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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Penang must plug ‘loophole’ in squatter eviction, says Umno

Landowners are going straight to court to avoid paying compensation to residents, says state opposition leader Jahara Hamid.
Kampung-Mutiara,-Batu-Ferringhi
GEORGE TOWN: The attempted eviction of residents from a Malay village in Penang could be the result of a “loophole” exploited by its landowner, state opposition leader Jahara Hamid said today.
The Telok Ayer Tawar Umno assemblyperson said the “loophole” involved not disclosing what was going to be built or developed on the site.
Jahara said if planning permission was sought first from the authorities, the landowner would have to help resettle the existing residents there and also compensate them.
She said the landowner of Kampung Mutiara, Batu Ferringhi, was “smart” to obtain a court order first to evict the residents and keep mum about its development plans.
Hence, she said, the landowner was not obligated to resettle the residents there or even hand over an ex-gratia payment.
That effectively left the Penang government with no powers to stop the landowner.
She said a policy change was required to address this sort of problem.
“The landowner is not tied to conditions and guidelines of the Penang government because there is no guideline or policy on such cases,” she told reporters at a press conference at the Penang International Airport today.
Jahara was referring to the 10-year battle of some 500 residents of Kampung Mutiara, Batu Ferringhi, who were ordered to vacate homes by their landowner in 2006.
Yesterday, after a lengthy court battle, the residents were ordered to be evicted.
It was called off at the 11th hour after politicians from all sides brokered a deal with the landowner.
The residents will now be resettled in apartments in Seri Tanjung Pinang, 5km south of their original place.
The landowner has no official plans for the 1.4ha site, but told Deputy Chief Minister I Mohd Rashid Hasnon that he wanted to build a house for his extended family.
Jahara said the Penang government must come out with a policy to plug the loophole, where landowners sought court orders to evict residents beforehand.
She said the state government must work to close the floodgate of such cases, as landowners would use this precedent to get rid of long-time settlers like those in Kampung Mutiara.
“A specific policy is needed to address issues such as this.
“There must be some solution as many more can potentially become homeless through such court orders.”
Jahara said the Penang government ought to set up a special fund to address similar issues like this in the future.
She said the Penang government can use the state Bumiputera Housing Trust Fund, existing since 2009, to give financial aid to the Kampung Mutiara folk to move out.
Jahara said money from the fund could be used to pay rent for their temporary housing, too. -FMT

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