Village by the sea in mainland faces bulldozer

BUTTERWORTH: One of the last remaining urban villages by the sea, Kampung Bagan Ajam, will cease to exist soon. The 122 households in the village have been served with a notice by developer Tah Wah Assets Sdn Bhd asking them to vacate the homes built by their forefathers more than 80 years ago.

The oldest resident, Ooi Chooi Guan, 78, is at a loss because at his age he does not think he can adapt to a different type of life.

“Living in the village is all I have known. It is peaceful here. There are no problems because everyone is friendly and helpful,” Ooi said during a protest against the eviction yesterday.

The 2.8ha village, once owned by chettiars (Indian money lenders), used to be a coconut plantation where over time people arrived and slowly built their homes.

“My father built the house my family is living in now. He used to work in the plantation,” said Ooi, adding that he is the third generation in the country.

Disappointed at receiving only RM21,500 compensation for his 18m by 6m house, he said the amount would not be sufficient to rent a house in the present day.

Following the legal notice to quit received at the beginning of October last year, about 44 households accepted the compensation offer of between RM7,000 and RM29,000.

The villagers are steadfast in their demand for a house each from the developer — who has yet to submit for  planning permission to the local council — instead of  being offered compensation only.

“The developer should give us a house each. One for one since they are taking away our homes, it is only right they compensate us with a house.

“What type of house can we get with just RM25,000? I was offered that much but even a low-cost house is not priced at that anymore,” said former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) senior storekeeper K Murugesan, 70.

The village, with meandering pathways and bougainvillea trees forming shady canopies, is ominously quiet as it awaits the rumble of the bulldozers.

For Ang Oei Tow, 68, the days of living in his wooden house built by his father in the idyllic village are numbered as it has been earmarked by Tah Wah as one of the first few houses to be bulldozed.

“I have nowhere to go for now. I live here with my wife and seven family members. All I got as compensation was about RM23,000. Please give us a house at least,” said the former steel factory worker.

While talking about losing his rambutan, mango and durian trees surrounding the house, Ang reminisced about the days his fisherman father used to make belacan in the backyard.

“We were all happy children running around this house, playing in the village and had many friends. We used to go to the sea and watch the daily catch being brought in by the boats,” he said.

The highest compensation of RM29,000 was offered to lorry driver Francis Santiago, who was born in the village 60 years ago.

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on June 18, 2014.


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