GEORGE TOWN: The Year of the Ox has not been kind to a Chinese village in Gelugor which has close to 80 residents.
They have suffered a double whammy with two eviction notices – one on the eve of Chinese New Year and another today as they were getting ready to celebrate the Hokkien New Year.
The red-coloured notices were plastered on their homes today, telling them to leave by March 14. Most have nowhere to go, though.
The mostly silver-haired residents are descendants of families who had lived in Kampung Sungai Dua for close to a century, but had no formal land titles. They have been considered squatters for a long time, residents said.
Taoist temple chieftain Tan Hock Chye, 57, said he was at a loss over what to do as the officers from the Director General of Lands and Mines Department (JKPTG) came to paste the “red notices” today. They are to leave by March 14, they were told, with no further avenue to appeal, the letter read.
“It is a final warning to us. They have not given us another home or any compensation,” the secretary of Dewa Tai Hoo Tian Dua Gee Ya Peh Association said when met by reporters.
Tan, like his fellow residents in the village, has been living there with the threat of eviction hanging over his head since 2007.
The 5ha (12-acre) site on the banks of Sungai Dua had been earmarked by the home ministry to build the new Penang police headquarters.
According to Batu Uban assemblyman Kumaresan Aramugam, some of these residents received an ex gratia payment of RM27,200 to move out in 2007.
He said that of the 34 families there, only a few took up the offer but the others had wanted a replacement home as part of full compensation.
Kumaresan said that the issue died down as the police headquarters project never took off. However, it was revived in 2018 when a letter was sent to all the occupants in the village.
He said he then met the police chief four times to talk about the issue between 2018 and 2019 but the meetings did not bear any fruit.
Kumaresan said he has since spoken to the state police chief and even appealed to the director of the JKPTG.
The police chief told him the matter was out of his hands as it involved the home ministry. The JKPTG, on the other hand, told him “there was no room for negotiations” since the villagers were offered an ex gratia in Dec 2007.
“While most of the residents here understand they are squatting on government land, all they want is fair compensation and a roof over their heads. They are willing to move out.
“To ask them to move out in 30 days during Covid-19 pandemic is unreasonable,” he told reporters during a site visit today.
As part of the eviction, 57 properties—including 34 houses, five businesses, seven industrial properties and 11 “others” like stores, temples and workshops; and part of a driving school learning course across the river are to be cleared by March 14.
Kumaresan said the fate of four Taoist temples and a Hindu temple also hangs in the balance. He said the least the federal government could do was to offer them an alternate piece of land.
He said he would now plead to the Penang government to intervene. He said the residents are also seeking legal advice on how to postpone the eviction.
“We have no objections against the police wanting to build their new headquarters here, but at least the residents should be given replacement homes and fair compensation,” he said.