GELANG PATAH • A group of Johor villagers who became wealthy overnight when their land was acquired to build a new port have fallen on hard times after many of them spent their cash on luxury cars, shared the money freely with relatives and friends, or were enticed into get-rich-quick scams.
Families of two fishing villages in southern Johor - near the Second Link in Tuas, Singapore - each received between RM400,000 and RM600,000 two decades ago when the authorities building the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) took over the land.
A total of 1,416.4ha - about the size of 1,700 football fields - was acquired. The two villages, Tanjung Pelepas and Tanjung Adang, had 400 families of 1,500 people, with most of the male adults being fishermen and farmers.
The families were relocated to a new residential area called Desa Paya Mengkuang, about 10km from where they previously lived.
They were supposed to pay for the double-storey houses built for them after receiving their compensation, with PTP selling the houses at cost price.
But the port began issuing eviction notices in the past two years to about 60 families, because they could not pay for the houses.
A 72-year-old resident, known only as Mak Long, said her family had received RM548,000 in compensation. But her late husband invested the funds in a farm and a petrol station in Indonesia which ceased operations after several months.
"When port officials told us that we have to pay RM45,000 for the house about six years after receiving the compensation, we could not afford the payment," she said.
Another resident, Mr Shamsuddin Abd Hamid, 60, said his family received RM200,000 in compensation but that the money is gone.
"I received two eviction notices, one last year and another three months ago. Where are we supposed to go now?" he asked.
A former resident of Desa Paya Mengkuang, who declined to be named, said the financial windfall made many villagers giddy with excitement.
Many walked away when advised to take part in financial planning.
"With money in their hands, everyone felt like big shots. They refused to heed advice and even turned down a suggestion for the state government to hold 25 per cent of the money as part of a savings plan," said the former resident.
Datuk Abdul Latiff Bandi, chief of Johor's Local Government and Housing Committee, said the matter is being looked into.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK