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Malaysia 101: What Squatters?

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I was reading Malaysiakini’s report titled “Khalid urged to drop flawed policies” and it was interesting to note that the MB’s decision to carry on the ‘zero squatter policy’ draws more flak.

Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan, in a two-page statement this evening, said the council was deeply concerned on Khalid’s remark that the latter will continue his predecessor Mohd Khir Toyo’s policy to eradicate all squatter settlements in the state.

I was surprised to hear Ambiga saying that the policy is flawed. It is not. The policy is not flawed but the execution certainly was.

It is not all beautiful and fancy living in squatters – lack facilities, crime and disorganization is the rule of the game. And the implementation of the “zero squatter policy” does not necessary means the use of high handed eviction (something that was so “usual” under Khir Toyo’s reign). We can achieve “zero squatter policy” in many other ways too such as:-

  • Revamping the development of squatters and allow the residents to take up houses after the area has been developed
  • Eviction with proper procedure, compensation and sufficient lee-way so that the residents will take the offer without much resistance
  • Rezoning of areas tagged as squatters and undertakes the modernization effort on these areas together with the residents

The “zero squatter policy” is a good policy – who wants to live in a state full of squatters? It does reflect badly on the government to continue to allow squatters mushroom up in the state and close one eye to it. Does it, Ambiga? And squatter problems are not limited to Malaysia context alone but it is a norm in other countries as well (see Wikipedia entry on this).

Did we try to learn on how to tackle this effectively from other countries? Is high handed treatment the only way in Malaysia?

So until we see how the policy is implemented under the new State Government, we should not be so fast to shoot it down. But what is more important now is whether the State Government will draw a proper guideline on how it plans to execute this policy (which in the past riddled with corruption, high-handed tactics and unfairness).

And also remind the little Napoleons not to repeat their past mistakes when implementing the policy in the past.

And despite the fact that Khalid was “famous” with estate worker eviction when he was head of Guthrie (I was there when estate workers demonstrated in front of SUHAKAM office), I certainly hope things have changed, now that he is under Keadilan.

Focus on that, will you?

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2 thoughts on “Malaysia 101: What Squatters?”

  1. Hi,

    Nice look. I’m thinking of changing too…;)

    Anyway, regarding the squatters policy, I agree that thoughtful and sensitive implementation is key.

    Nevertheless there are a few problems with the policy
    1. Settlers who have lived in “squatters” for a long time. Surely, such people deserve to be given land titles?
    2. Some squatter settlements are actually quite comfy. Sort of like a kampung in the city feel. For instance is Segambut Dalam mainly squatters?
    3. Moving them to small, cramped flats. These actually breed more social problems, as the Ministry of Family Development pointed out. They live in a 500 sq feet box with no balcony….The balcony really helps, at least psychologically.


  2. Jedyoong…ya, the old look was getting boring even for me :D.

    At end of the day, squatters has to go…but how we are going to do that matters. The past government forgets that these squatters are humans too. It will be good if there are win-win alternatives.

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