PENANG, July 4 — The Penang government said today it will be too costly for it to acquire the land in Kampung Buah Pala from a cooperative and a developer to enable the 23 squatter families facing eviction to continue to live there.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he sympathised with the villagers but the cost of the land was high as it was freehold and had been approved for development.
The Federal Court had ruled that the land belonged to the Penang Government Officers Cooperative and developer Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd and that the villagers had to vacate it.
Lim, caught between the demands of the villagers and the court ruling, had asked the federal government to acquire the land from the cooperative and the developer.
Speaking to reporters after opening the Penang International Halal Hub task force meeting here, he said the Federal Court ruling had to be adhered to although the villagers had lived there for a long time.
He said that despite the court ruling, the state government had succeeded in getting a month-long extension for the villagers to move out.
Besides asking the federal government to acquire the land, Lim also advised the developer to pay the agreed compensation of RM200,000 to each of the families facing eviction and called on the families to accept the payment.
When told that the developer did not want to pay the compensation and the villagers did not want to move out, he said the state government would issue a directive to stop the developer from starting work at the site but added that this would incur financial cost to the state government.
"What else can the state government do? Like the Kampung Buah Pala villagers, the state government is also a victim in the case because it was not us who started the issue. Therefore, do not blame the state government," he said.
Lim said he was not avoiding a meeting with the villagers but the work of a group of opportunists had worsened the situation.
"I regret that a small group of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) members had attempted to become heroes and worsened the situation when (Deputy Chief Minister I) Mansor Othman tried to resolve the problem.
"I am prepared to meet the villagers but not the opportunists. I have no qualms about meeting the villagers but my two deputies (deputy chief ministers I and II) have done an excellent job of that," he said. — Bernama