Private developers’ thugs and police demolish local homes
Kampung Berembang settlers’ site is located in Jalan Ampang, near Hospital Gleneagles, in Malaysia. The settlement was built forty years ago and at one time had over 100 families. On 5 March, private developers, Perspektive Masa Sdn. Bhd, using hired thugs and with the support of many police, brutally demolished the settlers’ homes, despite the settlers’ case going through the courts. Previously the settlers were promised alternative housing, but this never materialised.
Many local people and housing rights activists were injured during an hours-long battle, on 5 March, to save the Kampung Berembang homes. Members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM – Socialist Party of Malaysia), took part in the defence of the settlers’ homes, and report below.
Berembany settlers’ struggle– “Not over yet!”
There were only three houses to be demolished and a number of tents but yet it took hundreds of policemen and women, the Perspektive Masa Sdn. Bhd developer’s people, and their thugs, to demolish the houses and to fight the fierce resistance of the Berembang settlers and the activists who stood with them.
What would in normal circumstances take only half an hour to complete took an entire day. Until the last plank was removed, the resistance never stopped. At the end of the day, the developer and the police decided to let the settlers camp just outside the village and the developer forked out RM 60,000 to pay some compensation. It was astonishing to see the developer, who previously refused to part with even a cent, succumb so fast. An agreement was signed with the developer, the police and the people’s representative. This will not stop the settlers from taking further action.
The lawyers at the scene – Latheefa Koya and later joined by Edmond Bon and Teng Chang Khim – declared the demolition was unlawful and the police’s action illegal. The police, led by ACP Amer Awan, kept maintaining they were only ensuring peace but they clearly assisted the developer – Perspektive Masa Sdn. Bhd – to carry out the illegal operation. Having seen the brutality, the lawyers vowed to take legal action against the Perspektive Masa Sdn. Bhd developer and those who assisted the demolition.
The current legal tussle started when, last Monday, the Kampung Berembang Chairperson was served with a letter from Tabian Tahir & Co, stating the developer, Kampung Berembang –PNSB, obtained an Interim Injunction to prevent local people stopping the developer’s plans.
The same letter stated if the people do not follow the order the developer can go for committal proceeding to execute the order. This is normally done after two weeks. But, in this case, on the same day, the developer, with the protection of gangsters from Klang, started demolition work. The interim Injunction was not served on the local people and legal experts called this a miscarriage of justice.
With no regard to due legal process, the developer and its gangsters and the police, went on the rampage. To make matters worst, an inter-party court hearing to discuss the case was fixed for 14 March, next week.
Local residents managed to stop a demolition recently. On this occasion, the Selangor Chief Minister, Khir Toyo, instructed the homes to be demolished. The Selangor Police Chief carried out orders to assist the developer.
The people’s resistance, led by 60 remaining settlers, was strongly backed by JERIT and its coalition members – the Urban Poor Coalition and the Youth and Student wing Coalition, along with the Parti Sosialis Malaysia(PSM). This resistance also saw a united front of the opposition parties, including PAS, PKR and DAP leaders. Tian Chua was arrested, while other leaders, such as Dr. Nasir Hashim, S.Arutchelvan, Hatta Ramli and Sallahuddin, were physically removed from the houses. Later, it was made known that Tian was arrested for ‘attempted murder’. All he did was break an illegal barricade, made by the developer and thugs to stop outsiders from coming into the village.
Six people were arrested for various ridiculous charges. The police also arrested dozen’s of people at every encounter, and released them immediately.
The Perspektive Masa Sdn. Bhd developer attempted to seal the front entrance and brought in lorries and machinery to do earth work and remove the peoples belonging, as well as to demolish the remaining houses. They were met with strong resistance and fighting broke out on many occasions. Both sides sustained injuries during these encounters. Two policewomen were removed from the scene – one had an injured leg, while the other broke down.
The settlers and the activists stayed inside the houses, while hundreds of police and developers would try to demolish the homes. It took the police and the developers more than an hour to bring down the houses, despite their huge numbers. It would normally take just take 3 minutes to demolish a settlers’ house.
Kampung Berembang is located in Jalan Ampang, near Hospital Gleneagles. There were, at one time, more than one hundred families living there. The settlement was built forty years ago. In 2003, people were promised low-cost houses by Pemodalan Negeri Selangor Berhad, Acmar International and Perspektif Masa Sdn Bhd. These homes were to be built near the village. These promised houses are yet to be constructed.
The settlers were given eviction notices on 17/11/2005 and told to to vacate the village. They were not given alternative permanent homes but were offered temporary homes at Puchong – 30km away. The settlers refused and asked for relocation nearby, as it is State Government policy to relocate within 2-3km. The State used the draconian Emergency Clearance of Squatter regulation (1969) and gave the villagers seven days to get out. A group of brave settlers then decided to fight this order. They were assisted by Sdr. Teng Chang Khim – the State opposition leader who was also their lawyer.
A temporary injunction ensured the homes were saved initially. On 14 November 2006, the State Government claimed the land belonged to the state, while the settlers maintained the land was given to a private developer. The legal courts fixed 30 April 2007, to hear the case. Just three days afterwards, on 17 November, and also on 20 November, the local council (MPAJ) with the assistance of the police and the private developer company, tried to demolish the settlers’ homes. Many people were arrested and injured in the resulting conflict. Homes were tossed but local people rebuilt them. Again, on 30 November, the houses were demolished and also the ‘surau’ (place of worship). The people rebuilt their homes, which stayed until the latest attack on 5. March 2007.
After the last house was brutally torn down, reports indicated this is the end of the Kampung Berembang settlement. It is true the battle was lost on 5 March but the war remains to be fought and won. Local people merely retreated 50 meters outside the settlement. They put up tents. With the original settlement closed, the struggle will now focus outside. While local people and activists lost ground on 5 March, a fighting spirit remains among settlers. They pledge to carry on the struggle.
The last few days saw intense struggle between the settlers and the private developers. The police, the State, and even the law courts, seem to be with the oppressors. Malaysia, with all its wealth, cannot resolve the housing question for the mass of its people. There seem to be no political will to do so. The battle for housing rights is far from over, in Berembang, Rimba Jaya or anywhere else in Malaysia.
For more information: http://parti-sosialis.org