Thursday, September 15, 2011

Justice ala Bato Bagi's case: how does it compare to normal property transaction?

The Taman Tun Abdul Razak resettlement housing is supposed to be ready last year-but???

If you buy a piece of property you can pay 10% deposit and then you are given a certain period to finalise complete payment and paperwork to acquire the property in your name. If you fail to come out with the payment the deposit is forfeited and you will not be able to touch the property-it remains with the original owner.So how does the acquisition of the Bengoh dam sites by the government differ from the normal property transaction that we normally practice?

The government provided some compensation money to the villagers affected in 2008-actually part of them, and promised to finalise all compensation package and payment by middle of last year, where the villagers are moved to completed new housing in Kg Semadang, in a `taman' called Taman Tun Adbul Razak. Now the deal actually did not go this way.  After the deposit payment to some of the villagers the government failed to provide for alternative housing and failed to settle the balance of payment. It has been 1 year or more now. So: is the deal still valid?

Now come the judgement of Bato Bagi's case, which says that so long that you take any compensation payment from the developer(the government in this case) your land is gone. There is no mention that that the payment need to be completed within any specified time frame. Practically the delay can be indefinite. In the Bakun dam case the compensation of land and house was completed (also partially) only after more than 10 years that the villagers moved to the resettlement area!

Then there are also other interesting comparison to a normal transaction: the villagers are not given the choice to refuse moving out of their house. This is an acquisition by the government supposedly for public good. There is also no choice for the residents to decide individually or as a group, on where they want to move. And the choice of leaving to another part of their property is still not approved-the villagers are going to court to claim their land rights. In a normal property transaction the owner can well choose to do a partition on their property and sell only the part he/she want to dispose off. In the Bengoh case the involuntary seller has no such automatic choice.

Since the land was acquired by the government for public good, can the government acquire more than what they really need for the public good-and use the excess for other development which has nothing to do with the public good? In Bengoh dam case there are proposal to use the excess water from the dam/reservoir for generating electricity and use the land for tourism. Now these objectives are not related to the dam's original purpose. Kuching need 600mil litre of water supply per day-but the reservoir has been built to supply 2000mil litre of water /day. It is overbuilt-ie the government had, for some inexplicable reason, acquire more than needed land for its own other pursuit-mostly to make more profit for itself. Nothing to do with public good. Can the villagers hold back this excess land and not to surrender the land that belong to them in the first place? The villagers are not given a copy of the agreement after they were paid the initial compensation in 2008-another departure from the normal property transaction.

It does look like the Bengoh villegers and others in similar circumstances have been short changed! Not only their land and water taken from them there is no timetable for delivering the compensation and that the amount of land taken away is in excess of what is needed in the name of public good-which apparently do not include the villagers' good. There appear to be a serious lack of compassion on the part of the state government who take the land away from a very poor group of citizens in the name of servicing the public, and refuse to give equitable compensation to these folks who suffer the lose of their only possession they have from their ancestors!

Can the villagers nullify the agreement since the government had not settled their part of the deal within a reasonable time frame?Come and watch the film's premiere on Oct 2nd, at Bentley Hall, Mutiara Damansara, at 1.30pm. be a jury and find out for yourself if the villagers have a case to fight back on the basis of natural justice!

No comments:

Post a Comment