The politics of squatting - well done to MB Peja!

Anak Buntong


LETTER | More than 100 squatters from Buntong will soon receive their Form 5A and pay the land premium after having been offered the opportunity to apply for land in Bembanin Batu Gajah, Perak.

But not before. With promises after promises, manifestos after manifestos for almost 30 years, nothing changed for the squatters in Buntong, Perak. They are no more than statistical manifestations appearing in numerous state and federal level reports with no solution to their predicament. Frustration went deep and has been aggravated over the years. There is nothing more painful when promises are made to the squatters, hope given that things are changing, and then to see that nothing happens, nothing changes and the squatters have nowhere else to go.

That is the story of people living in squatter areas in Buntong for the last 30 years. The truth is that in the politics of squatting, lacking a political endeavour or political will to utilise the forces of the state are seen as the main hindrances for a win-win solution.

And when we talk about squatter areas in our country, what do we really mean anyway? Most squatters are the vulnerable segment of our society, victims of the historical pattern of rapid urbanisation. The narrative of these squatters has been historically linked along lines of class, property and ownership and nothing more. I recalled cycling through the squatter area in Buntong as I had friends there and it is not rocket science to figure out that these areas are very fertile breeding grounds for the anti-social behaviours that ultimately displaced the squatters with little or no help, further distancing them from national progress and development.

Equally important is for us to understand that the social problems rooted in squatting are both complex and serious and need urgent intervention from the federal and state governments. Addressing squatter and resettlement issues is an important national development agenda. Therefore, finding an amicable solution to squatters' problems is not only about housing and land ownership but also about creating a better generation.

Coming back to the reason I am writing this letter, only a few months ago I remember reading an article in the local newspaper about some 556 people calling on the Perak government to help sort out their land issues. The squatters including those from Kampung Chikadee, Jalan Spooner, Kampung Muhibbah and Kampung Tai Lee, were initially promised that they would be relocated and given a plot of land in Bemban, Batu Gajah.

Now there is a sense of triumph, a sense of hope and a sense of gratitude among them. With the Perak menteri besar's intervention, squatters from Buntong have been offered the opportunity to apply for land in Bemban too.

Ahmad Faizal Azumu or "MB Peja" walks the walk and talks the talk, especially in regards to the assurance of the right to shelter and his conviction that all squatter areas and housing problems in Perak will be resolved. A great attribute of a good leader who listens to his people rather than telling them what they should have done in the past.

Diverting a little, as cliché as it may sound, a true leader is someone who earns respect through rightful actions. The most important thing to do is to make a decision, at the right moment, for the right reasons, so that people understand with clarity the direction of their elected government. Discernment, being informed, looking at the whole story are important factors in a decision-making process. We hope, the Perak menteri besar will always embrace these factors in his decision-making process. We now have a state leadership which is more conciliatory, more willing to listen to differing viewpoints.

And at the same time, the squatter problem challenges the Perak government to create a balance between economic growth and sustainable development. Additionally, this act of balancing or finding the correct equilibrium needs time, courage and a relentless conviction for the betterment of the people of Perak. The current Pakatan Harapan government seems committed to such an endeavour.

As I said earlier, the granting of land titles to the squatters in Buntong and coupled with other factors such as the facilities and amenities available in the new area, I do sincerely hope they will help to create a better generation for the "settlers". Thanks, MB Peja!

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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