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Thursday, July 9, 2009

> High Chaparral: No lawyer, no face-off with CM

by Athi Shankar

The anticipated meeting between the Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Kampung Buah Pala residents ended even before it could start.

The villagers walked out of the state secretariat in Komtar after the chief minister insisted that they could not be represented by their lawyer Darshan Singh Khaira at the proposed meeting at 11am.

Bukit Gelugor parliamentarian Karpal Singh had arranged the meeting to find an amicable solution to resolve the escalating crisis.

It is learnt that the villagers had set the condition that they be represented by Darshan.

When some 20 villagers led by Kampung Buah Pala residents' association chairperson M Sugumaran arrived at Komtar's third floor at 10.30am, they were asked by Seri Delima assemblyperson RSN Rayer to accept the 'no lawyers' condition.

Rayer also insisted that the villagers should be represented by five association committee members during the meeting with Lim.

When the villagers insisted that they wanted Darshan Singh to be present, Rayer refused to budge.

The villagers then walked out.

Association assistant secretary C Tharmaraj accused the chief minister of pulling a political stunt to impress Penangites that he is working overtime to resolve the crisis.

"Why did he deny us our fundamental right to have legal representation at the meeting?" he asked.

Rayer, however, managed to persuade one resident - named as Saravanan - to accompany him to the meeting.

Despite vehement objections by the others, Saravanan went to the chief minister's office at Level 28. What transpired is not known.

CM says lawyer was present

Speaking to reporters later, Lim claimed that the residents' 'lawyer' Cecil Rajendra had been present.

However this was immediately dismissed by Sugumaran who said that Rajendra is not their lawyer.

Sugumaran admitted that Rajendra had represented the villagers in the High Court in their case against the developer. However they had subsequently engaged different lawyers to represent them in the two higher courts.

"It's funny to hear that the chief minister knows who our lawyer is, but how can Lim claim that Rajendra represents us? We have now appointed Darshan Singh to represent us, not anyone else."

Darshan Singh said he is surprised that Rajendra is still acting as the residents' lawyer.

"This was done without the knowledge and authorisation of the villagers," he said.

State to file for review

At the press conference, Lim said the state government is looking into invoking provisions of the National Land Code (NLC) to stop the developer from demolishing the houses in the village.

But he said the state government must first face the complications arising from the court order which is in favour of the developer.

Nusmetro Venture (P) Sdn Bhd had obtained a Federal Court ruling on June 24 to evict the villagers. Based on this, the developer had issued writ of vacant possession on July 2 to the villagers.

Lim said the state government would have to study the legal repercussions of using the NLC provisions, adding that the state authorities will seek a High Court review on the matter. Malaysiakini.