Update (17 April): Good news! The residents of Kampung Boundary 5 in Air Itam, Penang, today succeeded in obtaining a stay order from the court pending the outcome of the hearing of their case proper. Their village has thus been saved from demolition – for the time being.
14 April — Take note of this term: ‘development-induced displaced persons’ (DIDPs) – you will be hearing more and more about such communities across the country including in Penang.
It is actually a global phenomenon, affecting mostly developing countries trying to move up the “development” path – which raises a key question: development for whom? The average person or those with Big Capital?
According to Wikipedia:
Development-induced displacement is the forcing of communities and individuals out of their homes, often also their homelands, for the purposes of economic development. It is a subset of forced migration. It has been historically associated with the construction of dams for hydroelectric power and irrigation purposes but also appears due to many other activities, such as mining and the creation of military installations, airports, industrial plants, weapon testing grounds, railways, road developments, urbanization, conservation projects, forestry, etc. Development-induced displacement is a social problem affecting multiple levels of human organization, from tribal and village communities to well-developed urban areas.
Development-induced displacement or the forced migration in the name of development is affecting more and more people as countries move from developing to developed nations. The people that face such migration are often helpless, suppressed by the power and laws of nations.
The lack of rehabilitation policies for migrants means that they are often compensated only monetarily – without proper mechanisms for addressing their grievances or political support to improve their livelihoods.
Displaced people often internalise a sense of helplessness and powerlessness because of their encounter with the powerful external world, although there are also several examples of active resistance movements against development-induced displacement.
In Penang, at least five communities are facing the nightmarish prospect of displacement:
- Air Itam’s Kg Boundary 5 (comprising 23 houses);
- Batu Feringghi’s Kg Catteir (1000 houses);
- Jelutong’s Estate Syarifah Aloya (72 houses),
- Tanjung Tokong’s Kg Mount Erskine (31 houses) and
- Tanjung Bungah’s Kg India (145 houses).
On Sunday, Kampung Boundary 5 residents are holding a protest against a developer’s attempt to evict them from Lot 1272 Mukim 16 Sek 2, Geran no. 32296 Daerah Timur Laut Bandar Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang. The developer wants to build three-storey bungalows.
The residents claim that 46 separate plots on the land were initially rented out to them since the 1960s until 36 of the plots were sold to them.
The residents now claim the landowners sold the land to a developer in 2006 without their knowledge.
The developer apparently took action to remove 10 non-landowners (who owned their houses but not the land), leaving behind the 36 other plots.
A new developer then emerged claiming that it owned the entire land, including the 36 remaining plots.
In 2009, the new developer served the residents a notice to quit.
The residents allege their caveats on the land were mysteriously removed without their knowledge.
In 2010, 13 villagers (one has since dropped out) filed a claim seeking a declaration that they are the genuine purchasers in the 4-acre land of Kampung Boundary 5. [Just 12 residents are left of the 36 plot owners, after the developer compensated 24 plot owners.]
In their suit, the residents listed the two developer firms and five others (the previous landowners) as defendants. The residents allege that both these firms are related and that the transfer of ownership between them was a sham.
The two firms, for their part, applied to strike out the residents’ suit on grounds that the plaintiffs did not have locus standi – which the court disagreed. The High Court in February 2012 dismissed the two firms’ application and ordered the firms to pay costs of RM7000 to each of the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, the developer obtained an eviction order from a lower court and the bailiff is coming on Tuesday, 17 April.
For their part, the residents applied on Friday for a stay order pending the disposal of their High Court case, and they will know the outcome of their application on Monday.
The developer has increased the compensation amount progressively, but residents claim it is still much lower than market value.