A landowner has served eviction notices to about five dozen homes in a kampung in Batu Ferringhi, reportedly without proper compensation.
The landowner had bought the 1.4ha land (Lots 39 and 40) through an auction circa 2006 and had issued eviction notices to the Kampung Mutiara residents since 2007. He opted to use lawyers and the courts instead of meeting the residents to come to an amicable resolution. More recently, he obtained a court order for vacant possession on 9 July 2015.
The villagers, many of them fisher folk, hotel employees or restaurant workers, had applied for an injunction last week but it was rejected and they are now appealing to the Court of Appeal.
MPs Zairil Khir Johari and Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Adun Teh Yee Cheu are reportedly backing the residents’ claims.
Land laws do not recognise the rights of pioneer settlers, even though they may have lived there for decades, in the case of Kampung Mutiara, for more than 50 years. This reality means many settlers are “victimised by the courts that side with landowners”, Zairil and Mujahid were reported as saying.
Under state government guidelines, planning permission approval would reportedly only be given if proper compensation is awarded to affected residents. But there has been no application to develop the land from the landowner so far.
In nearby Kampung Chetty, displaced residents received a low-medium cost flat each as compensation from a developer.
The 500 low-income residents of Kampung Mutiara, however, face an uncertain future.
What can the state government do? Deputy Chief Minister Rashid has written to the landowner via lawyers requesting him to meet the residents for a dialogue. This is a step in the right direction.
Meawnhile, the state government has reportedly agreed to reject any development project in the Kampung Mutiara land as long as fair compensation is not given to the residents. This should be made known formally to the landowner who should be told in no uncertain terms that it would affect any future buyers of the land as well.
Otherwise, in future, a developer eyeing any occupied land might side-step the requirement to award compensation to the settlers by getting a third party to buy the land and then evict the residents before selling the land to the developer.
The larger issue is, what kind of development model are we pursuing that allows established communities and settlements – Kampung Mutiara was reportedly regarded as a ‘traditional village’ in 2004 – to be destroyed without long-time residents having any say in the development of the land they have lived on?