High Chaparral: Evening in Paris gives some hope

The Unesco's Paris Desk will write to the federal government within the next few days seeking clarification on the Kampung Buah Pala village crisis in Penang.

Unesco's Asia Pacific heritage specialist, Junhi Han (extreme left) said the world heritage centre would express its concerns over the demolition of the nearly 200-year-old Kampung Buah Pala after hearing an appeal from village resident K Murugan who went to Paris.

Unesco's intervention was hailed by Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leader P Waythamoorthy as a boost to the villagers' cause in efforts to stop next week's demolition by the developer.

K Murugan made an official representation to the world heritage body based in the French capital city of Paris yesterday at 3pm (French time).

He was accompanied by London-based Waythamoorthy, who had arranged the meeting with Unesco.

Waythamoorthy had explained the the Kampung Buah Pala predicament to the heritage official of the Unesco Paris Desk.

Waythamoorthy alleged that the village land was originally held on a housing trust but was later taken over by the federal government and transferred to the Penang government under dubious circumstances.

He further alleged that the previous Penang state government had unlawfully alienated and sold the land held on trust to a cooperative society - Koperasi Pegawai Pegawai Kanan Kerajaan Pulau Pinang.

Junhi Han was also told that the cooperative subsequently engaged a private developer Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd to build a lucrative condominium project called Oasis on the trust land.

Waythamoorthy told her that the current DAP government was responsible for the actual transfer of the trust land to the cooperative within 19 days after coming to power.

Waythamoorthy told her that during last year's general election campaign, the DAP leaders had promised the residents to secure and preserve the trust land as a heritage village.

However, he alleged, that after coming to power, the DAP state government had failed to fulfil its promise and betrayed the people's trust.

Unesco appeals to gov't

Junhi Han told Waythamoorthy and Murugan that she would immediately inform the Malaysian officials at Unesco to look into the controversy urgently.

Earlier Murugan, the 46-year-old cowherd from Kampung Buah Pala, arrived in France on Wednesday morning via London to hand over a memo.

The memo urged Unesco to urgently make a representation to the Malaysian government to stop the village demolition.

It also urged Unesco to send a fact finding team to Kampung Buah Pala to gather first hand information independently to justify the residents' heritage claim over the village.

At the end of the 40-minute meeting, Junhi Han said the matter would be presented to the world heritage committee after receiving a response from the Malaysian government.

The committee, she assured, would then seriously consider the need to commission a Unesco fact finding mission to the village.

Murugan's representation to take his village fight for survival to Unesco is seen as a move to exert international pressure on relevant authorities in Penang, especially Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to preserve the traditional Indian village.

Murugan's representation would deal a severe blow to the DAP government as it could compromise the status of George Town as living human heritage city, an accolade it shares with Malacca.

Waythamoorthy informed Junhi Han that Kampung Buah Pala sits exactly on the city limit of George Town, which received its international heritage recognition in July 2008.

Kampung Buah Pala faces the possibility of total destruction on Aug 3, after an eviction order was issued on July 2.

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.

Kampung Buah Pala is referred to by locals as Tamil High Chaparral because of its hilly location, greenery, population of cowherds, cattle, goats, other livestock, and lively Tamil cultural features and festivities


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