Save our Heritage for Our Future Generation
KOTA KINABALU, 10 August 2012. Friday – The newly-registered society Architectural and Cultural Heritage Society of Sabah, or better known as Heritage Sabah is asking the local authorities to prove their commitment towards preserving the city’s oldest and most famous historical site from unchecked commercial development.
This request was made following public speculation that the controversial 16-storey shopping mall project, a joint-venture between Sabah Housing and Town Planning Development Authority (SHTDA) and a private developer, that caused a public outcry in 2010, will be continued after the upcoming Malaysian General Elections.
Kota Kinabalu city dwellers believe that the construction of the shopping mall would not only diminish the heritage value of the city’s beloved 107-year-old clock tower in its pristine surroundings, but also involve cutting down trees and hill cutting in order to build the commercial building.
Since the controversy in 2010, Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu (Kota Kinabalu City Hall) has been quick to dismiss any wrong doing on their part, citing that the project approval was under the purview of Central Board. That led to a public row between SHTDA Chairman Rubin Balang and Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun.
A judicial review was subsequently launched by two concerned citizens, resulting in the KK High Court ruling forcing Central Board to hand over all minutes of their meetings, pertaining the project for public scrutiny that in which they did not do so even after letters of reminder sent by one of the plaintiff.
At the Sabah State Planning Standards Workshop organized by SHTDA in Dec 2011, Central Board Chairman Mursidi Hj. Sapie announced that the 16-storey shopping mall project had been rejected – only to retract his statement, claiming that he was misquoted by the local media on the next day. The shopping mall project currently remains under wraps, with the developer Benteng Pulangan Sdn Bhd allowed to resubmit their proposal subject to approval by the Central Board and DBKK.
Heritage Sabah claim that their efforts to advocate for the protection of historical sites, buildings and monuments have sparked a resurgence of interest among Sabahan-born Malaysians to rediscover their state’s place and political stature in the nation’s history especially among the emerging Sabah youth who were an important force in the Save Our Heritage Atkinson Clock Tower campaign.
“Over the past two years, the public has shown that they prefer to preserve their city’s most historical landmark in its pristine environment, rather than allow it to languish in the shadow of yet another unwanted commercial shopping mall project”, says Heritage Sabah Pro Temp President Richard Nelson Sokial.
“Even some individuals who were opposed to our NGO’s early bid to save the clock tower’s historical site have now become our supporters, once they understood why our history is important for us”.
“Now we want the local authorities to make good on their promise to preserve our beautiful clock tower and its surroundings for the future generation”.
Sokial says that the Heritage Sabah wants DBKK to demonstrate its commitment to the public by dismantling the blue metal fencing encasing the construction site of the intended 16-storey shopping mall, in time for the Sabah Independence celebrations as well as the upcoming Malaysia Day celebrations. He also claims that with proper tree pruning, the activities on Padang Merdeka could be seen clearly from the ACT’s hillside and incorporates the clock tower as part of the celebrations.
“For two years, the unsightly blue fence of the proposed 16-storey shopping mall has been an eyesore for KK city, especially leading up to Jalan Istana. There is no reason to keep the metal fence any longer. As long as it is there, it is a grim reminder to the citizens of KK that DBKK and Central Board still favour the developer’s bid to build its monstrous building next to the historical clock tower despite the public’s unwavering objection towards the project since 2010.”
Sokial claims that if the fence surrounding the site is dismantled, the public can enjoy unprecedented views towards Padang Merdeka and the Kinabalu Club, KK’s oldest social club established in 1903 during the colonial days of British North Borneo.
“With speculations of upcoming general elections in Malaysia, the Sabahan public needs some reassurance that the local authorities and those whom they have elected into positions of power still have the people’s interests at heart, particularly now that our place and historical identity as Sabahan-born Malaysians have become an issue of importance in these recent times.
Meanwhile, a concerned group of heritage-minded citizens known as Heritage Sabah has continued their on-going campaign to raise public awareness regarding the importance of preserving the Atkinson Clock Tower (ACT)’s historical site and keep reminding the public on how the allegedly ill-planned commercial shopping mall project built next to it would compromise beyond repair, the heritage value of KK city’s oldest and most popular landmark and tourist attraction.
Support for the Heritage Sabah group – now a registered with Sabah State Registry of Societies – has grown to over 7,100 followers based on their online Heritage Sabah Facebook Page where they can read the updates on their works and activities. The society have been actively work with Museum Sabah’s to document the recent repair efforts of the clock tower’s structure and further study the clock tower’s history.
Other effort by Heritage Sabah also is to spread awareness among the public on some old rain trees in the city that was in danger being cut down for unscrupulous development project and the documentation effort of the historical Tanjung Aru Railway Station and train workshop that will give way to new commercial development.
Heritage Sabah NGO has made a request on behalf of the public. “Let’s see if the local authorities will work with us – or continue to overlook our plea to preserve our heritage”.