RESIDENTS of the Siamese village facing demolition should form a ‘Protect Kampung Siam Committee’ in Penang, said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
“Once the committee is formed, there will be a representative to talk on the villagers’ behalf. The state will help the residents fight the eviction by arranging to have more lawyers to represent them.
“The land was bequeathed to the Burmese and Siamese communities in 1845 by the East India Company on behalf of England’s Queen Victoria. Residents should try to trace back how long have their families been staying here,” he said.
Lim added that one way to protect the village from development was to declare it a heritage village which is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government.
“The state government will write to the Federal Government about this but I have to say that we wrote to them before about villages in Tanjung Tokong and Batu Uban facing a similar predicament but to no avail.”
It was reported that the 2,681sq m area was mapped as a cultural and religious zone back in the 1970s, according to the Penang Municipal Council’s Planning Policy and Development Control Plan but it was converted into a business zone, and utility and infrastructure zone in 1996.
A planning permission to build a hotel and three shop office units was submitted by Five Star Heritage Sdn Bhd on April 17 to the council which had yet to approve the application.
Meanwhile, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Penang chairman Datuk Jerry Chan said the connection between the historic value of the village and its residents had to be defined before considering the site as a heritage enclave.
“The nexus of the land’s historic significance and the specific makeup of the residents needs to be categorised.
“Are they direct descendants of ground tenants when it was bequeathed in 1845, or are they the tenants of tenants who no longer share a historical tie with the land?” he asked.
Chan was responding to calls
by the residents and the state government to preserve the present condition of the land as a heritage site.
The total parcel of the land, which include the famed Sleeping Buddha temple and the Burmese Buddhist temple in Burmah Lane, consists of a barber shop, newsstands, motorcycle repair shops and florists along Burmah Road, while a cluster of 10 wooden houses occupied by mainly Chinese and Siamese residents are behind the shops.
He said the basis of the lot’s rezoning in 1996 had to be reconsidered.
“Although there are two ancient Buddhist temples on the site, there was a rationale and justification that led to the rezoning of this lot and all parties involved need to re-examine the grounds.
“Another issue to ask is the intent and role of the Malaysian-Burmese trustees in the project and whether the project is in conflict with their roles in fulfilling the trust,” he said.
A petition posted under www.charge.org by Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey on Sept 28 on the matter has collected 185 signatures.
She is targeting to collect 200 signatures before delivering the petition to Five Star Heritage.