Press statement by the Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and NP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 22nd December 1994
The struggle of the villagers of Kampung Pantai Kundur and Pantai Tanah Merah is an excellent example that those affected by unfair land acquisition must appeal to the highest court in the country – the court of the people – when all legal avenues have been exhausted
The Malacca Chief Minister announced yesterday that the issue involving the state government take-over of land at Kampung Tanah Merah and Kampung Tanah Kundur has been resolved and that a memorandum of understanding has been signed with the villagers action committee.
It is reported that under the seven-point memorandum, the state government has acceded to the villagers requests including the following:-
* To choose for themselves an alternative site which has still to be identified for resettlement;
* The extension of the date when the villagers must move out from 31 December to 15 March next year;
* Reconnection of water,’ electricity and telephone facilities cut off by the state on 18 August until their relocation;
* Revaluation of the villagers’ land;
* Compensation for fishermen who were left out;
* Retention of an old Muslim cemetery.
I have not seen the details of the seven-point memorandum of understanding reached between the Malacca state government and the action committee of Pantai Kundur and Pantai Tanah Merah.
However, the struggle of the villagers of Kampung Pantai Kundur and Pantai Tanah Merah is an excellent example that those affected by unfair land acquisition need not despair even when all legal avenues have been exhausted as they can still appeal to the highest court in the country – the court of the people – for justice and fair play.
It was Ghafar Baba, the then Deputy Prime Minister who said in 1991 when there were widespread opposition and objection to the new Land Acquisition Amendment Act that there are two types of courts in Malaysia – the court of the judges and an even higher court, the court of the people.
The villagers of Pantai Kundur and Pantai Tanah Merah had reached the end of the road as far as the legal process is concerned, as the judges under the existing legislation can only consider appeals on quantum of compensation and cannot entertain appeals based on the larger grounds of socio-economic justice and equity.
In fact, 18 August 1994 was to be the last day of the villagers in their ancestral land in Pantai Kundur arid Pantai Tanah Merah, as the police (including police dogs) and all other related government agencies had been mobilised to evict them and to demolish their houses.
If the villagers of Pantai Kundur and Pantai Tanah Merah had given up their struggle for justice and fair play without any fight, there would have been no seven-point memorandum of understanding between them and the state government.
It. was because the people of Pantai Kundur and Pantai Tanah Merah appealed to the highest court in the country – the court of the people – by standing up and fighting for their rights, and in the process gaining the support and admiration of Malaysians of all races and classes, that it gained not only an extra six months but more equitable terms.
This is an excellent lesson to all other smallholders and small, landowners whose land have been unfairly and unjustly acquired, whether in the Seremban II or Second Johore-Singapore Crossing and second JB township cases, that the battle for land acquisition justice must not only be fought in the courts of judges, hut even more important, must be taken to, the highest court in the country – the court of the people.
It is for this reason that victims of the string of land acquisition abuses and injustices in various parts of the country should make a great success of the National Conference on Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices at the Federal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 8th January 1995 at 10 am so that the Malaysian people can fully understand why there is an urgent need for radical reforms to the Land Acquisition Act.