(Maze by mzacha; houses by Stanley Elliot / sxc.hu)
URBAN settlers who have lived in an area for many years are increasingly finding themselves uprooted and displaced while being offered verbal promises of compensation. Rather than debate on whether the local council or the developer is in the right to do all these things, I will share my experience in dealing with such matters.
A former urban settler came to me with forms showing that he had been polled as a resident of what some authorities in Malaysia would call a “squatter village“. The poll was supposedly his guarantee of being offered the chance to purchase a new low-cost apartment (at very low subsidised rates) that would be built over the village.
The developer would, in the meantime, relocate the residents and pay for rental of transit homes. Each family was also offered about RM1,000 to cover moving expenses.
It has been many years later, and everyone else has moved into the completed low-cost apartments. Yet this man and his family still do not have a house of their own. His pleas to the developer and the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) have gone unanswered.
I made photocopies of the documents that proved the man had indeed been polled by the MBPJ, and asked the council’s town planning department to forward me the relevant meeting minutes relating to the relocation exercise. I received in reply a duplicate letter from the town planning department to the developer asking them to help me get an apartment unit for the man.
The developer was quick to answer the letter with attached copies of the minutes. Apparently, several months back, the present state assemblyperson had negotiated for the sale of five remaining units in the low-cost apartment building to deserving poor people, and there were no units left to be offered.
I sent a letter thanking both parties for their prompt responses, but there was still one pertinent question: Why was this man, who was a certified resident of the demolished urban settlement, not offered a unit?
To date, more than a month after I sent that reply letter, I have not received a response. Meanwhile, the poor man lives with his family in a rented low-cost apartment with a useless piece of paper in his possession.
In the face of such inefficiencies, dare the public place their trust in the developer or the town council in defending their rights?
MBPJ councillor KW Mak can sympathise still with urban settlers who do not want to accept verbal compensation offers from developers.
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