By Anil Netto,
The Kg Buah Pala villagers have been portrayed as greedy, demanding, and unreasonable. This is partly due to the mixed signals coming from the committee, the seemingly conflicting statements and misrepresentations of those speaking on their behalf including those with vested interests and even those in the state government.
Guan Eng even claimed – incorrectly as it turned out – the villagers want RM3.5 million bungalows or compensation. Where did he get that from? But the damage is already done as it all over the media.
As a result of such statements in the media by those intent on portraying the villagers as greedy – and the village committee’s own public relations blunders along with outsiders taking advantage – public opinion may have swayed against the villagers.
I have been to the village a few times, and I have never heard of a demand for RM3.5 million bungalows or any similar demand.
I did see the RM3.5 million figure mentioned once, in one of the handouts given. But look at the context: that was when the residents were reacting to accusations that they were greedy. They retorted that the real greedy parties were those who were coveting their respective property lots, some of which they claimed could be worth an average of RM3.5 million. That’s quite different from asking for compensation of RM3.5 million or demanding a RM3.5 million bungalow.
I contacted Sugumaran, the residents’ committee chairperson, for comment and he said the claim that the villagers wanted RM3.5 million bungalows is baseless. “They are just using that figure to turn public opinion against the villagers and to portray the villagers as unreasonable,” he lamented.
Few have actually walked in their shoes and lived in the village to experience what life is like for them. It’s a different life-style closer to nature than what most city folk can understand – and I don’t claim to fully understand it either. Only the villagers know their real situation and what they really need to continue living in dignity, if and when they are wrenched apart not only from their homes but their land, their livelihoods and their community.