Saturday, August 20, 2011

MUAFAKAT@BalikPulau 2011

Forum Pembangunan Balik Pulau (MUAFAKAT@BalikPulau 2011) 1 Okt 2011 di Balik Pulau. Tema: ADA APA DGN PEMBANGUNAN? - Ucaputama oleh Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim (mantan Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Menteri Kewangan dan Professor di Universiti terkemuka dunia e.g Oxford, SAIS, Georgetown etc); berpeluang berinteraksi dengan tokoh-tokoh pemikir, usahawan-usahawan, budayawan, ilmuwan terkenal . Ada di kalangan mereka adalah anak-anak kelahiran Balik Pulau yang telah mencipta nama di peringkat negara dan dunia.

Semua Pengubal dasar, usahawan, pemimpin NGOs, individu-individu berkepentingan dgn agenda Pembangunan amnya dan Balik Pulau khususnya adalah dijemput. Sila hubungi saya secepat mungkin. TEMPAT adalah TERHAD. First come first serve basis. Email

P.S: saya akan guna pendekatan baru berbeza dengan forum-forum lain, iaitu dengan mengambil pendekatan Interaksi & Koloborasi kunci falsafah 'Muafakat'. Saya mengalu-alukan warga Balik Pulau untuk mengambil peluang sebagai pembengtang kertas kerja, pendiskusi etc.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nor Azman applies to set aside suit (the Star, 20th August 2011)

KUALA LUMPUR: Businessman Nor Azman Abdullah @ Baginda Minda is applying to set aside the RM100mil defamation suit filed by businesswoman Ummi Hafilda Ali against him.

His lead counsel Yusmadi Yusoff said he had filed an application at the High Court civil registry via e-filing yesterday to get leave from the court to enter conditional appearance over the claim.

Yusmadi told Justice V.T. Singham that his client was also present in court.

“I hope the court will hear us first before hearing the application by the plaintiff (Ummi Hafilda),” he said.

Lawyer Fahri Azzat, who acted for second defendant Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, asked the court to allow mediation between Ummi and his client over the suit.

Justice Singham then asked Fahri: “If the court holds a mediation and there is a settlement, will it solve for first defendant too? You cannot separate it. It is interlinked. He is the speaker and you are the publisher.”

Fahri said he was not aware that Nor Azman would turn up in court yesterday.

Justice Singham said the first defendant must be given the opportunity to have his version told to the court.

Ummi’s lawyer Zulhelmi Wagiman said he would have to review the previous documents filed for the suit due to the appearance of Nor Azman and asked for time for mediation, saying that there was a possibility of parties reaching a settlement.

Justice Singham set Sept 12 to hear an application by Nor Azman to get leave to enter conditional appearance in the suit.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sept 8 court hearing for villagers served with eviction notices (the Sun, 19 August 2011)

Aaron Ngui

BALIK PULAU (Aug 18, 2011): The Magistrate Court here fixed Sept 8 for the hearing of defence by six households in Balik Pulau against eviction notices served on them to make way for a residential development project.

Magistrate Mohd Hidayat Wahab set the date after their lawyer Yusmadi Yusoff had filed motions of defence for the six parties who live in Kampung Pondok Upeh, Balik Pulau, today.

The notices were issued on May 21 after the developer, Evergreen One Development Sdn Bhd, was vested with power of attorney by the two owners of the land at Lot 485, Mukim 6 in the Southwest District.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendants had no rights to the land, as well as rights to ask for compensation.

The company also claimed that the defendants did not pay rent to the landowners, and that the landowners did not receive any payment of rent from the defendants.

It also alleged that the defendants had rejected the ex-gratia payment as the amount was not enough to purchase a low-cost home each, while the plaintiff maintains that the compensation was fair.

Met outside the court, Yusmadi, who is also Balik Pulau MP, said the defendants had been staying in the houses since the 1960s.

“I have known them since I was young. Some of them have been my neighbours, some of them have been my school bus drivers,” he said, adding that he was representing them pro bono.

Yusmadi claimed his law firm is handling about a hundred such cases which were “waiting for (the) right time to (appear in) court.”

The sleepy district has seen a rise in eviction cases as property developers increasingly turn their attention to the vast tracts of undeveloped land on the southern-western side of the island.

“These cases are in Teluk Kumbar, Sungai Pinang, Kuala Kampung Baru, Sungai Burung, Pulau Betong and Kampung Jalan Baru amongst others,” Yusmadi said.

He also said he would set up a fund to assist individuals affected by similar eviction cases.

“The fund is not only for legal expenses but to ensure that their welfare and social aspects are taken care of,” he said adding that whoever who wished to contribute could contact him.

Glimmer of hope for villagers facing eviction (FMT)

Athi Shankar August 18, 2011 Six villagers from Balik Pulau who are facing eviction by a developer have been given a chance to make their defence in court.
GEORGETOWN: There is a glimmer of hope for six villagers who have taken on a developer which is trying to evict them from their land to make way for a residential-cum-property development.

The six villagers, who have been staying at their Pondok Upeh homes in Balik Pulau for over 50 years, will now get an opportunity to have their say in court.

A magistrate’s court here today fixed Sept 8 to hear their statements of defence.

Magistrate Mohd Hidayat Wahab ordered this during mention of an application by the developer , Evergreen One Development Sdn Bhd, to obtain a court order to evict the villagers.

Represented by lawyer Sumarni Saad, the developer has also requested the court to fix the quantum of compensation to be paid to the villagers.

The six villagers are challenging the developer’s summons by demanding an improved compensation.

The defendants are O Arumugam, G Neelavathi, M Jegadeesan, K Muniandy, Khuik Ah Nai @ Ani Abdullah and Quan Yam Sen.

They are represented by counsel Yusmadi Yusoff, who is also the Balik Pulau Member of Parliament.

The villagers were issued an eviction order by the developer in April 2010.

Originally the developer offered cash compensation of between RM10,000 and RM16,000 each, which the defendants rejected.

Each of them instead asked for a low-cost flat unit to be built in the project as compensation.

But the developer rejected their request and instead made a counter offer, improving the cash compensation to between RM14,000 and RM20,000 in August last year.

However, the villagers rejected the compensation and insisted on their demand for a flat unit each.

Yusmadi said the Pondok Upeh case was just an indication of the social problems caused by the sudden surge in urbanisation of Balik Pulau.

He said currently he was handling some 100 cases pertaining to eviction and compensation issues of Balik Pulau residents affected by the fast-growing development.

Yusmadi has started a public interest impact fund to financially aid the villagers in their litigations and welfare needs.

“I hope well-wishers would donate to this fund to help these poor villagers,” he told reporters in the court building.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Global Solidarity Campaign for Anwar Ibrahim

Justice for Anwar Ibrahim Campaign
Over the last 2 years, my colleagues and I have been on a concerted campaign to highlight the political persecution of Malaysia’s champion and advocate of freedom, democracy and justice, Mr Anwar Ibrahim, who is also Leader of the Opposition in our Parliament on charges of sodomy for the second time since the first charge (in 1998) was overturned by the courts in 2004. As a result of our efforts, there is increasing support from the Malaysian people that this humiliation and violation of a fellow citizen’s fundamental rights should be cease forthwith. It is a blemish on Malaysia’s international image.

The present case against Mr. Anwar which is before the courts should be dropped forthwith. This is because there is no foundation in fact for this case to proceed at the expense of taxpayers’ money and the conscience of the peace loving and decent Malaysians. Four accredited doctors including a panel of three doctors from a Malaysian government hospital concluded there was no sign of sexual assault on the accuser, Mr. Saiful Bukhari. The Malaysian government has persistently refused to heed the voices of its citizenry and, therefore, we have little choice but to take this tragic episode in our history before the international community.

We, therefore, urge you and your colleagues to endorse our call to the Malaysian Government for an end to the political persecution of Mr. Anwar Ibrahim. We are confident that with your support the Malaysian people will be further encouraged to persuade their representatives in our Parliament to do what is right in the name of justice to end our Government’s political vendetta against our leader who has done so much in so short a time to promote fundamental human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

Yusmadi Yusoff, MP
Chairman of KeADILan International Bureau


(In the event you wish to join me for this call, please email me indicating your name, organization/affiliation and country) .

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Balik Pulau Needs Its Own Voice

Posted on 1 August 2011 - 10:07pm
Goh Ban Lee

HOPEFULLY, Himanshu Bhatt’s article, “The Balik Pulau dilemma” (The Nutmeg Verses, July 28), has attracted the attention of the Penang state government and local government leaders. There is little point in development if local residents do not enjoy some of its benefits.

Until the early 1990s, Balik Pulau, a place famous for durians, assam laksa and charming village houses nestled among fruit trees, was to be preserved as the food and fruit basket of Penang. Housing projects were discouraged.

This policy has changed. Unfortunately, new houses are selling far above the affordability of the locals.

The plight of the people was highlighted in the press on July 22 when member of Parliament for Balik Pulau, Yusmadi Yusoff, called on the state government to ensure that housing projects must be beneficial to the local inhabitants. He has recommended that members of the village development and security committees be consulted before approvals are given to development applications.

Yusmadi’s request is a non-starter. The approving authority for housing projects for the island, including Balik Pulau, is the One Stop Centre (OSC) in the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) with the municipal president as chairman and four councillors and heads of departments in the local council and state government as members. Tenants of the land to be developed and those living nearby are not involved.

At present, developers must build 30 low-cost houses for every 100 houses in development projects. As a general practice, ground tenants in Penang are usually given such units free of charge plus some moving costs.

The role of the state government in individual housing projects is limited. The state has a special category of land titles, commonly referred to as “first grade” titles, which do not require an application to change land use.

However, the state planning committee (SPC), which is chaired by the chief minister, is more influential, because it can pass policies which are binding on the MPPP, and thus the OSC.

Although state assemblymen and MPs have no direct role in the approval of development projects in their areas, most developers do not wish to aggravate elected politicians. Hardworking elected politicians can therefore improve the compensation given to affected tenants. But they have no influence on housing prices.

The problem faced by the residents of Balik Pulau is felt by most residents of Penang. From Batu Ferringhi in the north to George Town and to Teluk Kumbar in the south, the eastern part of the island also exhibits the same affordability gap syndrome, which even affects those having a household income of RM6,000 to RM7,000 a month.

Minor tinkering in development control and housing loans have little effect on speculation in the housing industry.

Without stiff measures from the federal government and Bank Negara to curb property speculation, the only effective strategy is for the state or federal governments to build affordable houses themselves.

So far, the proposal of building housing units costing below RM300,000 to be sold to first-time buyers, is more talk than action. If the Penang government is indeed concerned about what is going on, it should quickly activate the Penang Housing Board or direct the Penang Development Corporation to build houses that the people can afford.

Officially, the development of Balik Pulau, like all parts of Penang, is guided by the Penang Structure Plan that was gazetted in 2007. But it contains only general policies. The long awaited draft local plan is still a secret.

As such, a special area plan is urgently needed to ensure that Balik Pulau is developed in such a way that the locals are not pushed out. Agricultural areas need to be clearly protected. Developers looking for land must be told clearly that areas zoned for agriculture will not be rezoned for development projects and land speculators should be discouraged from looking to Balik Pulau to enjoy speculative gains.

There is some urgency in having such a plan for Balik Pulau. Land prices in this area have been increasing rapidly, including those with mature durian trees. It is doubtful if the buyers are keen on the durian business.

In the long run, Balik Pulau should have its own local council so that more local residents are the ones who decide on the development projects.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is a senior research fellow at Seri and interested in urban governance, housing and urban planning.