By Mariam Mokhtar
Those arrested also included activists from Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) and the Human Rights Party (HRP).
According to Ipoh police chief Azisman Alias, the gathering was an “illegal assembly” under Section 27 of the Police Act. Amongst those arrested was HRP’s Perak chief A. Ramesh, who alleged that he had been manhandled and beaten by the cops and the Sungai Siput MP Dr D. Jeyakumar.
The residents’ disquiet has been festering for several decades.
R. Mohana Rani of PSM said that families in Kampung DBI had lived on what had been known as the Ipoh Municipal Council (IMC) land for the past 40 years, and that three generations of these residents had given their services to the council.
Representatives of the squatters had apparently sent countless memoranda and letters to the MB, but had received no acknowledgement.
The squatters, who once worked for the Ipoh City Council say that they had built their houses near the government quarters in Kampung DBI and that three MBs had promised to solve their longstanding housing problems.
Rani claimed that for the past 14 years, Ramli Ngah Talib and Tajol Rosli had promised them alternative housing, in the form of either a parcel of land or a terraced house.
The squatters also claimed that in 2009, the MIC state chief gave a similar pledge, which remains unfulfilled.
The squatters claim that in 2009, MB Zambry Abdul Kadir promised to give land titles to Perak squatters provided they had occupied government land for over 10 years. Zambry’s decision meant that squatters would only need to pay the quit rent.
Six weeks after the protest, in April, outside the Perak legislative assembly, the squatters returned to the MB’s office where they tried to deliver a memorandum to detail the villagers’ plight.
The residents claimed that the snakes had given them sleepless nights, and they had feared for their safety. Some residents said that one person had died after being bitten by a snake.
Perhaps the villagers are too naive in expecting politicians to fulfil their election pledges. Forty years ago, and possibly as recently as fourteen years ago, the grandparent or parents of the current batch of squatters occupied land that was probably considered worthless.
Today, their homes are probably sitting on prime land and it is understandable that the authorities would be reluctant to give the squatters ownership of this land.
According to one squatter, the workers were housed in cramped quarters along Jalan Sungai Pari in Buntong. After these workers retired they were given permission from the IMC (what is now the Ipoh City Council (DBI)) to build their houses beside the labour lines.
In 1997, their homes were about to be demolished by the DBI. The demolition was stopped by lawyer, G. Balasundram, who obtained an injunction from the Ipoh High Court. Balasundram was murdered, last year.
It is a sad fact of life in Malaysia that, time after time, politicians make pre-election promises that they have no intention of keeping.
The squatters are probably of limited education and means. What are they to do? When their local state representative, or the MB, makes them a promise, they have no reason to disbelieve him.
Perhaps, the squatters are experiencing the symptoms of a much wider problem.
We are informed that successive MBs have told these squatters that their housing problems would be resolved. Perhaps, now is the time to fulfil that pledge and if the land in Kampung DBI cannot be given to the squatters for one reason or another, a plot in another location and monetary compensation for their houses, could be given instead.
After all, Perak senior executive counsellor Hamidah Othman has said that the state government wanted Perak to be rid of squatters by 2012.