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Kampung Buah Pala Countdown

Public sentiment has clearly turned against the residents of Kampung Buah Pala and they know it.

Any sympathy for the community, which trace their roots back to the colonial Brown Estate over 150 years back, was lost after news spread that they had rejected an offer for double stories houses from developer, Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd.

However residents claim they were being given a raw deal and have been unfairly maligned in the press.

“We are not greedy, we just want what’s fair,” said Draviam Arul Pillai, the oldest surviving villager whose father was first brought to Kampung Buah Pala in the 1920s by the Brown family.

The 85-year-old former cattle herder, who now makes a living from a small grocery shop in the village, is dismayed with the press portraying the villagers as pushing both their luck and the state government with unreasonable demands.

Although only equipped with a primary six education from a Tamil school, Draviam was aware of the political and legal battles being fought over his home.

He acknowledged himself they had no documents giving them rights over the land.

But he said he refused to take the offer because no mention was made about when and where the new houses would be built or what would happen to the villagers in the meantime.

“There was nothing in black and white, all we had were promises.” He said, insisting that he would have taken the deal if it was more concrete.

He argued that today’s DAP government could be gone tomorrow and there was nothing in the document to ensured the houses would be built.

Draviam blames both the present and past state governments for the dilemma but is more bitter with the DAP, who he said had made the plight of the village an election issue.

“We had always supported BN until they sold our land so we voted for the opposition because they promised to help us, but they have forgotten this,” he said.

He also lashed out at the MIC as well as other political parties and Non Government Organisations (NGO) which he said were trying to get political mileage but have done nothing to solve their problem.

His son youngest son Joseph Steven, who is the secretary of the residents association and in the forefront of the fight to save the village, showed The Malaysian Insider a copy of the compensation offer.

Besides a brief description on size of the houses, there was little else in the offer letter.

There was also a requirement for the villagers to drop all their legal claims while the houses would be built subject to approvals from the local government, failing which the villagers would have no legal recourse.

“Tell me you would sign and I will too,” he challenged.

Joseph denied villagers had ever made unreasonable claims amounting to millions of ringgit or had asked for bungalows and said their words had been twisted in the press.

”We know what people especially the Chinese community think of us, but we are not greedy, so please write that,” he said.

However some of the villagers have taken up the offer.

Albert Raj said his grandmother Annie Rose Michael had signed up out of fear.

“I advised her against it because the letter does not guarantee we will get the house.”

The concerns of the villagers were relayed to the state government after the offer by Sungai Siput MP Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj.

When contacted Dr Jeyakumar said the concerns of the villagers were legitimate and not unreasonable.

“They wanted safeguards because the company could go bust and then they would be left with nothing.”

But the deal fell through because the villagers were not united and were being influenced by outsiders who told them they could get more.

He said the villagers were sending mix signals and issuing statements attacking the state government in the press.

“We informed them they could not negotiate and attack at the same time.”

So with all avenues exhausted, the villagers of Kampung Buah Pala are praying for last minute miracle.

Source : The Malaysian Insider (Neville Spykerman)

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