18 years, still no houses, so estate workers protest at city centre

estate-workers-protestKUALA LUMPUR: More than 200 former estate workers protested in the city centre today to claim their housing rights, first promised 18 years ago, from Berjaya Corporation Berhad (Berjaya).

The protest, which took place in front of Berjaya Times Square, saw former estate workers of Berjayacity, now known as Berjaya, demanding that the organisation provide 245 fully subsidised low-cost terrace houses, as promised to all workers of five estates in Batang Berjuntai.

The protesters were from Ladang Mary, Ladang Sungai Tinggi, Ladang Bukit Tagar, Ladang Nigel Gardner and Ladang Minyak.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) central committee member S Arutchelvan, who represented the former estate workers, said they had decided to protest today for fear that Berjaya would not fulfil the promises, made over the past 18 years.

Arutchelvan told reporters that Berjaya had made several promises to the estate workers since acquiring the estates from French company Socfin Group 18 years ago.

“Since 1998, they had made several promises. One of them is to provide estate workers with houses which the Selangor state exco during that time, K Sivalingam, had discussed with Berjaya,” he said.

The protesters were later invited to discuss the matter further with Berjaya officials in one of the auditoriums at Berjaya Times Square. However, media personnel were not allowed to enter.

After the meeting, Arutchelvan said in a brief press conference that Berjaya director Zurainah Musa had agreed to address their pleas.

However, according to Arutchelvan, Berjaya had provided no details on when the houses would be built.

“We appreciate that Berjaya had a dialogue with us, but if they continue to ignore us, we will have to bring this matter to the streets again,” he said.

Giving details of the promises made, Arutchelvan said Berjaya had also promised there would be no retrenchment of current or former estate workers until the issue of alternative housing had been solved.

In 2008, he said, Berjaya offered 4,000 sq ft of land per family at the Mukim Sungai Tinggi estate, referring to a letter given to Berjaya by Mohd Khir Toyo, who was Selangor menteri besar at the time.

However, in March 2016, 57 estate workers were given eviction notices after Berjaya sold the estates to Prosper Group in October 2015.

“Fifty-seven estate workers were given eviction notices by Prosper Group, and the reason was because they are no longer working in the estates,” said Arutchelvan.