Thursday, September 5, 2013

'NO' TO ANOTHER SKYSCRAPER , 'YES' TO ANOTHER PUBLIC PARK

Source: From the book "Building Merdeka" by Lai Chee Kien

The older ones among us who lived in Kuala Lumpur in the 1960s and 70s will remember Merdeka Park (Independence Park). It was the only park we had in the city then that was centrally located and easily accessible to all. The elderly would gather there in the early mornings for tai-chi sessions, parents would take their children there to play, and young courting couples would enjoy romantic strolls there in the evenings.

Merdeka Park was a much-loved public landmark along with other landmarks in the vicinity like Merdeka Stadium, Stadium Negara, Chin Woo Stadium and Victoria Institution.


(Above: Photos taken from https://www.facebook.com/aparkforallpeople)

Visitors to the area today will no longer see Merdeka Park with the famous Mushroom where people could take shelter from the hot sun or heavy rain. Gone too are the sundial and the rock sculpture which were popular backdrops for countless photos. The area once occupied by Merdeka Park is now the site of the proposed 118-storey Menara Warisan. As if the city didn't already have enough skyscrapers! Currently the tallest building we have in the country is the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers, which are far from fully occupied. Why in the blazes would the government approve the construction of a monstrosity like Menara Warisan which is likely to turn into another white elephant?

Warisan means 'heritage'. Yet how ironic it is to demolish a true heritage that is Merdeka Park, built a year after the country gained independence, and replace it with a gleaming new tower that has no historical background to boast of. How would this building benefit the people? Or is it meant to enrich only corporate bigwigs and those with political connections?

New York's famed Central Park - a park for the people, not for the elite few

I recently attended a people's dialogue session at KLSCAH. Speakers included heritage conservationist Teoh Chee Keong, and MP for Serdang, Dr. Ong Kian Ming. Both spoke on why we must protect our public space, and preserve our national historical heritage. I particularly liked Dr Ong's proposal that if Merdeka Park were to be re-developed, it should be turned into an even bigger and better park similar to Central Park of New York. It would be a park with facilities for everyone to enjoy. It would be the city's premier green lung.



That is exactly what India is planning to do in New Delhi - 'create a mammoth iconic park that would rival New York's Central Park as a refuge from urban chaos'. How far-sighted are Delhi's urban planners, and how utterly lacking in vision are our city planners!

What Kuala Lumpur really needs is another park. KLCC Park is not a people-friendly park. It has too many rules and regulations, and limited facilities.



Dr Ong Kian Ming on 'The Value of Public Parks'
Why we should oppose the Menara Warisan project

So what can you and I do to protect our public space? How can we stop greedy land-grabbing corporations from misappropriating property that belongs to the people? Here are some action plans for the concerned rakyat:


For more pictures and comments on the issue, go to http://ptmnmalaysia.wordpress.com/isu-menara-warisan/
You can also add your voice and support for citizens' groups like Rakan KL and Pertahanan Taman Merdeka Negara

Where is Badan Warisan when its help is needed most? It used to be quite vocal about preserving historical landmarks. A check at their website shows that the site is under construction. Their Facebook page is not regularly updated, and their focus seems to be more about general education and awareness than making a stand on heritage buildings that are at risk. There is no reference at all to the Menara Warisan project. It is obvious they don't want to get involved in any controversial issue that may pit them against the authorities.

It's up to us ordinary concerned citizens to voice our views and be heard. The pessimists among us will sigh, shake their heads and say 'What's the use? We are no match against the bulldozers that will be sent in sooner or later. Our pockets are too small to fight the big fat wallets of the powerful GLCs."

Malaysia's first PM from 1957-1970
I would say to these pessimists, if our Bapa Malaysia had thought for even a second that it would be pointless to seek independence from our colonial masters, that they would never surrender one of their prized colonies, Malaysia might still be under British rule today. Fortunately for us, Bapa Malaysia never lost hope.

If we don't keep a watchful eye on our national heritage buildings, don't be surprised to see them disappear one by one in the near future, beginning with Stadium Merdeka, followed by Stadium Negara, then Museum Negara, Parliament House, and other independence era buildings. One day there will be no traces left of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj's legacy as far as historical buildings go, except in our grandchildren's history textbooks and in old photographs in the museum.

2 comments:

Antares said...

Excellent! Wholeheartedly agree!

Robyn Lee said...

People have a lot of power but most of us don't realise it. In this day and age we are used to going it alone but if we band together and make enough noise, change is effected. Good luck. I sincerely hope you get your beautiful park.