Sunday, July 5, 2009


Yesterday I received an email from Deena Saravanan who lives in Kg Buah Pala:

Greetings Antares,

Firstly let me apologize for intruding upon your life like this. Let me introduce myself. My name is Deena and I am a big fan of the writings that you post on your blog. Right now, I need your help. I am a resident of Kampung Buah Pala which is in Penang. I hope that you have heard about the particularly unfortunate circumstance surrounding this village. If you have not, then please know that the village is going to be demolished for the building of some ghastly apartments. Cecil Rajendra has taken up our case but unfortunately the federal court has kicked us out of our homes. Before the verdict was passed, Lim Guan Eng could have put a stop to this but he did not and even now after knowing that we are going to lose our home he is not doing a single thing to alleviate what we are going through. In this event, I am hoping that you could write a word or two in your blog to let the people know the injustice that has fallen upon us.

Sometimes i wish that you were the prime minister. I thank you for your time.

Deena Saravanan

(I am currently a student in the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus doing Electrical and Electronic Engineering.)

100-year-old well at Kg Buah Pala where clear fresh water reaches ground level (photo by Anil Netto)

Dear Deena,

I'm glad you made the effort to contact me. Of course I have been following closely the drama surrounding Kg Buah Pala (that means Nutmeg Village, doesn't it?). At the same time another drama has been unfolding, involving Bukit Koman and a polluting gold mine near Raub partly owned by Pahang royalty (see embedded video below).

From what I've read by way of background on the Kg Buah Pala issue, the root causes are the usual suspects - predatory greed and corrupt bureaucrats. These are the unmistakable symptoms of arrogant, self-serving, unenlightened leadership at all levels - from village headmen right up to Istana Negara.

Kg Buah Pala residents hold a candlelight vigil to save their homes (courtesy of Anil Netto)

The anger directed at Lim Guan Eng and the Pakatan Rakyat state government is understandable, but somewhat misplaced. Just because LGE is CM doesn't mean he can decree that the federal appeal court erred in siding with the developer and order a complete halt to proceedings while the hanky-panky behind the land transfer is brought to light and the guilty parties punished.

Every Malaysian might as well be angry with himself or herself for having tolerated or repeatedly voted in the BN government since Merdeka. By minding our own business and leaving politics to the politicians, we have left it a bit too late. Moral gangrene has already set in and the only way to save the patient is amputation.

In this instance, amputation is a metaphor for suffering such grievous loss that we are compelled to reassess our entire lives and admit that we have been complete idiots to allow criminals to take over the power structure and run the show for so many generations. And all this time we keep behaving like robots - getting up, reading the newspaper over breakfast, going to work, coming home, watching TV, going to bed - and repeating the soul-destroying procedure day in and day out lifetime after lifetime.

(Courtesy of Anil Netto)

Those in power would like us to remain forever sheeplike and robotic, earning and spending money and supporting a consumerist economy that gradually depletes our energy, negates our autonomy, and paralyzes our will to break free.

How can I help you and the residents of Kg Buah Pala?

My sympathies, of course, are always with the less privileged underclasses. However, I have lived long enough to observe that people enjoy playing the role of victims more than taking a heroic stand in small ways on a daily basis. At this juncture, the developer of the Oasis Project has already invested time and energy into realizing their devious scheme. Many officials have been paid off along the way. The Pakatan state government has only had 15 hectic months to learn the ropes (all badly knotted and twisted by the previous criminally negligent administration). A large section of the state bureaucracy remains stuck in the past, unable to change their corrupt, tidak apa attitudes.

Neither LGE nor I nor you nor Anwar nor Zaid nor Nizar nor Sivarasa nor even God has the power to order Musa Hassan, Gani Patail, and Ahmad Said Hamdan to step down for failing to carry out their duties impartially. Umno/BN controls the MACC, PDRM, Petronas and Bank Negara. It's academic now to state that the BN would have lost power completely after the last general election if not for massive electoral fraud, gerrymandering and dubious postal votes. The fact remains the BN is still the federal government and it is ferociously clinging to power rather than doing some deep thinking and resolving to reform itself.

A rich-versus-poor drama unfolds amidst a media flurry at the "High Chaparral"

A lot of problems in the country - the Perak power grab, the racial divide, mediocre leadership, police violence, EC and MACC unprofessionalism and so on - are moral rather than legal issues. The law is just a thick pile of written guidelines and references. It has no conscience or ethical sense. That must come from the human beings administering the justice system. Everybody now knows the Malaysian judiciary, the police, the state agencies, etc., have all been contaminated and corrupted - perhaps beyond redemption - after 22 years of hypocrisy and deviousness under Mahathir.

Since no Pakatan Rakyat leader has the legal clout to fire Najib and his entire cabinet, we are forced to look on helplessly while glaring injustices proliferate around us. The only way things will ever change is when Umno/BN no longer holds the country ransom through fear and total control of law enforcement agencies.

The famous Ponggol festival at High Chaparral is a cultural legacy worth preserving

Sure, I can and will add my voice to the chorus of voices commenting about the imminent showdown at High Chaparral. The corrupt way in which Nusmetro Ventures acquired the land and the vulgar hideousness of their misguided scheme to wipe out part of Penang's heritage by burying the 200-year-old memory of Kg Buah Pala under a boring, sterile highrise condo project causes me to shake my head and feel pangs of anguish.

There are times when I wish I could get my hands on all these greedy developers, loggers, miners, wheeler-dealers, entrepreneurs, moguls and tycoons - plus their advertising and public relations agents - and spank them all till they can't sit down for a week.

Indian Cowboys add an exotic element to Ponggol at the High Chaparral

(Bet my arms will fall off before I'm even halfway done, there are just so many of them!)

But would that make these people have a sudden change of heart and see eye-to-eye with you and me? Or would they regroup their resources and launch a revenge attack on us with a whole army of goons, rempits and samsengs (uniformed or otherwise)? We're talking about the recipe for civil war now. And, Deena, I realize we are already in the midst of a civil war - one fought through propaganda and money incentives.

Ask yourself: why are there still fairly intelligent people working in The Star, NST, Utusan Malaysia, TV3, RTM, and so on? Don't they realize they are serving the Dark Forces? Have they never considered what their own grandchildren will think of them? How come so few policemen and policewomen have resigned in disgust at what's become of the PDRM? Surely all these thousands of human beings cannot be in favor of deceit, dishonesty, cruelty, injustice, criminal negligence and obscene greed? Why do people continue to support such a rotten system?

Don't they know they have the power to down tools and refuse to obey orders until regime change happens?

Kg Buah Pala residents show their determination and solidarity

Deena, you probably have guessed by now that I am more a dreamer and visionary - what people used to call a philosopher - than a politician or streetfighter. In an emergency I'm prepared to go out into the streets with thousands of others and show that we refuse to accept any more shit from the current power-wielders. But generally I'm more in my element just thinking about and expressing my views on various issues.

I leave it in the hands of full-time professional politicians like Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Nik Aziz, Azmin Ali and Teresa Kok to take remedial action wherever possible. They, in turn, depend on us for popular support. When we start turning against these Opposition leaders before they even have enough experience or power to do anything radical - we are guilty of projecting our own inadequacies on them.

We keep waiting for Superman to appear like a bolt from the sky and rescue us - just as Christians continue praying to Jesus Christ Superstar to redeem and forgive their failings, save their souls and usher them through the gates of heaven.

Why must the police always side with the rich and powerful?

The issues leading to the present deadlock in Kg Buah Pala are indeed complex and go back generations, even millennia. You have to remind yourself - who does the land ultimately belong to, if anyone? From time immemorial we have suffered monarchs who lay sovereign claim to all land within their domain; and who subsequently parcel out plots to their loyal henchmen as rewards along with fancy titles. These landed gentry, as their fortunes change and their bloodlines weaken, are forced to resell their property to others in exchange for cash - or they could lose their hereditary lands through the vicissitudes of war. Today, those with the most capital gain access to power - directly or indirectly.

As an Opposition MP, Lim Guan Eng was free to speak his mind and openly side with the oppressed and the poor. However, now that he has become the Penang chief minister, he has to consider issues from all sides and avoid antagonizing and punishing the middle-class and the capitalist elite whose financial support he needs to continue governing the state. You and I are free to react the way we feel - but holding high office is a massive responsibility. One has to keep a cool head and stay above the fray. I don't envy LGE his predicament. It's certainly a case of damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

Long-time Kg Buah Pala residents are deeply attached to their idyllic nook

Should he openly act in favor of the Kg Buah Pala residents, he will be praised by one segment of society and viciously condemned by another. From reading comments on various blogs, I've become aware that there's a great divide of opinions between those who have a vested interest in seeing the Oasis Project continue (condo buyers, contractors, suppliers, and so on) - and those who are, like me, thoroughly fed up of inequity, iniquity and injustice - not to mention brainless "development" projects that benefit only a tiny handful at the expense of everybody else.

If it were up to me, I would outlaw financial speculation, commercial usury, and ugly, unnecessary development. Ambitious and greedy people will loathe my policies while the saintly and humble will sing my praises. Alas, in a world fueled by money, the capitalist class will gang up, pool their resources, hire a hitman and have me assassinated - just like they did to JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, and so many other would-be reformers.

If I were PM, Deena, I wouldn't last 3 months before getting poisoned - just like poor Pope John Paul I who died after 33 days in office, clutching a notepad on which was written the names of all the corrupt cardinals he was planning to sack.

Since 8 March 2008 I have been eagerly awaiting the moment Anwar Ibrahim gets appointed as PM.

But there are so many in this country - from corporate tycoons like Vincent Tan of Berjaya and Lin Yun Ling of Gamuda to retired ministers like Ling Liong Sik and Daim Zainuddin, and probably the entire Conference of Rulers, and even the police and military - who would probably soil their underpants just contemplating a Pakatan Rakyat government and Ketuanan Rakyat.

Many (like Jibby and Dotty) will be forced to flee the country; some (like Gani and Musa) will end up behind bars; others will lose face and social status and be compelled to return the bulk of all the loot they have stolen from the rakyat for decades.

They refuse to be evicted from this vibrant community in Bukit Gelugor, Penang

What constitutes a wonderful dream for all good, honest citizens will be prove to be the worst possible nightmare for those who were once on top of the economic heap. Most of them got there through various forms of chicanery and unethical means.

I'm grateful that you inspired this long essay, Deena. Unfortunately, I can't think of any action I can take short of physically showing up at Kg Buah Pala to express solidarity with all of you on August 2nd. I can picture a tense standoff between bulldozers, FRU - and 10,000 stubborn people determined to show they're tired of seeing greedy, insensitive, hypocritical and corrupt people always calling the shots.

As somebody who thoroughly loathes the very concept of condominiums, I am certainly adding my prayers to yours that a miracle will happen to save Kg Buah Pala from unnecessary destruction. Penang definitely needs to preserve its own history and I can see your village becoming a tourist attraction like the set for Hobbiton in New Zealand. I love simplicity and the sight of grazing goats and cows. I've always felt happier and more relaxed amongst humble folk - and from the pictures I've seen, Kg Buah Pala looks like a secret paradise for a long-established community - sort of like a Malaysian Brigadoon.

Kg Buah Pala: an oasis of rustic tranquility amidst an increasingly urbanized island

I shake my head at those who tie up their cash buying ugly, soulless highrise apartments when they could easily live away from the congestion amidst lush greenery in a modest energy-efficient bungalow. In the age of satellite communications, the concept of squeezing millions of people into every square mile of space is tragically antiquated.

The Oasis Project: another shameless land scam perpetrated by the previous BN administration?

Lim Guan Eng may be the chief minister of Penang. But that doesn't mean he has the power or the right to punish the stupidly and tastelessly rich. He is, of course, at liberty to ensure that the politically connected and corruptly greedy be made to pay for their misdeeds which invariably bring about much suffering to humble folk - but before that can happen we may have to sack the Umno-appointed head of MACC - along with three-quarters of our judges and two-thirds of our senior police officers - not to mention the entire Najib Cabinet.

One more thing, Deena: do you mind if I upload my reply to you as a blogpost? It will at least get more people to mull over these issues. If enough decent humans put our foot down, even the biggest, best-armed crook in town will have to pack up and leave.


P.S. At the moment the fate of Kg Buah Pala hangs in the BN balance. It's up to former chief minister Koh Tsu Koon to persuade the federal government to accept responsibility for the present impasse or face serious karmic consequences. For the Oasis Project to be scrapped, certain parties will have to be compensated, since the federal court has ruled, justly or unjustly, in their favor.

The Kampung Buah Pala village impasse in Bukit Gelugor, Penang, can easily end with a mere stroke of a pen by chief minister Lim Guan Eng, said Hindraf leader P Uthayakumar. Video by John Motes, Citizen Journalist

You must remember that laws were originally made by the ruling elite to protect their own interests. Only when they attain a measure of civility and compassion do these laws get modified to protect the less privileged from exploitation and outright injustice. As long as the majority of Malaysians allow themselves to be suckered into believing in "progress" - thinking that Starbucks is more appealing than an old-style Chinese coffee shop or friendly warung - people will continue to bulldoze away all the charm of their own history in exchange for an illusory airconditioned lifestyle. I look forward to rejoicing in a people's victory in the case of Kg Buah Pala.


Federal Court blow for High Chaparral villagers

Kampung Buah Pala holds its breath

Guan Eng warns developer not to play hard ball

Federal govt “ready to help”; Koh: Don’t blame me

Citizen journalists Jimmy Leow and Chan Lilian have gone to Kampung Buah Pala or High Chaparral several times. Here is a video of the folks from Kampung Buah Pala. The village has been embroiled in a drama involving suspected landscams by the previous Barisan Nasional state government, broken pre-election promises by the Pakatan Rakyat politicians. Recently Hindraf challenged CM Lim Guan Eng to change the fate of this village with a stroke of his pen. Meanwhile, Darshan Singh, a lawyer described the whole thing as 'Bullshit'. Though the two citizen journalists do not understand what some of the villagers said in Tamil, they feel they should share the faces of the folks of Kampung Buah Pala. These people are having sleepless nights and the younger generation are guarding the village by setting up a sentry to prevent the developer from demolishing their houses.

Despite encountering monumental obstacles to true justice, we can take heart in the fact that more and more Malaysians are waking up and courageously asserting their rights as citizens. Read Nathaniel Tan's post on the Bukit Koman issue here.