GEORGE TOWN: Residents at a predominantly Chinese village near Batu Uban here have agreed to vacate their homes after the federal government offered them an ex gratia payment.
It was previously reported that the residents of Kampung Sungai Dua had protested against the authorities’ plan to clear the 5ha site for the new Penang police headquarters.
The eviction notices came from the director-general of the Lands and Mines Department (JKPTG), the federal agency that owns the land.
The mostly silver-haired residents were descendants of families who had lived there for close to a century. They held no formal land titles, having been squatters there all these years.
The JKPTG had refused to compensate or heed the pleas of the villagers for a delay of demolition.
The 80-odd residents, including custodians of five places of worship, had pleaded for a replacement home, land or appropriate compensation.
After hard-fought negotiations, led by chief minister Chow Kon Yeow, the eviction was forestalled.
In a ceremony hosted by the Penang land office at Komtar today, 17 families from Kampung Sungai Dua each received RM27,500 in ex gratia payment. They also agreed to leave their homes by May 9.
Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin told reporters that this was a win-win deal between the federal and state governments.
He said the ex gratia payment was obtained from funds provided by both the state and federal governments.
“In the beginning, the federal authorities were insistent on evicting all villagers. We then sat down (with them) with the help of the chief minister to talk to them.
“This is a good example of how the state and federal governments, despite having different political leaderships, can cooperate to put the people’s interests first.
“We congratulate the police over the new headquarters that is about to be built there,” Sim added.
Batu Uban assemblyman Kumaresan Aramugam, who has been following up on the residents’ appeal, said the 38 villagers had been placed on a fast track list for government housing.
He added that the four Chinese temples and one Hindu temple there have also been allotted state land, about 100m from the present site.
According to Kumaresan, each temple will get 4,000sq ft of land from the state’s land bank for non-Muslim places of worship.
A resident, who only wanted to be known as Quah, said it was a sad moment to leave the kampung as relationships built up over decades would soon be lost.
The 65-year-old said she had raised a family of four there, adding that her forefathers had raised “many, many families” in the same village.
“These Hokkien families go back 100 years. We will miss it a lot. There is nothing like kampung life.”
The Kampung Sungai Dua issue began as early as 2007 when the government at the time decided to build the new Penang police headquarters there.
Thirty-four families accepted an ex gratia payment of RM27,200 to move out at that time (2007), but others had wanted replacement homes as part of a full compensation package and had refused to budge until their demands were met.