Last-minute reprieve for families

The aerial view of the residents’ houses at Ladang Sungai Kechil in Nibong Tebal. —Filepic

PENANG Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) is ready to acquire the 2.4ha plot in Ladang Sungai Kechil in Nibong Tebal where 23 families are living.

Seberang Prai City councillor David P. Marshel said that following negotiations just hours before the families were supposed to be evicted on Monday, the landowner agreed to postpone the eviction process for a week to sort out the deal.

“The landowner was all out to evict the residents and just before the stay order expired, we managed to stop it (the eviction).

“After five hours of negotiation with the landowner’s lawyer, we obtained a week’s grace period for further discussion, ” he said.

He said the next process would see the state issuing legal documents to buy the land at market price.

“The state will send an undertaking letter to acquire the land from its owner.

“We promise to follow all the steps of the negotiation deal until the eviction order is withdrawn, ” he said.

David added that a meeting was held between the state legal advisor, state Land Office and owner on Tuesday.

David said the state initially had two options.

The authorities could either acquire the land or get a private developer to buy the land and build houses for the evicted victims.

It was reported that the state government wanted to acquire the land valued at about RM2mil to build low-cost housing for the families facing eviction as well as many other low-income families in the area.

There are three temples occupying the land.

After the land was sold, residents were first served with eviction notices in February.

However, everything was put on hold when the movement control order was implemented on March 18.

While the state was in the midst of negotiating for the land, residents were suddenly served with another order from the court to leave the land earlier this month.

Since the owner had not obtained approval to conduct any earthworks under the council’s Town and Country Planning Act 1976, no demolition work will be allowed.

Established over a century ago, the village is home to about 100 people, most of them low- income earners.

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