By Morten Rønning
Statoil owns 15% of PSR 2, a part of the huge refinery in Melaka operated by the state-owned Malaysian oil company Petronas. When Petronas started work on the refinery in 1993, more than 600 families had to leave two fishing villages. These families signed a Memory of Understanding with Petronas for a compensation of 5.80 ringgit per square feet. When Petronas later went back on this deal, 59 families refused to accept the settlement. These were paid only 1.63 RM.
When NorWatch visited Melaka in January this year, we got strong signals from several of those involved that the case was nearing a solution. The evictees were ready to discuss a rate of 5.80RM, while their lawyer, Dato Tan, signaled the possibility of ending up at 4.15 RM.
Petronas has kept on pointing out that the Memory of Understanding was not binding, and that the 59 families therefore were not entitled to the 5.80 RM compensation. The company has now paid 3.75 RM only because they want to get the issue over with (so called ex gratia compensation).
Tuan Haji Makunim bin Seman, who has been fighting for a proper compensation for his mother and the other landholders in the village, expressed his disappointment with this solution to NorWatch.
"It is too little, but time has passed and we cannot but accept the sum. Far too much time has passed", he told NorWatch.
NorWatch has been following this case for more than three years, after our first visit to the area in 1996. While this case seems to be over, it has not been decided in favour of the local people. Petronas and its partners made a Memory of Understanding that made it easier to get people to move. After seven years of bitter struggle, the Kampung Tanah Merah villagers have to accept that Petronas and its partners, Statoil and Conoco, were too powerful.
Norwatch Newsletter 8/00