Sixty-year old Zaiton Mazakar wept upon receiving a lawyer's letter yesterday asking her to abandon the land - where her family had lived for a century - making way for a development project in Batu Uban, Penang.

In the midst of preparations for the Hari Raya celebrations - which should fall on Sunday, Zaiton (right in photo below), is having little sleep worrying over where she would stay in 14 days and how she to pack all her stuff and move.

left zaition makasar woman affected by eviction batu uban village penang"I feel really hurt that the lawyer had to send us a legal notice at the end of Ramadan (Aug 17) and eve of Syawal. It is worse when we are told to leave our homes on Merdeka day," she said.

"This has made me, my family and my neighbours, very uncertain about our future. This Hari Raya would be a very uncomfortable and sad one," she told Malaysiakini, when met after a residents' meeting in the village today.

Zaiton, a former cleaner, joins 21 other folks from Kampung Tengah and Kampung Belacan - a 4.6acre plot of land within Kampung Batu Uban, located across the Universiti Sains Malaysia, affected by highrise development.

It is learnt that the developer had purchased the land from several owners and is planning to construct two blocks of condominium, 33 level high housing 200 units valued at RM390,000 and above.

Developer: Villagers refused offer

According to the lawyer's letter dated Aug 16, obtained by Malaysiakini, they  have to move out of their homes in 14 days, failing which the developer will initiate legal action against them.

The villagers are cautioned that they would have to bear the legal cost of the court proceedings, the lawyer notes.

In the letter received by the villagers yesterday, the lawyer stated that discussions, which begun three years ago, between the two parties have concluded.

It added that since the 22 have rejected the developer's offer of compensation made on Jul 30, the latter wants the villagers to vacate the land in 14 days (Aug 31).

Penang Municipal (MPPP) Councillor Iszuree Ibrahim, who was present with the villagers, said  there had been negotiations for proper compensation between the villagers - 48 in total - but no official decision had been arrived at.

Iszuree said he felt strange that the developer had issued a legal notice when the MPPP has yet to approve the plans for the development.

"They have not approved the plan on technical grounds. We will review the matter to ensure that the developer compensates the villages appropriately before starting work," he added.

L-R Izuree Ibrahim and Yusoff Salleh batu uban village penangIszuree (left in photo) said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Deputy Chief Minister I Mansor Othman have agreed to meet with the villagers.

He gave the assurance that the state government would do everything in their power to assist the affected families, criticising the "bumiputera company" for their insensitive action as Muslims wait to celebrate Aidil Fitri in the coming days.

Compensation hanging in air 

"I am sorry to say this. But things are not the same as during the past administration. It is fortunate that we now have a new government, we will get justice for you," he told the kampung folk.

Recently, 24 villagers accepted the offer of RM3,000 in cash and rental fees of RM800 for two years as compensation, and have since rented homes outside the village.

Another two villagers had reportedly agreed to a RM60,000 package, and have vacated their land, and their homes have been demolished.

The remaining 22 folks today want a better deal, which includes a 750 sq feet replacement flat for each family and transit homes within the vicinity of the kampung.

Village a heritage since 1700s

Villagers protest eviction batu uban village penangYusoff Salleh, 67, the Village Action Committee chairperson expressed concern that since no agreements have been officially reached, there is no guarantee of any compensation from the developer.

Yusoff urged the state government to consider the location as a heritage village since the Batu Uban settlement, according to academic research, had begun in the 1700s.

"The first mosque, which was build in 1734, still stands until today. I am afraid that we will suffer the same fate as other villages which have had to give way to development, which benefits on the developer and not us ordinary people," he said.

"It seems we have placed our trust too much on leaders and politicians who were supposed to protect the interests of the Malays but we have now been betrayed," said a visibly disappointed Yusoff.

A 45-year old single mother with five children echoes Yusoff sadness.

"We are not asking for more than this. We are not against development but please have some consideration for us who have lived here for generations," said Salmah Noor who works as a cleaner.

"We are just asking for proper compensation since we need to prepare for our move. As long as we are given transit homes here, we will vacate the land," said Salmah, who said her heart broke upon receiving the news.- malaysiakini