Residents in some two dozen established settlements in Penang are reportedly facing eviction.
The settlements include the following:
– the 150-year old Kampung Siam in Pulau Tikus
– Pepper Estate in Tanjung Bungah
– Kampung Perda in Teluk Bahang
– Kampung Mutiara in Batu Ferringhi
– Kampung Chetty in Batu Ferringhi,
– Kampung Tanjung Bungah
– Kampung Pokok Asam
– Kampung Batu Uban
– Kampung Binjai in Bayan Lepas
– Kampung Tok Subuh in Seberang Prai
– Kampung Sungai Nyior in Butterworth, currently in the news.
And what kind of development are they having to make way for? Chances are, high-end condos, apartment and bungalows for the well heeled.
So where do these residents go? Is the compensation they receive sufficient for them to even buy a so-called “affordable” home? What if they are pensioners or even worse, retirees without any source of regular income?
I do wish people would stop using the term ‘squatters’ as that is a loaded term, usually used by developers, that tends to wittingly or unwittingly strip historical settlers of whatever rights they have. Personally, I prefer the more neutral ‘settlers’ or ‘urban pioneers’.
The state government says it is powerless to do anything about evictions, that it is a victim of federal laws – especially if property owners have not applied for planning permission, as such cases come under the jurisdiction of federal laws.
But I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. I believe the state government does and should have some clout. It can, for instance, declare that planning permission will not be approved if settlers on the land in question have been treated unfairly or not properly compensated with certain minimum terms, which can be specified. Alternatively, developers who do not treat settlers fairly could be blacklisted.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way…