LETTER | Dear FT Minister,
You called on the MP of Segambut Hannah Yeoh to get her facts correct and “not to use the law to deny the rights of poor people who have had to live in longhouses for decades”.
This is a fallacy.
I now call upon you to get your facts right and state them in the proper perspectives.
I have lived in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) since 1978 and also served the government as a federal town planner starting from 1978 in the Town and Country Planning Department (Jabatan Perancang Bandar dan Desa - JPBD) under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT).
The Federal Territory (FT) Ministry was established soon after (in 1979), and while DBKL was ‘autonomous’ in its town planning of Kuala Lumpur’s 243 square kilometres, JPBD in that first decade of KL’s FT status continued to have a window into all developmental goings-on at DBKL by way of numerous “personnel secondments” to projects such as the preparation of the first KL Structure Plan (the ‘2000’ SP eventually gazetted in 1984).
That is how I know it is minuted in the Federal Lands and Mines Department (JKPTG) for the entire Bukit Kiara Estate lands to only be used for ‘public purposes and housing’, upon its compulsory acquisition by the Federal Government - a process initiated in 1975 and completed in 1976.
You should know this even more intimately - you worked as a town planner in DBKL’s Planning Department in the 1980s, the era of DBKL’s first (ungazetted) Bukit Kiara Zoning Plans.
You must be familiar with those plans - they were at that point in time still clean and above board, with no land uses other than what was mandated by the land acquisition gazette of 1975.
These were the events which led to the former Bukit Kiara Estate workers and their families being ‘temporarily resettled’ in the longhouses.
The housing component mentioned in the gazette was for the estate workers who were being displaced. There were slightly over 100 families and they were offered free houses if they agreed to ‘temporarily’ move to the longhouses.
98 families accepted the offer on the promise that their houses would be built for them within the lands of the former estate itself.
Most ironically it was the remaining few who went against the flow who turned out to be more fortunate - they accepted cash which amounted to only about RM800-1000 per family and moved to the Kg Sg Kayu Ara area to work in another estate, eventually getting land allocated to them by a past BN government of Selangor.
But for the majority who accepted the Federal Government’s ‘package’, you should be acutely aware of how and why their hopes turned into a never-ending wait - 38 years now and still counting.
After your town planner days you became part of the political system which was in power for decades, holding all the cards for giving fair treatment to the estate workers yet never fulfilling what was promised.
For the benefit of some who might not remember, let me also revisit some political history.
Bukit Kiara was then under the Damansara Parliamentary constituency (but not the one we know today which is in Selangor).
It was held by BN via MIC’s Federal Territory chief S Subramaniam until he lost the seat in 1978 to the late V David of the DAP. By that time the government acquisition of Bukit Kiara had been completed but the estate workers resettlement negotiation was still ongoing.
In between losing Damansara and returning to Parliament as Segamat MP four years later, Subramaniam, who was briefly Deputy Minister of “Local Government and FT” (a short-lived hybrid) and still Chairman of MIC-Wilayah continued brokering the resettlement deal.
And so it was that in 1982 the former estate workers and their families vacated the old “labour lines” (near today’s Royal Selangor Club Kiara Annexe) and moved to longhouses at the opposite end of the estate bordering TTDI - but nevertheless still on land mandated to only be used for public purposes and housing, for which the various projects conceived included a never to materialise National Botanical Gardens.
As a DBKL town planner back then you would have understood clearly that the Federal Government itself was the developer/financier of the entire project portfolio - including building the resettlement housing using its own (i.e. taxpayers’) funds.
But you were soon to move on to political life in Umno - the party with a virtual stranglehold on the FT Ministry in its various guises over the decades (including the period under Prime Minister’s Department) save for Khalid Samad’s brief tenure.
As an Umno politician you were surely aware too when the longhouse residents’ pleas and grouses were later ‘deflected’ by Subramaniam and MIC-Wilayah to the FT Minister’s attention.
You were also Minister of Rural Development through most of the 1990s, surely an influential voice in the Cabinet on socio-economic development issues - what were your contributions to the long-running discourse on this matter?
To be fair, an entire cast of actors in the form of FT Ministers and MIC Cabinet Ministers (and Deputies) have over the years been in a position to solve this problem, but they did not.
As a professional town planner yourself, you now have a unique opportunity to right past wrongs by going back to the creed of your profession.
The resettlement agreement of 1982 continues to be embodied in the KL Structure Plan 2020 (PSKL2020) - gazetted in 2004, never withdrawn nor amended in whole or in part, and still a legally valid document (even as the current Draft PSKL2040 goes through its motions).
The PSKL2020 was the valid structure plan at the material time a Development Order (DO) was issued to the Malton-YWP joint venture.
DBKL erred by not paying heed to Taman Rimba Kiara’s status as a City Park, and the obligation to confine the permanent housing project to the longhouses’ existing footprint.
PSKL2020 is the living proof that as of its 2004 gazettement the promise to build permanent resettlement housing ‘within the lands of the former estate’ was intact and still respected.
Politicking and corruption cannot and must not change that.
If not for the TTDI residents, the longhouse community would have already lost all remaining hopes for the landed house promised to them.
A group of consultants acting voluntarily and pro bono have proposed a low-density townhouse complex entirely within the footprint of the existing longhouse site.
This is the only proposal so far which ticks all the boxes, both legally and morally.
It would honour (very belatedly) the government’s promise of a house within the former estate’s land - not an apartment where they need to pay management and maintenance fees.
The cost of building it is nothing compared to what DBKL would have to fund, even on a cost-sharing basis with the developer, for the road infrastructure of the mega-development.
Let social justice be done, and let it be seen to be done.
As an FT Minister who holds current valid professional registration as a “TPr.” (Town Planner) you are the best person to uphold such principles.
Along the way you should also correct the mistakes made in gazetting the 2020 local plan, as well as the draft KL Structure Plan 2040 currently before us - which from my 30 years’ experience I would not even consider a Structure Plan based on the definitions of the Federal Territory Planning Act 1982.
P GUNASILAN is a veteran town planner and Fellow of the Malaysian Institute of Planners.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.