By P. Ramakrishnan (President, Aliran)
Aliran is glad that there is some kind of offer and an attempt to reach a compromise with the beleaguered residents of Kampung Buah Pala. It is good that the Koperasi and Nusmetro have finally come out with an offer in trying to reach a settlement with the residents. While it is commendable, unfortunately the offer does not go far enough to be acceptable to the residents.
A two-storey house promised in exchange for the roof that they would be losing would seem to be a reasonable proposal but this proposal is very vague and uncertain because it lacks crucial details, e.g.:
- There is no guarantee when these houses would be ready for occupation.
- There is no indication on which part of the land these houses would be located.
- There is no indication of the cost of these houses.
- There is no mention whether these houses would be built first to allow the residents to move in at the shortest possible time before the commercial project takes off.
- There is nothing mentioned regarding the rental that would be incurred when the residents are forced to look for alternative accommodation upon the demolition of their houses.
- To add to these uncertainties, there is also a condition that states if the amended layout plan to accommodate these houses is rejected by the approving authority, the deal would be off and the residents would not have any hold on the Koperasi and Numestro for any compensation. If this were to happen, the residents would have lost their homes and would be entitled to nothing whatsoever – not even a sen. In that eventuality, they would have been exploited and deprived of everything that they have had on this land: their lives, their homes, their history, their heritage.
In all fairness, these areas of grave concern are legitimate and it is only just that they must be addressed seriously so that the residents’ fears can be laid to rest.
Considering the fact that the Kopersai had obtained the land below market price, it has benefited tremendously and stands to reap huge profits from the land that has been home to these unfortunate residents and their ancestors for nearly 200 years. It would, therefore, be reasonable to expect the Koperasi to be forthcoming and generous in its offer.
Being a Koperasi, it should understand what social justice is, it should be aware that exploitation is wrong and unjust.
It is because of this that Aliran expects the Koperasi to understand fully the dire situation of the residents of Kampung Buah Pala. It is because of this that Aliran expects the Koperasi to act in a humane manner befitting its status and responsibility.
Aliran earnestly hopes that there will be no forced eviction, that there will be no violence tomorrow. There is no need to resort to sledgehammers and bulldozers to evict these helpless residents.
Aliran would like to appeal to the Koperasi to defer the demolition and hope that it would sincerely engage in dialogue with the residents so that a just settlement can be arrived at as soon as possible to the mutual satisfaction of both the parties.