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09 di balik pulau - Google Blog Search


PKR rep breaks ranks over development issue | Free Malaysia Today

Posted: 27 Jun 2011 10:08 PM PDT

Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusoff acknowledges that his call for a policy change on property issues may unsettle certain quarters in the Penang government.

GEORGE TOWN: A PKR leader here has broken ranks with the Pakatan Rakyat state government by seeking a change in the policy concerning the approval of new development projects.

Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusoff, who is a PKR supreme council member, is now calling for the state to compel the two local municipal councils here to consult with respective local residents and village community organisations first before approving any new development projects in Penang.

Acknowledging that his call may unsettle certain quarters in the state government, Yusmadi nonetheless insists that Penang makes an official attempt to embrace a policy change on property issues.

At the heart of his grievances are at least six villages in Balik Pulau which are facing forced-eviction, as they are now classified as squatters after the status of their ancestry villages were converted from agriculture to commercial land.

He has apparently received 80 complaints from squatters who are also faced with a form of intimidation by the landowners or developers to resettle fast, so that the new projects can take-off.

"Some are fighting in courts but some are already slapped with court decisions which evict them from the land of their forefathers," he said.

What Penang can do is to ensure that local authorities engage the village committees first before they approve any new development projects, he proposed.

This is followed by the state's move to work closely with the federal government to amend the National Land Code.

This legislation protects the interests of the Orang Asli and urban poor but overlooks the plight of traditional and fishing villagers, Yusmadi claimed, saying that he has spoken in Parliament about it.

Squatters in Penang are lumped together in the traditional and fishing villages categories where with land being scarce, it is a difficult situation for anyone to manage, he added.

"A sense of social justice must prevail in Penang as there are growing numbers of residents displaced by rapid development," he noted.

State opposition backs call

Yusmadi's call surprisingly received support from state opposition leader Azhar Ibrahim who said the consultation must not only be confined to village committees but to the entire spectrum of the community, aggrieved by the development pace.

Ignoring the political divide between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, Azhar said Yusmadi's proposal makes sense but the local authorities must meet the entire community who are slapped with the possibility of relocation.

Since some village committee members are appointed by the state government, they may have vested interests over development projects, Azhar said.

In jest however, he claims that there are no major development projects approved by the present state government since 2008.

While the state government remains muted on this, political observer Jason Wong said the issue is real as the state is constantly linked with a rapid development pace.

It looks clear that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng favours rapid progress in Penang, judging from his remarks about pulling in record number of investments and proposals for mega infrastructure projects to underpin the thirst for development.

However with any development plan, it will require land acquisition and this is where the state has a major hiccup due to a limited land bank, Wong said.

There is a need to balance social justice with development, Wong said, adding that the present economic climate is worrisome as the costs of living have escalated.

Furthermore, prices of modern property projects are beyond the reach of many average-earning residents in Penang, he added.

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