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Protest delays demolition of Malaysia cowherd town

Protest delays demolition of Malaysia cowherd town

Slogan-chanting cowherds faced off against riot police and bulldozers Thursday, leading Malaysian authorities to postpone the demolition of an ethnic Indian village that has focused attention on the country's lack of traditional land rights.
The Indian cowherds had refused to leave their homes _ their oldest remaining settlement in Penang state _ to make way for a condominium complex, though a court had ordered their eviction because they don't formally own the land.
Scores of residents of Buah Pala village faced off for hours Thursday against riot police and the demolition team, which arrived with bulldozers.
Authorities then agreed to put off the demolition until Sept. 1 to give the estimated 300 villagers more time to find new homes, said local police Chief Azam Abdul Hamid.
"They agreed _ with or without a court order _ to come out peacefully by Sept. 1. This is a compromise by all the parties concerned," he told The Associated Press.
But R.S. Thanenthiran, an ethnic Indian activist and politician, said the villagers agreed to the new deadline only to buy time.
He said they would appeal to the state government to step in to secure their land _ or at least give them a better deal for new housing.
Village chiefs could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ethnic Indians comprise about 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people and are among the country's poorest citizens.
The villagers had been told to leave after the government sold the land in 2005 to a cooperative of state government workers to build condominiums.
Villagers said officials should have consulted them before selling the land where their ancestors have lived since the 1850s. But they never formally owned the land, highlighting the lack of clear land rights for traditional communities.
Malaysia's top court ruled in June that the villagers must vacate the land without compensation.
Cooperative chairman Abdul Razak Mansor has said the demolition will go ahead even though the villagers have appealed to the Federal Court to review the court's decision. Their application is set to be heard next Tuesday.


Updated : 2021-04-19 05:28 GMT+08:00