Jln Kecil communityto lose homes to SPARK expansion

National 3 minutes, 58 seconds

BELAIT

UNCERTAINTY is at an all-time high among some 20 residents around Jln Kecil Sg Liang who will have to give up their homes and land to make way for Sungai Liang Industrial Park’s (SPARK) expansion plans.

Speaking for the group, Jln Kecil Sg Liang resident Hj Mohd Taib said monetary compensation set in letters issued by the Land Department in May is “insufficient” for residents to be able rebuild or purchase houses or land of similar size elsewhere.

“The valuation that has been offered is not fair to us. We were not consulted before the letters were issued. We were not given a proper channel to discuss alternatives or increased compensation. We were not given a date when the land is to be reclaimed,” he said.

Hj Mohd Taib’s land and detached house, built upon 0.222 hectares or half an acre is being compensated for $235,000.

Two other residents have been offered $269,000 and $303,000 for their houses and land – both exceed half an acre. All three have 60-year leases on their land. Residents who have their land titled in perpetuity (freehold) have been offered slightly more.

“We residents would like to make it very clear that we are in full support of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam government plans to expand the economy. We are not opposed to SPARK’s expansion,” he said.

“Our only issue is the compensation offered and the lack of options for resettlement. If we just accept solely what is offered, many of us living with many family members in one house will have to downsize massively if we are to purchase a house at the current market price with the funds provided.”

Another resident, Suleiman Mohd Noor, also pointed out that many residents were still repaying existing loans for the construction of their houses.

“One resident who was only offered slightly over $150,000 for his house and land is currently paying back a $100,000 loan to the bank. If he has to give up his place, he still has to continue paying this loan. If he uses the compensation to take care of the loan, how can he use what is left to secure himself a home?” said Suleiman.

After residents took it upon themselves to make several visits to the Land Department in Brunei-Muara for further clarification, the group was able to secure a private briefing with the Land Department at SPARK, which took place earlier this week.

Senior officials from the department, when approached by the paper after the briefing concluded, declined to comment, saying the acquisition process was still ongoing.

During the meeting, Hj Mohd Taib said tensions began to flare, as disgruntled home and landowners expressed their anxiety over the manner by which the land acquisition process has been carried out so far, singling out the content of the letter as their main source of frustration.

The letters, mostly dated May 2, state that residents were required to meet with Land Department officers at the Community Hall of Sengkurong in the first week of June to hand over their land grants.

The letter reminded residents that those who fail to hand over land grants during the meeting are liable to a $250 fine. It also states that those disagreeing with the compensation offered have the right to write to the Land Office for the matter to be referred to Court.

“When we first received the letter we were all in panic. At that time we had not even had a single sit-down meeting with the Land Department or any other authority. In fact many of us, especially those with homes, did not go to the Community Hall because we were scared and were not sure what our rights were,” said Hj Mohd Taib.

“For many of us this is the only land and house we own. What is to happen if we are unable to build a house by the time we are required to leave and surrender the property? Whether the authorities will evict us in the next six months or three years, we still do not know.”

Resident Hj Bujang Hj Mat Nor, who also attended the briefing, said the community will be writing to the Land Department seeking for the option of being resettled elsewhere over solely monetary compensation.

“We are seeking to the authorities to please consider the option of resettling us as a community elsewhere. Resettlement (perpindahan) has been carried out many times in Brunei before, on a much bigger scale.

“We are all family and one community here, and we do not want generations of ties broken down over this reclamation, by being dispersed separately all over Brunei.”

When approached, BEDB, which oversees the management of SPARK, also declined to comment.

The Brunei Times