The end of Kampung Buah Pala
Today, 14 September 2009 is when reality sets in. Hindraf, MIC, Makkal Sakthi and other NGOs members can’t be found in Kampung Buah Pala. No one resisted when the police light strike force, demolition crew and bulldozer rammed into the houses. Only three people I met showed some defiance. They are whom I call my friends. Uncle Draviam, age 84, Uncle I. Pasu the newspaper delivery man and Auntie Indrani. Uncle Draviam still resisted moving and insisted he is going to sleep in the rubbles tonight. Uncle Pasu told me he is going to burn himself. Initially, I thought he was just joking. Until Auntie Indrani really did it. She poured kerosene on herself.
I had been there since June 2nd 2009. That’s three months of emotional roller coaster involving citizen journalism and my stupid, naive, idealistic self that I could somehow makes a difference, albeit very, very tiny difference. I believe I have the freedom of being at both ends, i.e. the State Government and the villagers and I have no bosses to tell me what to report. So, it was all based on my own judgement.
It is not easy though. Because I have to keep reminding myself not to be taken in by the opinions of the people around me. I have to keep praying that the Lord will remove some of my prejudices. And the marvellous thing is I really have little prejudices. Sure, I do know who are the culprits, who wears designer jeans, who drive big cars, who claimed to be ‘poor villagers’ and etc etc. Most reporters who hang around long enough know the things many of you do not know. Even the Special Branch folks sometimes get fed up. Yet, we never report or mention them. We merely ranted about it when we have time to lepak around.
Things are not always what you read in the papers. There are raw emotions from real people that we cannot ignore. The kind of scenes that tug at my heart. Yet, sometimes, I am very appalled at the way some good-intention activists report. They made one side looks good, the other bad. They exaggerate things so much. They manipulate feelings and etc.
I tell you, it is not easy not to take sides when you deal with Kampung Buah Pala. You are either with the villagers or you are with the developer/state government/police/court. I like to sit on the fence. I never hide that part.
One other thing I constantly remind myself is to put my real self above the nosey citizen journalist self. Put my real feelings ahead of the urge to grab a good story. Don’t lose the ‘I want to save the world’ naivety in the quest for news.
The other day, I kena with a reporter because I asked Thomas Chan a very silly question. I asked him if we (the reporters) can see a time when the villagers, developer (him) and the state government come together and settle the matter. The villagers will need to sign the S&P agreement with the developer. The state government has been the middle-man so far. So, in my ‘fairy tale’, isn’t that an appropriate ending? No more hostility, no more animosity. This reporter asked me, “What for!?!?!?” Well, who cares…… One other reporter said, “Wuah, you cukup muhibbah hah?”
Finally, today, reality hits. The villagers are on their own. No one comes to their aid anymore. MIC election is over. Hindraf didn’t appear earlier when MIC was there because they do not want to be seen side by side, working with MIC. The Federal Court has the final say. The police has to work with the Federal Court order. The demolition crew are protected by the police. They come in, no one can stop them.
People will continue to take sides, hurling abuses, false accusations, stupid comments at the opposite sides. Some will say that CM didn’t do anything to help them. Some will say the villagers are greedy. If you ask me, I will tell you these :
1) The villagers are not greedy, they are merely very defiance because that village was theirs until Gerakan and UMNO sold them out.
2) CM Lim has done a lot but he cannot do everything because he is the administrator of the whole island.
3) Some politicians from the Pakatan Rakyat really did fail to deliver their election promises and if they are called all sort of names, I suppose that’s part of politics. Come on, most politicians talk cock and they hardly deliver their promises. Of course, this is no excuse but what to do….
4) Media reporting has been biased sometimes. And scarily, it is not the mainstream media but errm…some online media.
5) A lot of dramas could have been avoided if the villagers have stood with one side and fought through. But again, what to do….
At the end of it, I am glad that I was there to share a few words with Uncle Draviam when he sat there forlornly. I reminded him to pray to Jesus Christ and I will also pray for him. (yes, he is a Catholic from my parish which is why I felt so helpless recently) I had prayed hard and even in the midst of the drama of the fiery threat, I was standing there with ‘Oh God….don’t let anything bad happened. Please do something, change their hearts, let them find comfort that this is not the end for them, come on, God, if only they can see things from another angle….” And I told the lady, don’t see this as the end, she has sons, her daughter-in-law will give her grandkids….
So, people, let’s set our prejudices aside. Stop looking at the whole Kampung Buah Pala issue as the good guy/bad guy story. What we can do is to pray that these villagers will find a better life somehow. There are things we can change and things we cannot change. And to those morons who are constantly harping on the issue by leaving spiteful comments (both to the villagers and the PR/BN governments and the developer), get a life will you? If you really want to help, go donate some money to the few hardcore poor families from Kampung Buah Pala. According to Thomas Chan, there are two families who are really, really poor and he said he will house them temporarily in Jelutong. See? I even have no bad vibes with the big bad wolf.