Friday, July 03, 2009

Kampung Buah Pala : A missed opportunity for Pakatan

Of late the Pakatan rakyat (PR) state government in Penang has is undergoing a severe test of its resilience and patience. The Kg.Buah Pala issue seems to reveal that goodness and righteousness alone on the part of a leader is not enough to overcome the multitude of problems facing the people. What is equally important is political shrewdness and astuteness of the leadership that only comes with experience and maturity. A leader may be good and righteous but unless he has the shrewdness to avoid offending the electorate unnecessarily, he may not survive politically.

The issue of Kg.Buah Pala is not something that sprang up overnight but has been going on for some time from the time of the previous government. Evicting long-staying residents on government land had always been a very thorny problem that is closely inter-twined with social and human rights issues that are easily sensationalized by the media and exploited by opportunist political opponents.

The action of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to allow protest by unhappy residents against his government and his willingness to accept their memorandum is a cordial atmosphere by his representatives must be commended. Such an accommodating stance towards demonstrators was rarely seen before. However the absence of his personal involvement in the crisis was regretted by the people who had high expectations in his new government which they thought would be different from the previous one.

Lim had the opportunity to turn the problem that he inherited from his predecessor to his advantage by paying a visit to the village during the early days of the crisis to express his solidarity with the people there. He should have told the truth of what really happened to their land and the tremendous limitations under which he has to now work to bring an amicable solution. He should have directed the people to turn to the Federal Government in particular its minister who was the former Chief Minister.

Although there may be residents who are out to take advantage of the situation for massive monetary gains, there are those who are genuinely desperate and living in fear of losing their livelihood and homes. It is the duty of the state government to protect the interests of these desperate residents regardless of who caused their hardship and predicament. A simple courteous visit to explain the limitations of his government would have gone a long way to win the hearts of the majority of the residents.

Lim had missed the opportunity that was available to him to show that his government is a government of the people, willing to go out of the way to relief the people’s burden, which was not his making, regardless of race or creed. On the contrary he is being accused as being heartless, cruel, racist and taking sides with the developer for commercial gains over the people’s welfare which we all know for sure is not true. He is being accused of being arrogant for not wanting to meet the residents to listen to their grouses when they came to see him. He is being accused of violating human rights, the very harsh criticism he had for the previous government.

The land that houses the ‘High Chaparral’ has been sold and development project planned by a private developer well before the Pakatan government came into power. From the way the issue had developed we are aware that there is not much the state government can do to save the ‘High Chaparral’ as the proceedings were done legally. Even the Federal Court has ruled in favour of the developer against the residents. The present state government is not being blamed for the crisis but the way the it handled the problem had created a lot of unhappiness among the people who had voted for the Pakatan Rakyat, which they expected to be more people-friendly than its predecessor.

The lesson to be learnt from this issue is that the government should accountable and forthright in its dealings at all levels. The people must be told the truth which at times may be bitter but will finally be accepted. In this case the residents must be made to realise that they are temporarily occupying government land, they have to make way when the land is needed for a reasonable compensation.

The Kg.Buah Pala dilemma may be a political issue for some and a legal or commercial one for others. For the genuinely desperate residents it is an emotional issue that affects their livelihood and the very existence of their homes where they have been living for over a century. The only solution is by way of negotiations, not force, possibly involving the federal government in a considerate, fair and humane manner for a win-win situation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

DChris,

It just shows how difficult it is to rule a country. Easy to talk ideals, but very difficult in reality to keep everyone happy.The very right we talk about will be used be used against us.

I am sorry that it is all happening so early in the day for the opposition.

By theraj,

Anonymous said...

Legally, the case is probably closed as any disputes have been decided by the Federal Court.
Any compensation would have been made in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1960 by the Land Administrator. The acquisition actually commenced from the time of previous State Administration. Any legal tenants [plus non legal tenants, inclusive could have received compensation], but some 'non-registered' tenants could have been left out. This exclusion technically has nothing to do with the present State Authority, nor the developer.

Any in-depth study [probably not-legally binding] could reveal something beyond the scope of Penang government. A political solution looks the only way out, as a 'way of life' is gone for many residents, not so much monetary. Money does not compensate for a way of life lost by development or progress....

By keetawa

soondar said...

drchris,

Non-Penang residents may want to know answers to the following questions:

1. Who is David Brown and how is he related to this Kampung Buah Pala issue?

2. Who are James Loh and Kajang Ah Fook and how are they related to Kampung Buah Pala issue?

3. Why did the BN-led Federal Government (as trustees of the land) allow the Gerakan-led state government to convert the status of the land to TOL without the consent of the beneficiaries (whoever that may be)?

4. How is the Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang involved in this issue?

5. Were government and legal institutions manipulated to legitimise this 'land-grab'?

soondar

Anonymous said...

Penangnites

YB Lim Guan Eng Government accepted the payment of RM 2.24 m on 14/3/2008 and issued the Title to the Cooperative on 27/3/2008 for a Land Valued RM 150m without any protest!

YB Koh Tsu Koon last approval was in 25/4/2007 for the alienation which should have lapsed by the time Pakatan become the State Government!

YB Lim Guan Eng should not only declasify BN EXCO minutes .. but also the PAKATAN EXCO minutes on Kg Buah Pala Land!!!

The Wheel of Karma is Slow.. but its Absolute!!

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