Batu Ferringhi villagers look to escape eviction for third time

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GEORGE TOWN: After two failed eviction attempts by the landowner, a Malay village in Batu Ferringhi is hoping its luck will hold.

Some 300 residents of Kampung Mutiara here gathered at the break of dawn to form human barricades at three entrances leading to the village at Jalan Batu Ferringhi.

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They were fuelled by talk that their eviction might be delayed yet again following the move by a bipartisan political group to lobby for its deferment.

Narrow pathways to the village, located directly behind the Batu Ferringhi police station, were blocked with cars, logs, and large stones, purportedly to prevent the entrance of any demolition vehicles.

Politicians from both sides of the divide stood in solidarity with residents, demanding that the eviction be stopped.

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Notable figures included Deputy Chief Minister I Mohd Rashid Hasnon, Bukit Bendera Umno chief Ahmad Ismail, Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari and Tanjung Bungah assemblymember Teh Yee Cheu.

The 1.4ha village pre-dates the founding of Penang and was initially located next to the Batu Ferringhi beach. When a hotel decided to open shop there, the villagers were given a plot of land across the road from the hotel.

The attempts to evict them date back some 10 years ago when the village land was sold off to an individual. The owner subsequently told the residents to leave.

There was no compensation offered. The villagers refused to budge, forcing the owner to get a court order in 2012.

The villagers were told to vacate their homes, following a writ of possession in June 2015. A notice to vacate was issued a month later.

In October 2015, 64 households received the eviction notice, which they said was without any compensation.

In December 2015, a protest ensued when two High Court registrars and backhoes arrived at the main road leading to the village.

Police, fearing a violent backlash, applied for a month’s deferment of the eviction.

Since then, the residents have been living in uncertainty of what might happen to them.

In February 2016, the Court of Appeal threw out the residents’ appeal while Ahmad and Rashid continued to negotiate with the landowner on resolving the issue.

The Penang government is said to be in the dark over what the owner wants to do with the site but has vowed to give no planning approval there.

Kampung Mutiara was awarded “traditional village” status in 2004 in recognition of the Malay village’s architecture and way of life.