As Hindus around the world celebrate Deepavali next week, the residents of Bukit Jalil Estate residents hope that the festival will shed light on their struggle for four-acres of land on which they would like to build their homes.
Some 50 residents gathered at Brickfields, Little India, earlier today to launch a nationwide campaign titled “Four acres of land for Deepavali” under the watchful eyes of the police.
A counter was set up on the recently renovated pedestrian walkway to distribute fliers, Deepavali cards and T-shirts, as Bukit Jalil estate committee treasurer K Balakrishnan led the crowds to chant “hidup perjuangan”.
He said the campaign will also tour Ipoh, Banting, Sentul, Johor and Negeri Sembilan until Deepavali day on October 26.
“We have already submitted the building plan to the authorities, under which every one of the 41 families will get a terrace house in the four acres of land,” he said.
Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary general S. Arutchelvan, Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Deveraj, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and other NGOs leaders were present at the launch.
Arutchelvan reminded the crowd that Bukit Jalil Estate used to span over 1,800 acres, until it was acquired by two different owners, subdividing the estate. The residents were served eviction notices, and were treated differently by the two different new owners.
“A private developer bought over half of the land and gave each of the estate workers a terrace house with RM20,000 compensation,” said Arutchelvan.
“But the government took over the other half (of the land), built the Bukit Jalil Golf Course, the Astro [headquarters], but did not [compensate] the residents in return,” he said.
Jeyakumar said Prime Minister Najib Razak needs to suggest a political remedy as the new owner of the land on which the residents houses currently are, is the Federal Territory Islamic Department (Jawi), which is under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department.
“In Kelantan, the state government acquired the Kerilla Estate in Tanah Merah from a private developer to build houses for the former estate workers. This is what the Federal Government should emulate,” he said.
The residents have been trying several avenues of remedy, including the courts, Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Department, in a bid to retain their homes and school in the original site, or be compensated with four-acres of land.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) served the residents an eviction order in March under the Emergency Ordinance.
The High Court in August pronounced DBKL as legally correct the eviction order, not long before Najib decided to scrap the draconian law on September 16.
Nurul Izzah today called on the authorities to stop harassing the residents.
“A deputy minister has said whoever opposes the authorities will be censured. I hereby ask the minister not to take the confrontational style in dealing with the issue,” she said.