I refer to the article in Free Malaysia Today dated 19 October 2012 written by B Nantha Kumar.
The article basically makes allegations that I and Dr Xavier Jayakumar have “betrayed the poor “ and creates a false picture of the issue of the struggle for housing by the Bukit Rajah ex-estate workers. I now set out the facts from the beginning of this struggle so that readers can draw their own conclusions.
From 1993 my law firm has represented about 76 ex-estate workers from Bukit Rajah estate in their struggle against forced eviction by Sime Darby from the estate housing occupied by them.
One of these 76 workers was Mr. Mathialagan who is now quoted in the FMT article making false and malicious allegations. Sime Darby terminated the workers in phases from April 1992. They then offered the ex-workers low cost five-storey walk-up flats for RM25,000. Many workers accepted and moved out of their estate quarters.
Some refused saying that they were promised single storey terrace houses NOT flats. Sime Darby then initiated eviction proceedings in Klang Sessions Court against some of them in 1993.
I defended the workers and managed to delay the inevitable eviction for many years. Sime Darby then initiated further eviction proceedings against the workers in Shah Alam Sessions Court in 2005. Again my law firm defended them and delayed the eviction from taking place.
In 2007, Sime Darby started using more aggressive tactics and started demolishing empty houses to make the area uninhabitable to force the workers to move out. Tenaga and Syabas started cutting water and electricity. Again the ex-workers came to see me and I successfully initiated an injunction application to stop these hostile actions to evict them. All these litigation was done in the public interest and for minimal fees to defend poor estate workers from being unjustly evicted in breach of a promise of proper housing.
Furthermore, Bukit Rajah is not the only group of estate workers I have defended – I have defended many others as well. If the Pakatan Rakyat had not taken over Selangor in March 2008, I am sure that the final outcome would have been that all these poor workers estate homes would have been demolished with no certainty of alternative housing for the workers.
However after the change of government in Selangor, Sime Darby softened their stand and were prepared to negotiate. Dr Xavier in his capacity as a member of the State Executive Council facilitated the negotiations. The negotiations concluded successfully. The ex-workers agreed to accept the offer of a 20’ by 70’ single-story terrace house at the price of RM70,000 which when completed under the current schedule at the end of 2013 will be worth at least RM250,000.
The housing estate would also include a temple and a public hall. From the price and the value of the house, it is obvious that it was a good deal and why it was accepted by the ex-workers. On 1st March 2009, letters of offer with details of design and specifications were accepted in writing by 76 workers including Mr Mathialakan who is now making false claims that the workers were promised to be given a 15 acre piece of land. There was no promise at any time to the ex-workers to give them a 15 acre piece of land.
In the course of the negotiations a 15 acre piece of land belonging to Sime Darby was identified on which the houses were to be built. The letters of offer dated 1st March 2009 ( also given in Tamil to the 76 ex-workers ) only speak of a 20’ by 70’ single storey terrace house in a housing estate. No worker including Mr Mathialakan raised a demand for a 15 acre piece of land then. This was because there had never been such a demand even from them.
The worker’s demand right from the beginning was for single storey terrace houses which they finally secured. The housing estate for the 76 houses and temple and the public hall only require about half of the 15 acres of Sime Darby land to be built. It is for Sime Darby as the land owner to decide how to use the balance. Mr Mathialakan does not have an iota of evidence to back his false allegations. His allegations are not just malicious but also totally foolish. On what basis can he demand that the balance of the 15 acres be given by Sime Darby to the ex-workers?
I will consider legal action against future repetition of such defamatory statements especially if they are published by Free Malaysia Today again.