FOR the past four months, villagers in Kampung Baharu, Lumut, have been having sleepless nights after discovering huge X-markings on their oil palm trees.
Their curiosity and anxiety were further piqued when strangers were spotted in their village and steel rods were found driven into the ground.
The uneasy villagers decided to do some investigative work.
Villager Seh Ree Kuang said their worst fear was confirmed when they learnt that TNB (Tenaga Nasional Berhad) was planning to erect pylons and install high voltage cables of 275KV that would cut through their village.
“The cables will be used to supply electricity from the station in Segari, Damai Laut, to a billion ringgit steel mill in Teluk Rubiah, Sri Manjung.
“The steel mill is a Brazil venture. We (villagers) had been told that we must know how to speak Portuguese if we want to get further information,” said Seh when relating their ordeal of running from one authority to another in search of answers.
The 71-year-old, who has been living in the village since he was a toddler, claimed the villagers might face health risks, including cancer, heart disease or having miscarriages or deformed babies.
Apart from that, he said, the value of their land would drop drastically because people would not want to work or live in a high risk area.
“This is our legally-owned land and our home for generations. We do not want to sell our land to TNB,” he said.
There are about 400 houses in the village occupied by Chinese, Malay and Indian families. The total land area, including plantations, is about 243ha.
Seh, who is Kampung Baharu MCA branch chairman and advisor to a committee to protest against the electric cables or Jampek (Jawatankuasa Membantah Pencawang Elektrik Kabel), said they had collected about 200 signatures from the villagers to protest against the high voltage cables.
The committee, jointly chaired by villagers Hashim Mohd Noor, Lee Yoke Thye and Kanasan Kaniesen, had early this month, sent a memorandum on their plight to Lumut MP and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha.
Copies of the memorandum were also directed to the attention of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir.
Fisherman Ahmad Pami said his family had stayed in the village for four generations over the last 100 years and that five of his siblings would be affected by the cables.
“We will defend our land,” said the 67-year-old who also repairs boats for a living.
He claimed that TNB was encroaching into their land and ‘doing things secretly at the expense of the villagers’ welfare’.
He added that the villagers wanted Dr Zambry to have a dialogue with them over the issue.
Echoing Ahmad’s concern is Toh Choon Nin, 67, whose land is directly affected by the cables.
“We used to get offers by developers to develop our land but the offers stopped after news of the cables cutting across our village surfaced,” Choon Nin lamented, pointing out that their long wait for the land price to appreciate over the decades had been dashed overnight by TNB.
Jampek co-chairmen Hashim and Kanasan said they were worried about the health hazards posed by the cables.
“This is the only house I have for my family of nine members. We do not want to sell it,” Hashim said.
Lee Yoke Thye, also Jampek co-chairman, said the villagers would oppose the plan to the end.
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