“A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future.”
Robert A Heinlein
During my travels, I have always enjoyed cities & towns which have preserved their historical buildings & roots. These preservation efforts are very important because it portrays the unique character of the place and unfolds legacies that attracts visitors and fills local people with pride.
Sadly my very own government is shamefully raping our country of its many heritage legacies.
I am fortunate to experience a heritage walk organised by Rakan KL and Kaki Jelajah Warisan, and learnt more about how 2 mega projects are killing the historical city centre – a 118-story mega tower called “Menara Warisan” and the MRT project.
The planned mega tower is planned on the grounds of ex-Taman Merdeka Negara, or known more affectionately by our older folks as Taman Tunku. Why? Our late Tunku Abdul Rahman (1st Prime Minister) played a key role in preserving this land as an open public place for the citizens of the newly liberated country. The perfect site indeed, besides the stadium where Tunku announced our country’s independence in 1957.
(Picture of Tunku Abdul Rahman declaring our country’s independence. Plenty of good pictures and stories to be found in the lobby of Stadium Merdeka – if the guards let you in)
This hill in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, known informally as Chin Woo hill, contains so many of our country’s national treasures.
– Stadium Merdeka built as our country’s first Olympic standard stadium, but also conceived as a venue in where our country’s independence will be declared from British colonization. The first in the world at that time, now only 4 other countries have shouted out their independence at their stadiums.
– Stadium Chin Woo completed in 1953 as one our country’s first stadiums to train athletes and promote sports for health and well-being
– six of Kuala Lumpur’s oldest schools; such as Victoria Institution, established 1893 & home to the country’s oldest cadets corp, oldest scout group etc.
– Places of worship and cultural centres; such as the Guan Yin Temple, one of the oldest temple in Kuala Lumpur (late 19th century) and Chan She Shu Yuen (Clan house for the Chan) with its unique architecture.
Besides killing the historical landscape of this hill, our government will also destroy the ecological health of the city. Kuala Lumpur is currently drowning under so many constructions of offices, hotels, residential blocks etc. Sadly it has defaced the natural landscape by robbing the city of its greenery. For a city of over 243sq km, KL has only 301 hectares* as green open space. Small in comparison to more densely populated cities like New York with Central Park of 341ha or Chapultepec Park in central Mexico of 686ha.
(Old trees fell along Jalan Hang Jebat, next door to Stadium Negara to make way for the new MRT track)
Isn’t it more appropriate to return the open ground to its people as what it was originally intended for – public park for us citizens to enjoy and use?!
The building of the 118-storey mega tower not only robs KL residents of 30acres of green space, but also creates greater traffic congestion in the city centre. This will lead to increased traffic & noise pollution that will affect the many school children who still studies in the 6 major schools around the hill. And god knows what other physical damage will surface during the construction period of the mega tower!
(View of historic hill from KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. Right clock tower is part of the Chin Woo stadium and the bottom green building is Chan She Shu Yuen. Now imagine a 118-storey mega tower dominating the skylines of KL right besides Chin Woo??)
The mega tower project is not the only killer in this story. Another mega project, the new MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) line approved for the city is impacting the historical buildings of Petaling Street, Sultan Street and the surrounding areas.
Petaling Street is a famous area for both locals and tourists. Since young, I have always enjoyed walking the streets around this area to sample the local food, grab some good bargains from the roadside stalls and watch the locals living & surviving in this busy area.
Because of the MRT construction, many properties around Petaling Street and Sultan Street have been forced by our government to sell their land to make way for the building of MRT tracks and stations. Brutally forcing property owners to give up ownership, the government has committed another great sin by approving and pushing through this mega project without any public consultation. The Old Klang Bus Station was one of the unfortunate casualties. Built in the 70s and demolished in Nov 2011, the transport hub will be remembered fondly by many Malaysians. More historical buildings are now facing eminent deaths as the MRT construction progresses.
(Construction works for MRT taking place in the site of the demolished Old Klang Bus Station)
I do wonder how our government justifies all these constructions as developments that the country requires? We, the citizens of this country do not wish for another mega tower, or a new public transportation at the sacrifice of our national heritage.
Maybe it is just a ploy by the government to destroy all our historical icons, so that the younger generations will not see & remember the past. So that we will forget our roots of how our forefathers fought for our country’s independence, or how the past Chinese immigrants built the prosperity of Kuala Lumpur. Surround the younger generation with an artificial comfort zone, so that they will never realize the rot our country is sinking into.
As a concerned citizen or even fellow world citizen, there are several ways to stop this. You can start by sharing this story and get more people onboard the fight.
(Colourful marker stone calling for the preservation of heritage buildings along Jalan Sultan)