High Chaparral battle gets French connection

Kampung Buah Pala representative K Murugan (below) has arrived in London on Monday evening (British time) to take his village fight for survival to the international level - the Unesco heritage head office in Paris.

London based Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) chairperson P Waythamoorthy will accompany the 46-year-old village cowherd to Unesco's Paris Desk tomorrow to raise the issue of Kampung Buah Pala to international heritage officials.

The move, it is hoped, will exert international pressure on relevant authorities in Penang, especially Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to preserve the traditional Indian village.

Murugan's representation, it is beleived, would deal a severe blow to the embattled DAP-dominated Penang government as it could jeopardise the status of George Town as living human heritage city, an accolade it shares with Malacca.

Murugan however, denied that the villagers were compromising George Town status just to preserve Kampung Buah Pala as a heritage village.

"We have no intention to damage George Town's world heritage city status. But we want the state government to know that it failed to do enough to preserve our village as a state heritage.Many Penangites failed to realise that Kampung Buah Pala is actually located in George Town," he told Malaysiakini from London.

The villagers hope that Murugan's mission to France will turn the world's attention to the 6.5 acres of village land in Bukit Gelugor, Penang.

As the state administration works overtime to explore ways and means to resolve the crisis, Kampung Buah Pala faces the possibility of total destruction on Aug 3, courtesy of an eviction order issued on July 2.

The village has to make way for a lucrative project, the Oasis, developed by Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd.

Revocation order not enough

But Lim's government has already revoked the development plan a few days ago, apparently to stop the eviction and compel the developer to agree with its plan to settle the issue amicably.

However, not only the villagers, many civil societies, including Hindraf, Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit) and Suaram, have demanded that the state acquire the land and declare the village as a an Indian traditional land.

As Kampung Buah Pala faces eviction and demolition next Monday, civil societies have warned the state government that Penang would lose a 200-year-old historical, living human culture and heritage village in George Town.

Thus, it's understandable that the villagers have taken their fight for survival to the international level.

Waythamoorthy has apparently arranged the Unesco meeting for tomorrow through the help of British parliamentarians.

He believes Lim lacked the political will to resolve the villager's predicament and preserve the Indian traditional village.

"Lim should stop playing politics with the life and livelihood of the villagers," he said.

He accused Lim of giving a false impression that 'all was well' by revoking the developing order.

He argued that the revocation order was merely an eye wash that would not end the plight of the villagers and it would not deter the developer from demolishing and flattening the village.

"All Lim has to do is just to acquire the land under the relevant laws and return the village to the residents, who are the legitimate rightful owners," said Waythamoorthy.

He pointed out that it was Lim who transferred the land to the cooperative society despite the fact that the villagers had already made representations to him earlier.

"Lim's owes a political responsibility to acquire and return the village to the people," he said.

The land was transferred to Koperasi Pegawai Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang on March 27, 19 days after the DAP-dominated Pakatan Rakyat took over the Penang government on March 8.

"If the village were to be flattened, the DAP and its Pakatan Rakyat allies would face a severe backlash from the Indian community," warned the Hindraf leader.

CM: Don't blame us, its BN's mistake

Chief Minister Lim had previously explained that his state government's hands were tied as a result of a Federal Court ruling on the matter.

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 had also said that it would be too costly for his government to acquire the land from the cooperative and the developer.

"What 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.

He had also declassified files relating to the land sale and pointed fingers at the previous Barisan Nasional government of robbing "the residents of their land without consulting them".

"The chronology of events prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Koh Tsu Koon and his Umno, MCA, MIC and Gerakan cohorts had robbed Kampung Buah Pala residents of their land without consulting them," Lim said in a July 9 statement.

"So far Koh Tsu Koon has not explained why he approved this project without consulting the residents or selling it to Koperasi at such a low price," he added.

"Why is this aggression targeted against the Pakatan government that is trying to help them? In contrast, not a single demonstration or action is taken against the BN land robbers who deprived them of their rights," he said.

He also said that "a group of opportunists" who were not aware of the full picture had worsened the situation.


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