PETALING JAYA: Maljindar Singh Sidhu Brar, known as Jimmy, is still struggling to save his historically noteworthy family home from being demolished and replaced by a cement factory.
Berjuntai Tin Dredging Bhd has made multiple attempts to force the family out and win the right to tear down their home.
After years of legal twists and turns, the struggle continues with all parties awaiting an August court decision.
The property they are fighting over is a Sino-Malay-Palladian house in Rawang. It was built for offices in 1920 by British tin mining company, Rawang Tin Fields, now known as Berjuntai Tin Dredging Bhd.
That company brought electricity to Rawang in the 1920s and the contested bungalow was one of the first buildings in Malaya to receive electricity.
Jimmy lives in the 99-year-old home with his mother, wife and his two daughters: Ambar, nine, and Heer, two. At the weekend, the place fills with other family members.
In another attempt to break the deadlock, the mining company has now applied for a writ of possession.
The hearing is scheduled for Aug 9 at the Shah Alam High Court.
“In order to demolish the house, the mining company needs to get the writ granted. If they get that, we will have to leave,” Jimmy told FMT.
According to Jimmy’s lawyer, the mining company will probably succeed.
Jimmy’s fight began in 2007 when Associated Pan Malaysia Cement Sdn Bhd and Lafarge Malaysia Bhd, who now own the mining lease to the land, asked the family to move out to enable quarrying and construction of a cement factory to begin.
Jimmy fought the case and lost. He was told to vacate the house within six months.
However, the family did not leave and have been fighting to stay ever since. The fight has cost them well over RM600,000 in legal fees over the years.
In 2016, the Shah Alam High Court held that the family was only a licensee when they settled on the land, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The house was scheduled to be demolished in September 2017 but nearly two years have passed since that deadline and Jimmy and his family are still there.
“I am constantly in touch with the land office and Selangor Menteri Besar’s office and they tell me they are working on getting all the necessary documentation,” Jimmy said. “They asked us to stay put.”
“I am confident that the state government will help me. I have faith in the government.”
In 2017, Jimmy hoped the National Heritage Department would gazette the house as a heritage site but that hope was dashed.
“Now they say they will only make their decision once all the court proceedings are over,” said Jimmy.
For the company, it’s turned into a race against time.
Their mining lease expires on 25 April, 2025.
“Will the mining company really demolish this building when their lease only has six more years to run?”
Jimmy is not ready to give up and is hoping for popular support. “I think the public need to know that this beautiful historic house is in danger.”
The family has lived in the house since 1960 and has many treasured memories.
Jimmy remembers his wedding day fondly. “We converted the truck workshop area into a huge dance floor for the celebrations.”
“My elder daughter, Ambar first learned to ride her bicycle here. Now she’s asking me if I can make a badminton court for her and her friends even though she’s fully aware of the likely demolition.
“My greatest wish is to pass the legacy of this house on to the next generation of my family.”
August will see the court’s decision.
Legalities aside, is this a case of one man courageously standing against the seemingly unstoppable greed of huge industrial companies?
Or is it a case of one man stubbornly and selfishly standing in the way of progress?