Himanshu Bhatt and Bernard Cheah
Residents association chairman, M Sugumaran, told reporters the villagers were being put under pressure to agree to the proposal, and the state government and developer had given them an unrealistically short deadline.
He pointed out that the conditions imposed included a clause that the housing offer would be void if the project was disapproved by the authorities in the future, effectively leaving the villagers in a lurch.
"Would you buy a property with this kind of condition?" he asked at a press conference at the village here.
He also questioned a clause that required the residents to withdraw all legal actions they had taken regarding the land.
Villagers’ spokesperson A Thiruvenggadam said the offer of terrace housing as "ex gratia" for the villagers to move out was not legal.
He pointed out that the land title itself stipulated it "cannot be transferred, mortgaged, pawned, sub-let or used as a business instrument without written approval from the state authority."
The title was issued on March 27, 2008, about two weeks after the Pakatan Rakyat took power as the state government.
Thiru venggadam said it was therefore not legal for the new title-holder, the ‘Penang Government Officers’ Cooperative’ (Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang), to have undertaken a commercial joint-venture agreement with developer Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd.
He also questioned Nusmetro’s move to sign sale and purchase agreements with buyers of yet-to-be-built units in the proposed condominium project there – even before the land title had been issued.
Thiruvenggadam also stressed that Section 320 of the National Land Code allows a land title to be cancelled by the state if fraud is proven in any land transaction.
He stressed that three reports had been lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) by state personnel.
Thus far, nobody knew about any development from the MACC investigations, if any had been initiated at all, he added.
"If the outcome of the investigation confirms a fraud in the land transaction, then the state can cancel the land title issued to the Cooperative," he said.
"If the fraud is proven, and the state was to use the above section, the Kampung Buah Pala land would become state land again."
He noted that PR leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister (II) Prof Dr P Ramasamy, Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, Sri Delima assemblyman RSN Rayer, and PKR adviser and Permatang Pauh MP Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had promised that the land would be saved for the villagers.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng urged the residents to accept the offer so as to "move forward".
He called the offer "the best deal in Malaysian history", and said he felt the residents were losing public support.
"If they continue to make unreasonable demands, they will finally be a loser. There are (several quarters) who offer to demonstrate or file a court case everyday, but will these get you a house with legally bidding title?" he asked.
Lim added that there were people who were trying to take advantage of the situation, and keen to see the demolition of the village to undermine the Pakatan Rakyat.
He said the details of the offer can be discussed later once the villagers had agreed in principle.
"We want you to adopt in principal first, then we will work out the details later - including the time to move out. We can talk to the developer to give some time and leeway for the people before the eviction," he said.
Lim told reporters this after officiating the Pikom Regional Chapter Seminar at Traders Hotel today (7 Aug 2009).