Five more days.
That’s the remaining time the residents of Kampong Buah Pala in Gelugor have, following a Court of Appeal decision on 11 May giving them 30 days to vacate their homes.
The village, known as High Chaparral because of its history of cattle rearing, is at the centre of a controversial land dispute with luxury apartment developers.
The residents had won in the High Court last October, but the developers successfully appealed. The residents, through their lawyers, have now filed an appeal in the Federal Court and applied for a stay of execution.
An agreement to sell the land for around RM11 per square foot was entered into in 2005 under the BN administration at a time when residents claim the value of the land was around RM150 per square feet.
The state administration agreed to sell the 6.5 acre plot to Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang in exchange for a three quarter-acre plot of land belonging to the Koperasi where the Sessions Court (near Dewan Sri Pinang) now stands, according to the residents. The Koperasi then entered into a joint venture with a private company, Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd, said to be politically connected, to build luxury apartments on the High Chaparral site.
Even before the legal process has been exhausted, even before it has obtained vacant possession of the land, even while cows are still grazing on the land, NusMetro has already started marketing its “Oasis” project:
Tucked away in Gelugor, hidden from the commotion of the city, lies Penang’s latest residential investment opportunity. Situated within 6.5 acres of beautifully landscaped surroundings, The Oasis is your own personal sanctuary.
With its distinctive architecture and detailed interior design enhanced by superior finishing, The Oasis surpasses the ordinary and redefines architecture and lifestyle.
Whether you’re purchasing the Oasis as a home or as an investment, be prepared to indulge your senses in total luxury.
Rebranding your address at The Oasis.
The Pakatan government was dragged into the controversy when residents claimed they saw court exhibits showing that the transfer of land to the Koperasi was effected on 27 March 2008 – three weeks after it had come to power.
Draviam, 84 (see photo above), recalled how top Pakatan politicians had vowed to strongly defend the residents’ right to the land during the 2008 general election campaign.
“The state government shouldn’t just be telling us to continue with the struggle and fight on,” said another resident. “If it is really a people’s government, then it should be taking up the cause on our behalf.”
Among those present at the press conference this afternoon were residents’ rep M Sugumaran, PRM’s Gary Nair, Batu Uban Adun V Raveendran (PKR), Jerit rep Kris Khaira and Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng’s husband Guna, who spoke in his personal capacity in support of the preservation of the village.
A representative from the Penang Heritage Trust outlined the heritage value of this Indian Malaysian cultural village, which dates back to the 1950s at the present site and from decades earlier at its original site atop Bukit Gelugor. A few households still continue the traditional source of livelihood – cattle rearing.
The area had 33 houses, but nine households have accepted unknown compensation and moved out, their houses subsequently demolished, according to one resident. The state has stopped collecting the annual TOL licence fee since 2005, he said, paving the way for land alienation.
A unique feature of the High Chaparral village is an underground spring water source (see photo above), which supplied thousands of residents in the area with fresh water when Penang experienced a water supply disruption some years back.
This is the second such controversy here in recent weeks after residents of a village on the premises of St Francis Xavier’s Church along Penang Road were served eviction letters by the Catholic Church’s lawyers.