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Friday, September 25, 2009

Selamatkan Kg Tanjong Tokong - 3

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Kampung Tanjong Tokong folk want Najib to intervene

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 25 — While Hari Raya festivities may still be lingering in the air, a walk down the village roads of Kampung Tanjong Tokong here suggests a feeling that celebrations have been subdued by more pressing concerns.

This Sunday, the residents association of the kampung will be organising a press conference to collect signatures from various NGOs in Penang as well as several academic institutions such as USM, in an attempt to highlight the impending takeover of their land.

“We want Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself to solve this issue because we are talking about the issue of Malay heritage here. This is where the first Malay community in Penang started. All the past prime ministers have not done anything to help us in our plight,” said Mohd Salleh Yahaya, a former lecturer who is also the residents association chairman of the 200-year-old village.

Similar to the case of Kampung Buah Pala, villagers here are opposing a mixed development project by UDA Holdings which some of them claim have “no social responsibility to the people and to the Malay heritage of the area.”

According to Salleh, UDA Holdings was given a 99-year lease of the land on May 30, 1974 on the condition that any development would be solely for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and renewal of Kampung Tanjong Tokong and not a profit-based project.

“The federal government has neglected the needs of the people and has not fulfilled their responsibilities. We want the matter to be dealt with at federal level since UDA Holdings is a government-linked company (GLC), and the land concerned belongs to the federal government,” said the association chairman.

The residents association wants the area to be recognised as a National Heritage Site. As of right now, the residents have no say over the matter because UDA has categorised the people still staying in the area as squatters.

Among the demands made by the residents are:

1. The Prime Minister himself should propose a special allocation for the reconstruction and development of Kampung Tanjong Tokong under the Ninth or Tenth Malaysia Plans;

2. UDA be removed from involvement in the development of the area;

3. A special agency should be appointed by the federal government, and this agency should focus on handling the problems of poverty of the people in the area, and have no other agenda besides being fully socially responsible; and

4. That out of the 1,000 acres of reclaimed land in the area, 10 per cent of it to be returned to the villagers in the form of positive development.

A banner put up by Suara Penduduk claiming that the residents committee does not represent the interests of all the villagers

Salleh blamed UDA Holdings, whom he claimed had roped in unsuspecting villagers with its “sweet talk” and allocation of transit houses for those who had agreed to move out of the village.

“Ever since Datuk Jaafar Abu Hassan (managing director of UDA) paid a visit to the village on March 5, a total of 40 of the 60 houses scheduled to be demolished have taken up UDA’s offer. They have moved into transit homes provided by UDA. The remaining 20 families are adamant on staying put although we have been told to vacate our homes by October,” said Salleh.

At this point, there are a total of 1,026 families living in 260 houses in the village.

UDA has purportedly offered the temporary occupation licence (TOL) holders, their extended families and even those living in houses with no addresses a free flat of 800-850 sq ft.

What complicates the situation further is that some of the villagers are said to be willingly complying with UDA’s development plans, and are against the residents association.

This quarter of the village divide is known as the Suara Penduduk Tanjong Tokong and they are in direct monetary negotiations with the developers for a sum of RM5,000.

When asked to comment about this section of the village population, Salleh stated that certain sections of the community are only concerned with getting money and a free apartment, and have no regard towards preserving heritage.




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