Longtime caretakers told to leave Kuching cemetary
For the family of the late Litu Sudat, long-time caretakers of a cemetery in Kuching, the future looks grim after they received an eviction notice.
Having taken care of the Muslim graveyard at Jalan Kereta Api for the past 60 years, five of the late Litu’s 10 children and their families living on the plot have been given the order to pack up.
They claimed they have never been paid by the Lembaga Amanah Kebajikan Masjid Negeri Sarawak.
On top of that, they have been given less than a week to vacate.
‘Not only did the Lembaga not pay us to look after the cemetery for the last 60 years, but now they have also obtained a court order to evict us from the land.
“We are given two weeks from Feb 1, 2015, to move out, failing which the Lembaga will use the police to force us to move out. We have one week to go,” said Litu’s eldest son Ismail.
He said assuming they are paid a sum of RM200 a month, it means the Lembaga owed them RM144,000 for looking after more than 100 graves for six decades.
Family appealed to state gov’t
Litu’s extended family stays in the graveyard compound: Ismail, his wife and a two-year-old daughter; Surip and wife and two children in their early 20s; Timah, her husband and two young children; Mohd Razam and wife and three young children, and Merina.
The family has appealed to the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and the state government.
After receiving no response, they have now turned to Sarawak DAP to highlight their predicament.
State DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen and a group of party leaders met the families this morning to discuss their next move.
Speaking to pressmen, Chong said in 1960, Litu who was staying at Kampung Kudei but was asked by the Lembaga to move there to look after the Muslim cemetery.
He said since then, Litu and his children had been taking care of the cemetery, keeping it neat and making sure outsiders do not encroach and erect houses on the land.
For all the years of taking care of the cemetery, Litu and his family received no salary from the Lembaga, said Chong, who is the MP for Bandar Kuching and state assemblyperson for Kota Sentosa.
Taking care of the graves
He said that in 2008, when there was some unauthorised excavation of the graves by a contractor appointed by the Lembaga and the state government, the Litu family was the one who quickly informed the descendants of those buried there and stopped the excavation work.
If not for them, all the graves in the cemetery would have been excavated, said Chong.
“Now, the Litu family has no place to go and no means to move from the land.
"They have been pleading with the Lembaga and the state government to give them a plot of land and some money to help build a house thereon.
“The Lembaga and the state government refused their request and insisted that they move out of the land,” said the DAP leader.
Chong asks why the Lembaga is insistent that the family move out from the cemetery plot.
“According to the Litu family, for many years, the Lembaga has not been opening up new plots from the said land for burial. Then, why is there the need to chase them away?
‘Are there plans to sell the plot for development?’
“Is the Lembaga planning to sell the land for development? What then will happen to the existing graves?
Chong said he did a land search at the Kuching Land Registry Office and discovered that the Lembaga has applied to subdivide the cemetery land – which is ‘to be used as a burial ground only’ – into three plots.
“With such condition, why is there the need to subdivide the land unless the Lembaga intends to sell or develop the land. Either way, it runs contrary to the land use,” he said.
He said the Lembaga, which was in no way short of funds, must be answerable to the people on its plan to subdivide the land.
“Why is there the need to sell the cemetery land for profit? The ultimate question is what will happen to the existing graves?” asked Chong.
He said if the state government could alienate thousands of acres of prime land in the city to crony companies at a fraction of the market price, why could it not find a small plot of land to resettle the Litu family.