About 300 residents of Kampung Bakar Batu, Perling, near Johor Baru, are stricken with grief at the thought of leaving the land that they settled on back in the mid-1950s.
They were told to vacate the land two years ago to make way for the Iskandar Waterfront project. About 20 households have since moved up, after accepting the offer of RM15,000 per household offered by the developer.
The ones remaining, however, hope to be allowed to stay on in their homes and village of many decades.
The 16 hectares of reserve land on which the village sits is owned by the state government and is now a prime address due to its proximity to the coastal highway and upscale condominiums and landed properties such as Taman Sutera, Taman Perling and Nusa Bestari.
The residents yesterday gathered to protest their eviction and hold a press conference at the village surau, led by action committee head Norman Abdul Hamid and attended by Pengkalan Rinting assemblyman Cheo Yee How.
Sedik Mohd Said, 70, said he and his family had lived in the village since the early 1960s.
“During our early years of stay in the area, we were granted a TOL (temporary occupation licence) from the Land Office,” he said, showing the documents to the media at the meeting.
Another villager, who wished to be known as Ah Gek, 60, said he hoped to die in his village.
“I have been living in the village since the Emergency Years and the thought of leaving the village has never crossed by mind,” said the fisherman, who shed tears as he spoke in a mix of broken Malay and Chinese.
Norman said the committee various proposals had been rejection during negotiations with the authorities, who had offered them a flat unit each in Taman Perling, which the residents refused.
“Since the majority of the village’s residents catch fish for a living, it is unjust to relocate them to a flat in Taman Perling.
“We have no objections to sharing the land with the developer,” said he said.
The alternative, said Norman, was for the developer to pay each household RM150,000 to move out.
He said the villagers had submitted a memorandum detailing their plight to the Johor Baru Land Office, the district office, the menteri besar’s office and the palace, but had not receive a single response.
Cheo said he was saddened by the residents’ predicament and would bring up the matter in the next state assembly sitting. – March 11, 2016.