Penang man grieved by land acquisition despite court action

Charles Byrne inside his home at Mount Erskine Road in George Town.

GEORGE TOWN: A pensioner who is suing the government over its plan to take over part of his home for a road project has questioned the validity of a notice stating that his land has already been acquired.

“How is this possible when we have a court case against the land office which was filed last November with a court date in April?” said Charles Byrne, 83.

Byrne filed his suit against the Northeast District Land Office to challenge the government’s offer for the land, which is at Mount Erskine Road.

He was offered RM565,000 for a 2,500 sq ft portion of the 9,000 sq ft that he owns.

However, his valuers have estimated the value of the portion to be close to RM5 million.

The Penang Island City Council has said the offered amount was based on rates determined by the finance ministry.

Byrne told FMT he had received a “Borang K” notice from the land office telling him the state government officially acquired the land on March 2.

“Why can’t the government acquire the land they require from the cemetery across the road?” he said. “It would be much cheaper and they have done it before. Spare us this grief.”

FMT reported on the issue last September after Byrne was served with a land acquisition notice.

With the acquisition, a large portion of his porch will be taken over. The edge of the road that will be built will be two metres away from what will be left of the porch.

“We want peace to live,” he said. “I don’t want my tranquillity to be affected. Now it is up to God and his mother to decide and my parents in heaven to help us.”

FMT has contacted the land office for its response and awaiting a reply.

The RM55 million underpass road and widening works from Burma Road to Mount Erskine Road are expected to start at the year’s end or early next year and will be carried out by the Penang Island City Council.

RTM’s Penang office, a hospital and a few other institutions along Burma Road are expected to be affected by the land acquisition.

The city council has said the land values were determined by the finance ministry’s Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) and that 47,684 sq ft of land would be acquired at a cost of about RM25 million.

It said the compensation offered to land owners was 125% higher than the JPPH rate.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow has said the project would result in smoother traffic flow in the area.

However, the Consumers’ Association of Penang and other local NGOs have dismissed it as wasteful, saying the expected benefit would be too little to justify the cost.