compensations but should have been more for the 16 years of anguish, delayed promises and being manipulated like blind men in a political footballing. Not calculating the inflation since day one of this fiasco.
    What a precedence for delaying tactics and MIA excuses of irresponsible developers in the future!
    Better stay healthy and live longer to see to it that you receive compensations than be dead without justice done to your souls.

     
    • TungLung,
      Sometime one has to be satisfied and not to be too greedy depending on the situation. In this situation the folk just like the KB Pala could have got nothing if not for the PR govt intervention. They have finally got something just like the KB Pala folks who were given a house. In Kg BP and this case it was the developer that pay out the compensation.

      It is those like Sugu and 9 other that are too greedy that they were left with nothing but they did get something on the mainland. And this compensation were paid for from the govt coffer that is ( you, my and our money). So in fact we are paying for the Sugu & 9 others houses on the mainland.

       
      • The developers should pay, not us to pay on their behalf like Thua Khang!
        At the end of the day, these developers will have built and reaped massive profits. Now will they share with the $$$ with us taxpayers?
        Think.
        Only fools pay for others mistakes and somebody gets the name.

         
  6. Just to be clear for those still blur blur about LGE affordable housing definition. LGE’s affordable housing = 72 000 – 400 000. Man, it is 400 000 !!! ???

    Secondly, ha ha, look at following anil statement:
    ………………………………
    The outcome of the 2008 general election gave the displaced community’s campaign a fresh impetus. They organised meetings, pressured state government officials and REFUSED TO CAVE IN.
    ………………………………
    That is DAP administration. No moral high ground here for DAP.

    Finally, look at anil statement:
    ………………………………..
    … after 16 long years and with a general election looming, a deal has been hammered out
    ………………………………..
    ‘You help me, I help you’ tactic being used by DAP to fish votes.

    Poorah !!! People government konon. DAP fanboys and fangirls out there, notice your beloved party’s so called angel government actions. ‘You help me, I help you’ perfectly acceptable and being used by all including DAP.

     
    • Who is the one that finally settle the problem? Not Gerakan or BN government definitely!

      The s… of Gerakan/BN government that has been outstanding for 12 years was settled by an inexperienced Pakatan government of less than 4 years.

       
    • After 16 years the issue was finally resolved. It means that for 13 years the Gerakan and Barang Naik (BN) Ammo govt could not resolve the issue. It has to be left to the PR LGE govt to resolve it and it was done within 3 years+ Bravo

       
  7. pardon me as i’m not penang local.
    raja uda is it near the jetty of butterworth ?
    i saw on paper many new condos to be built there (near convent school).
    sure high density area soon as the tunnel built there to link up with gurney drive ?

     
    • No, not very near the jetty – about 4km away.

      Those condos you are referring to are at Harbour Place, I believe. And yes, that cluster of towers appears to be rather high density.

      Not near the proposed tunnel though.

       

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