Why Evict Us Says Farming Family Who Paid Council Taxes


 
The Esoothas family with neighbours in a showdown with an eviction team on June 30.TANAH RATA: A farming family in Cameron Highlands is in shock after being told that they were squatters on government land despite having paid local council taxes for over a decade.
Emiliene Esoothas, 26, said the “squatter” label came as a shock after her father Esoothas Mariasoosai, 53, gave up his home and land in 2013 to a property developer for a sales gallery with a showcase property and an access road to the site of a new apartment building.
She said her father was told in writing he would get a replacement double-storey home there or he could later occupy the gallery and showcase home. However, the apartment project was abandoned and declared a “failed project” in 2018.
The Esoothas family has lived with relatives since 2013 while waiting for the promised home. Last year, the family moved into the abandoned gallery site, which had become overgrown by vegetation.
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Esoothas Mariasoosai (right) with his eldest daughter Emiliene (second from right) and the rest of the family in happier times.But a year later officers from the land office demanded that they leave the premises as it was illegally built on Pahang state government land. Two months later, backhoes and police arrived and the family was forced to leave.
The Cameron Highlands land office told FMT that the family were technically squatters and were in the way of a government project that had been planned for the area.
Emilliene Esoothas.Emiliene said the news came as a shock. She said her father had diligently paid council assessment taxes and other government-related dues for over a decade.
When she asked the land office why they accepted the payment all these years, she was not given any answer and was simply told to “find another land”.
“All we want is a replacement land and home so we can carry on our nursery business as usual. But the only available lots are Malay reserve land,” she said.
The family now hopes to take legal action. “We have no choice but to fight for our rights,” she said.
In an email to FMT, the Cameron Highlands district and land office said the family was told to leave to give way to a Kompleks Penghulu Mukim Ulu Tenom project.
The office said a prominent signboard was erected informing them about the impending eviction as early as March last year, 15 months before they were forced out.
The showhouse gallery-cum-home of Esoothas Mariasoosai, on the main road at Kea Farm, Cameron Highlands, before it was demolished.Officers also visited the family last April and June, advising them to leave, the district office said.
According to the district office, no temporary occupation licence (TOL) was ever issued to the family and they could be evicted without notice as they were squatting on government land.
“In 2011, the occupier illegally signed over the land to a developer to set up a sales office and a showcase gallery without the government’s permission. Due consideration has been given after finding the occupant has his own apartment elsewhere and the eviction would not negatively impact their survival,” the district office said.
“We also did not demolish any structures and enforcers were conciliatory, giving the occupiers time to move out their items. However, the occupiers themselves started dismantling the fences, roof and other structures while the enforcement action was carried out.”
As for the continued collection of assessment fees by the Cameron Highlands District Council, the district office did not state why the payments had been accepted, and said the fact remained that the land was illegally occupied. - FMT


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