Sime Darby Property is completing construction of terrace houses for 75 former workers of the old Bukit Rajah estate. The development of these homes is to fulfill the terms of an agreement made between the company and the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW), who represented these ex-workers in 2008.
Fifty-one of the 75 former workers have accepted the offer of subsidised affordable housing. The remaining 24 workers have been encouraged to accept the company’s offer as the old estate houses they are occupying are no longer fit for occupation and they are delaying the implementation of new housing for the majority.
Eviction notices were duly issued on Aug 27, 2013 and the remaining 24 workers were informed that the old estate houses would be demolished. As reported, a group of about 50 protesters had gathered at the development site on Sept 10, 2013 in an effort to prevent execution of the eviction order granted by the courts from being carried out. The eviction attempt was aborted as protesters prevented access to the area.
The protest was peaceful and at no time was there any violence or aggressive action taken by the protesters or representatives of the company. The company ensured that the correct and appropriate procedures were at all times observed as can be verified by a court bailiff and members of the police force who were present on the day.
There has been continuous engagement with the former workers over the years, and out of the total of 427 ex-workers impacted by the closure of the Bukit Rajah Estate in 1998, 352 ex-workers had either retired, or had agreed to the initial settlement agreement.
Subsequently, Sime Darby Property had offered in 2008 to build terrace houses for the remaining 75 former workers, at a subsidised rate. All 75 workers accepted this offer and 51 have already vacated their old premises.
In addition, Sime Darby Property had also offered to provide subsidised rental for temporary housing for the duration of the development period. Construction began in May 2012 and the homes are expected to be delivered in May 2014, barring any unforeseen delays.
While 51 former workers within this group have taken up temporary residence elsewhere, a small group of 24 former workers and their families chose to remain on the land, thus preventing the completion of required facilities for utilities including electricity, sewerage and water systems for the new homes.
This has caused delay in obtaining the required certificate of fitness for the new homes and means that all 75 ex-workers may not be able to move into their new homes on schedule as initially anticipated.
Deeply saddened by death
Meanwhile, the management of Sime Darby Property is deeply saddened by the death of the mother of a former worker from a long-term illness. Madam Kalyani a/p Perumal was in the crowd of protesters at the site but was taken ill later and succumbed to her condition.
The deceased’s son is a former worker at the Bukit Rajah estate and had accepted the company's initial settlement offer and vacated the estate premises several years ago. The management and staff of Sime Darby Property extends deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.
Finally, it should be noted that there are no plans to demolish the Hindu temple that is located in the area. As has been agreed with the temple committee, it will be relocated within the housing area once it is completed.
Sime Darby Property is committed to managing this situation in a reasonable and amicable manner, while taking into account the interest of the community at large. In the company’s endeavour to provide homes for these 75 ex-workers, it has had to obtain eviction orders from the court to allow for safe completion of the terrace houses and the development as a whole.