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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

> Human shield confronts sledgehammers

by Low Chia Ming

A human chain stood in the way of about 50 members of a demolition team who were supposed to tear down Kampung Buah Pala today.

Both sides stood down after the demolition exercise was subsequently called off following discussions between villagers and developer Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd.

At about 11am, the situation became tensed after a demolition team arrived, armed with hardhats, crowbars and sledgehammers.

Upon noticing their presence, some 300 male villagers formed the human shield and began chanting slogans.

More than 100 police personnel stood watch. The police later brought representatives from the developers and villagers into a police van for discussions.

After a brief negotiation, the workers left and villagers breathed a sigh a relief.

Court hearing

The workers had come despite Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy visiting the village earlier this morning and reassuring residents that no demolition would take place.

According to the agreement reached in the police van, developer Nusmetro would not proceed with the destruction of the 23 houses until after a Federal Court hearing on the status of the land.

The villagers have filed an appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision which ruled in favour of the developer.

In the decision, the appellate court overturned an earlier High Court decision, which favoured the villagers, and issued an eviction order effective June 11.

But the state government has since negotiated with the developer to hold off the demolition.

The Federal Court will hear the appeal on Aug 18.

Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusof said since the villagers have obtained a date from the court, the developers have agreed to wait for the hearing to conclude.

"All parties have agreed to respect the court process. The villagers have always used legal and peaceful means," he said.

He said the developer's workers might not have known about this and were about to perform the demolition today.

Villagers in tears

As early as 8.30am today, scores of women and children formed a second human barricade at the main entrance to the village.

Ramasamy's appearance at about 9am did not seem to relieve the villagers of their anxiety.

He had told them that the developers would not be taking any action today and the state government would hold a meeting with villagers at 7pm tonight.

Despite this, the villagers, many of whom were in tears, pleaded with Ramasamy to persuade Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to purchase the land from the developers.

At one point, an elderly villager was so overcome by despair that he knelt in front of Ramasamy, who quickly lifted the man up.

Other than the disgruntled villagers, Ramasamy also had to face several MIC Youth members at the scene who jeered at him - Malaysiakini.