KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 — Holding aloft cardboard signs and banners reading “Stop Land Grab” and “Save Merdeka Heritage”, among others, some 30 people gathered outside City Hall here today to denounce the proposed construction of a 118-storey tower located next to one of the city’s most historic landmarks.
The 30 protestors are part of a lobby group called Pertahankan Taman Merdeka Negara (PTMN) that have been desperately campaigning for a halt to the proposed Warisan Merdeka project, which they worry may turn the historical sites surrounding the tower — including Stadium Merdeka — to commercial development.
Pointing to Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) notice, PTMN noted that the developer’s planning application for Warisan Merdeka would convert the status of the project site — where a few historical places sit on — as land for commercial use.
“If Stadium Merdeka, Stadium Negara and Merdeka Park (Tunku Park) are to be preserved as our national heritage, then why convert their status from reserved ‘open space and institution’ to commercial?
“How can we be assured that these sites will be protected from future commercial development?” PTMN said in a statement today.
DBKL had earlier this month gave neighbouring landowners two weeks’ notice to send in their objections on the Warisan Merdeka project, with the objection period ending tomorrow.
In the notice, DBKL said it had received a planning application to convert the land for commercial use and an amended layout plan for the project.
PTMN’s executive director Tang Ah Chai told reporters that three affected landowners had this morning submitted their written objections to DBKL officers.
The landowners are the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Association and the Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Association.
“In our objection letter, we asked DBKL, especially the Planning Department, to give (the) layout plan and complete information on the project including studies on the traffic impact, social and environment impact,” Tang said after representatives from PTMN, affected landowners and NGOs met DBKL officers.
Tang questioned the lack of information provided to the public, saying that DBKL replied that those interested in looking at more detailed plans would need to go to City Hall.
He said DBKL confirmed that PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn Bhd had submitted the planning application, but complained that the notice had omitted the company’s name.
PTMN said it had received 2,340 signatures in two days from citizens protesting against the Warisan Merdeka project, but said it has yet to submit the signatures collected to DBKL.
But DBKL’s notice, which was also advertised for three days in four newspapers, only listed registered landowners including those whose properties are within 200 metres of the land as having the right of objection.
DAP MPs Fong Kui Lun and Tan Kok Wai were also present today to lend their support and voice their concerns over the Warisan Merdeka project, with the latter saying that the project should be brought to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s attention.
Shortly after it was announced, Malaysians took to Facebook to express their opinions on the Warisan Merdeka project, with over 300,000 of them liking a group that is against the tower while another group supporting it garnered just slightly more than 2,000 “Likes”.
The government had announced the Warisan Merdeka project in October 2010, immediately sparking heated debate over the development in the city centre that will reportedly cost RM5 billion.
Government-linked firm Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) had said that the project would not be built using taxpayers’ money. It had formed PNB Merdeka Ventures to carry out the project.
The project ― which will include a 118-storey tower, a four-star hotel and two blocks of 40-storey condominiums ― will see Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara being kept as heritage sites. It will also be the tallest structure in the country once completed, eclipsing the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.