Mahmud Yusoff, who grew up in Kg Tanjung Tokong in Penang, shares with us his thoughts on the uncertain future facing the villagers:
I was born and grew up in the kampung until Form Five and later left for further studies and work in KL; so my heart is never far from developments in the kampung i.e. through regular visits and involvement in local NGOs for the sake of villagers’ rights…
Back in 1974, the federal government (during the leadership of the late Tun Razak) decided to develop Tanjong Tokong through the Urban Development Authority (Uda). Thus, the state government transferred 48 acres of the land for a token RM1. The traditional villagers who have been there for the last 200 years were declared “squatters” through Uda’s affidavit filed in the Penang High Court on 10 December 2008. Are they doing justice to the villagers?
As mentioned in the Penang Land Office’s letter ref. Bil: (44) dlm. PTG/PM/DTL/76 dated 13 February 1984, the land transfer was on condition “the land hereby alienated shall be used solely for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and renewal of Tanjong Tokong village”. Lawyers argued over the condition, which did not necessarily mean a revamp of the village into totally high-rise housing/commercial projects.
Can’t we consider the rehabilatation, reconstruction and renewal of the kampung so that it provides a more presentable image that could be a living heritage with a touch of tourism, village industries, and home-stay? If we could maintain (definitely with some improvement) Weld Quay and Little India as they are, why not Tanjong Tokong village (i.e. the oldest village on the fringe of George Town)?
Uda was “rewarded” with another 52 acres of coastal reclaimed land (adjacent to E & O’s Sri Tanjong Pinang Development) by the previous state government, where high-end condominiums, terrace houses (under construction) and a commercial complex (in planning stage) are in the pipeline. Uda should also build low- and medium-cost flats within that area to ease the plight of the real “squatters” and new young families who reside in Tanjong Tokong Village. Isn’t that an option to solve the problem?
Several meetings and presentations have been made to the PR state government, even to LGE, about the Tanjong Tokong villagers’ (not the real “squatters” or imported residents) aspirations through the Persatuan Penduduk Tanjung Tokong. Having saying that, during the rule of the BN government, memorandums submitted and several meetings resulted in the projects being delayed – but the real voice of Tanjong Tokong residents has still not been ‘properly’ heard.
The next step, without neglecting the PR state government’s assistance and cooperation, is to seek a meeting with the late Tun Razak’s son so that he can consider the Persatuan Penduduk Tanjong Tokong’s proposals through a new memorandum to be submitted soon.