Penang Islamic council says bleeding cash over 9-year eviction affair

Penang Islamic Religious Council president Abdul Malik Abul Kassim says over 400 families could have been placed in new homes by now if the residents in Butterworth had left earlier.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s Islamic authorities today said they had been “bleeding” financially since 2010 due to a number of families which refused to vacate a plot of wakaf land in Butterworth.

Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAINPP) president Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said 32 out of 46 families from Wakaf Abdul Cauder left of their own accord when told that their homes would be torn down and replaced with 1,000 sq ft apartments.

However, the rest refused to leave, delaying the construction of the apartments which he said could otherwise have been completed by 2014.

The council was forced to pay RM500 in monthly rental allowance to the families which had moved out, resulting in the expenditure of over RM3 million to date, including legal costs.

“Every court order we get to obtain vacant possession costs us RM80,000,” he said, adding that they had obtained three such orders so far.

“If only the remaining residents had left willingly, the apartments could have been built at a cheaper rate and could be home to some 400 eligible Muslim families as early as 2014,” he said at a press conference at Menara JKP here.

MAINPP had planned to build a 470-unit, 22-storey low-medium cost apartment on the 2.7-acre plot of land. The Department of Waqaf, Zakat and Haj, or Jawhar, has allocated RM50 million for the project since 2010.

Malik said the 46 families would be given 1,000 sq ft homes with the rest of the units rented out to low and medium-income earners.

The residents had been paying the council rent of between RM2 and RM30.

Malik added that the situation at the wakaf land had improved, following incidents of provocation against the police and bailiffs by certain pressure groups whom he accused of “agitating” the evicted residents to “fight back”.

“We gave them an offer that is easily the best in Malaysia, despite the surrounding issues,” he said.

Under the offer, each resident is given RM4,000 in moving-out allowance. When they move into the 1,000 sq ft apartments, they will be given a further RM3,000.

Malik said the last home to be demolished had been given notice of vacant possession by the court today. He expects all to be cleared in two days’ time.

The Abdul Cauder wakaf land entered the news after a policeman broke his leg in a melee with five men who tried to stop a home from being demolished last Thursday.

North Seberang Perai police chief Noorzainy Mohd Noor said the five men, along with six others were arrested for obstruction of demolition works.