DIDPs face bleak future (updated)


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.

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Jeremy Soong

A teacher asked the students in a primary school in Penang:
“What would you do if you were living in Penang 50 years ago when there was no internet or TV?”

Little Johnny raised his hand and answered:
“Rear cows on as many land as possible, so that my next generation will get windfall upon any resttlement 50 years later.”

That’s the hindsight on Development-Induced-Displacement.


Great article and important social problem The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone. India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more… Read more »

semuanya OK kot

In Sarawak, natives who failed to stop the grand theft of their land are now working for a pittance at sawmills and oil palm plantations. The no. of labour jobs in oil palm is only around 1 (job) per hectare.

Gopal Raj Kumar

In Sabah and Sarawak there has always been a culture of subservience. It began when the Hakka Chinese migrants first came in then enslaved the locals followed by their surrender to the White Rajahs, James Brooke and his family who ran the place like a personal fiefdom under the flag of Britain.

it was Britain who helped consolidate the merger of Malaya with Sabah and Sarawak into Malaysia. the people are fundamentally a Malay people anyway. The attempts to polarise the communities of the peninsula and the Borneo Islands was something Lee Kuan Yew began after he split form Malaysia….

Jeremy Soong

Why complain so much when the newly revised Sejarah is telling us that it was the Sultans who had engaged the British for protection. The malay rulers are protectors of malays, thus the British was indirectly a ‘sub-contractor’ that had protected the malays, and polarization was just a by-product of such administration. Just ask Prof KKK for confirmation.


Only Kampung Baru in KL is immuned from such D-I-D?

semuanya OK kot

1 low-paid job per 20 hectares.


The haves & have nots are the result of our social, economic & education discrimination practices which deteriorate with wealth creation availability over a period of time. But some sections of society prefer to keep the cake to themselves or preferably all of it. Over time, the have nots due in part to their limitations and innocence or ignorance of the ‘cunning game’ of survival suffer as waves of development take place affecting their livelihood & homes. Woes be to them if they are left to the total whims & fancies of the haves without law & justice. If when… Read more »

Gopal Raj Kumar

Yes one look around the place and one sees that the only marginalized are the Indians and the rural Malays. The Urban Malays in the clutches of the Chinese for a long time have a right to demand their fair share of the cake.

like in Singapore the Chinese (allegedly) took a Malay land and turned it into a Mandarin Ghetto, Sinofying everything around. it must never be allowed to happen anywhere again in this are…

Sze Tho

Provocative and racially charged assertions, Gopal. Perhaps you could share the basis to back them up?

Gopal Raj Kumar

Perhaps you ought to do a little research rather than to depend on me to provide you with the reinforcement of what you blindly will not see.

Sze Tho

Perhaps you should back up YOUR assertions instead of practicing hit and run postings. It easy to talk and make accusations. Without facts or basis , you have no credibility.


UR right brother.

Jeremy Soong

No different from the writings of Awang Selamat, pure accusations and biased opinions with no facts to substantiate any claim.


you work less you get less. that is fair share.


There are many who work like cows but get peanut pay.
There are also many from the 1% haves who don’t work at all and they get more than surplus share.

So what you mean by fair share?


Gopal, displacement of communities by richer and powerful parties occurs everywhere in the world and even in malaysia is not confined to any ethnic group or groups. It is true that in Penang Malays and Indians are displaced from their villages. But it is not true that this is limited only to the them. The Chinese in Jelutong have also been dealt a similar fate not too long ago and currently many sikh families in Kampung Boundary are facing this same issue. Furthermore, not all these developers are of Chinese ethnic origin. Malay villagers in Tanjung Tokong who even own… Read more »


Kevin, you can rest assured that not everything said in blogs is truth and nothing but the truth. So nice to hear your clarification of what’s happening with the truth (or common facts) otherwise somebody gau gau would have skewed the truths based on his skin-deep knowledge.

Jeremy Soong

Malays in Singapore are still thriving in places like Geylang Serai and Kampung Glam. The government has even built a malay heritage centre (but the project failed because tourists show little interest in that aspect of culture). 90% of the LionsXll players that are winning the Malaysian Liga Super are malays. Singapore has MENDAKI foundation to help the poor malays. Even the minister Halimah Yaakop is from NTUC that protect the interest of workers, mostly blue collar malays. The legendary malay children show ‘Aksi Mat Yoyo’ is now being made multi-racial due to its popularity among children of all races.… Read more »

Inspector Lim

anil & tunglang
Besides greedy developers, we have greedy electronics industry in the guide of FDI champions exploiting the migrant workers to keep wages low hence the locals forever cannot earn decent salry to cope with inflation especially in the cities (to buy a home). Eventually Msia will see more exploited foreign labors to sustain the development enjoyed by the Rich while the less rich locals get displaced. So the economic income gap society getting wider.

Gopal Raj Kumar

But capitalism is about exploitation of all factors of production one of which is labour. You can’t change that unless you use force and adopt communism or Islamic finance/


BN Government have been helping the capitalists. Why have to import hundreds of barbers from India, waiters and cleaners from Nepal and Burma and Indo come and go as if Malaya is like one of their islands?
BN are making big on those permits and mata2 are also on checking docs.


The exploitation of chaepo labors is fundamentally for 2 main reasons: To keep costs low & thus prices low & competitive. To ( ) -maximize profits. The former is a loud-speaker gorilla cry of survival in price war even though in some cases (like Apple’s iPad) the minimum margin have already reached 7th heaven and target market secured. The later is always a holy mission statement with the ‘super’ written in invisible ink before the word maxi-profit. The later reinforces the former, the former anoints (confer divine) the later. Never mind that some driven-to-the-edge assembly workers decide to jump off… Read more »

Gopal Raj Kumar

All of these Dsiplaced have one common enemy and it is not government. It is (certain) development companies who (allegedly) pay public servants and low level operatives in government to allow then a fast track to rape and pillage forests for timber, residential land for skyscrapers and new housing estates (read slums of the future). The spate of development collapses in peninsula Malaysia over the past decades of uncompleted projects are the result of these developers, errant and incompetent corrupt lawyers and bankers who have released monies to developers and contractors prior to completion of the various stages of these… Read more »

Inspector Lim

Gopal Agreed with you that Developers and the staff are mainly all out primarily for big bucks profits. However, a good government can prevent the alleged under counter payment to the public servants and low level operatives in government to approve beyond the prescribed standards. We have Kementerian Perumahan which has not been effective to counter the growth of greediness threatening the well being of the society. Time to sit and show the rakyat mean business this 428. Quote http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2012/04/09/abandoned-housing-projects-is-msia-a-lawless-country/ It is scandalous that 195 housing projects could have been carried out by unlicenced housing developers under the eyes of… Read more »

Gopal Raj Kumar

Its is one thing to say that government could have prevented such a disaster when there are self regulated bodies such as bankers , accountants and lawyers who government rightfully allow a certain degree of independence to to conduct themselves in a professional and responsible manner. it is just as the US government and the governments of most western states allowed these people in their banking sector to do so with impunity till it all crashed. You can monitor and oversee certain things for a period of time. Crooks will always find ways around it. A determined crook will not… Read more »

Jeremy Soong

I must say MCA minister Chor CH is a poor housing minister. A least tLGE is using Singapore’s HDB masterplan to develop a township in Batu Kawan. That’s a breakthrough that Chor CH cannot achieve as he has been assured of hefty pension fund and no incentive to help poor rakyat.

On the same note, MCA’s Kong Choy should be rename ‘car-plate tender’ minister instead of transport minister.


All this fuss is ultimately about money. The have nots asking for handouts, similar to NEP. And we can all see how effective that was.


Why thousands of Malaysians don’t go to Sinkapore to become fishermen to make Sinkapore one of the world’s largest fishing port but to become fisher of financial, casinos and oil centre? Why Malaysians treated not my backyard but always look to Sinkapore TVs and even working there with currency twice the Ringgit in value?


If you think new development of technology means you can give a machine a hug and get a can of coke free(at National University of Singapore) :


Perhaps approval from Jakim is needed in Malaysia for such hug?

Andrew I

Like hugging a great big V.

Jeremy Soong

The Dialog Group/Johor Oil & Gas want to turn Pengerang in Johor into ‘Rotterdam of Asia’ by constructing deep water petroleum terminal at Tanjung Ayam and Tanjung Kapal in Johor.


Fishermen are losing their livelihood in the process!
No wonder there is an Angry Loster movement now in Johor!


Hey how about mankind displacing those animals and amphibians who are first to dwell there for generations? Mankind has proclaimed “Animal Rights” and even have RSPCs to protect them and in India and Australia, due to human encroachment, tigers and sharks have attack man in retaliation.


As stated in the Bible, there will be increased wild beast attacks on humans in these last days of uncontrolled misuse and rape of natural resources.
Hope the innocent tribesmen, women & children will not be victims but the greedy richie on Safari trips or on Belum 4WD jungle bashing.


Hi Anil Just want to provoke your thoughts on this, which I found very interesting. Why do you think BBC hardly covered if not none, on PM Cameron’s visit to Malaysia, but a lot on Japan-Noda, Indonesia -business for UK aviation industry and Myanmar-Suu Kyi. Thanks Is it because Britain know that the key people Cameron met won’t be sitting in their positions for long, or better still because they lacked commitment in the deals which should have been inked, but didn’t materialise. Hence, that explains BBC stand. I was looking for an analytical piece on your blog but nothing… Read more »


Who doesn’t want development. But for whom? Is it necessary for every inch of land? DIDPs are humans who did not asked for displacement in the first place. Land owners & developers should be more honest, fair and less greedy if their mission is to sell & develop a piece of land for economic reasons. Fair compensation will help for bilateral agreement, if cultural & historical significance of a place are not that important issues. Remember that livelihood for most after displacement is not that easy to solve if you are aged and rely on location such as hawker business.… Read more »


tunglang, you asked the developers to be more honest, fair and less greedy ?

The answer is tunggu lama-lama …

The developers are like starved crocodiles, open their mouths wide ready to telan you and build their empires…

Such is the world !!!

However, i find comfort in having some few good truthful friends.

Went to SP few days ago. Food is so good and cheap. O! I cant forget the ikan bakar in Gurun, so damn good really…


Don’t take comfort in SP for long. The day will come when these greedy developers will also swallow SP, land, greener grass & hawker sites for their marauding build & sell & decay. Can’t change them developers, change the local laws. Who can teach or preach to a crocodile except with a pole & rope & rough tugs. Anyway, we make laws of every kind to suit our desires and our type of world. Change them for the better and see what will happen. Unless we are solely slave to who’s got the money, deteriorating human capacity & without empathy… Read more »


Jocelyn Tan (on The Sunday Star today) spoke about ‘the Singapore factor’ affecting the Chinese in Johor in terms of development (physically & politically): “Johoreans south of Muar watch a lot of Singapore TV and the island State’s political economy has several types of effect on Johor Chinese. Many older Chinese in Johor admire Lee Kuan Yew; his authoritarian style was stifling and old fashioned but it brought stability, good governance and progress. They see a clean and efficient government that delivers what it promises. Of late, Malaysia’s paid TV has been running advertisements showing former Miss Malaysia Andrea Fonseka,… Read more »


sentimental aside; no harm try to ‘migrate’ out of penang island for greener pastures on mainlannd. For retirees they can stretch their ringgitttttttttttt for sure buying this and that.
anil cn opt to sell off his tanjung bungah home for a hefty sum while the craze is still brewing; and settle down let’s say at Kulim. Anil won’t feel “displaced” as he can still operate his blog away from Penang via internet; and can “ta-pau” street foods each time he comes over to the island, right ???


Hi Jeremy, I am currently based in JB and shuttle between there and Penang so I get what you are saying. But what I don’t get is how all that is related or relevant to the displacement of people from land which they rightfully own? Singapore may be developed but developers there buy land from the actual owners who agree to sell. Not conduct a scam with the land office to transfer ownership of land without the rightful owner even knowing. I am not sure about this case at hand but I know this modus operandi has been going on… Read more »