Resistance against Kampung Baru redevelopment is not about race, it's money, residents say

Kampung Baru residents attend a townhall meeting with Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad in Kuala Lumpur September 21, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Kampung Baru residents attend a townhall meeting with Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad in Kuala Lumpur September 21, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — In a townhall session held with Kampung Baru residents here today, Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad was pressed again and again about the government's valuation of their land.

Questions that came from the floor mostly centred around the price offered by the government — at RM850 per square feet — which according to Khalid is the maximum value.

Bar one or two questions, participants of the townhall session mentioned little about race.

The persistent bombardment of questions about the government's offer — underpinned the suspicion most Kampung Baru landowners have towards Putrajaya's effort to redevelop the traditional Malay enclave.

Kampung Baru sits on top of a 220 acre premium land located right in the heart of the capital city. Right next to it sits the iconic KLCC Twin Towers, where the land is valued at RM3,000 per square foot.

Attempts by past administrations to unlock and redevelop the land into residential and commercial plots have met resistance from local folks, but thought to be due to fear that minorities will soon swamp what is deemed to be the last Malay settlement in a Chinese-dominated city.

But the sentiment displayed at today's townhall session, attended by nearly 2,000 people, showed such a belief was the least of Kampung Baru folks' concerns.

“You are the government. Why must you base the valuation on JPPH (Valuation and Property Services Department)?,” one landowner asked at the session.

“Why not use independent valuers instead? If you want to help us you should allow us to get the best for our land.”

“You sir are bad at maths,” said another middle-aged landowner, who claimed to be Khalid’s alumni at UK-based Brighton University.

“The land at KLCC is valued at RM3,000 per square foot. Kampung Baru is just next to it. Yet you claim the land is worth RM850...you should have focused more on maths,” the man added to a round of applause from his fellow Kampung Baru neighbours.

At today’s townhall meeting, the government led by the Pakatan Harapan coalition spelled out what was likely the first genuine offer to be made for the 220 acre land that sits between some of the capital city’s poshest areas since the idea to redevelop Kampung Baru was first mooted in the 80s.

Several top property firms have valued the land in surrounding areas at a premium of between RM2,000 and RM3,000 per square foot, nearly three times the estimation by JPPH for Kampung Baru, which according to Khalid priced the land at between RM650 and RM850.

But selling their land on the government’s terms could still see each landowner earn a hefty profit of at least RM6 million per plot. Khalid said the average size of each individual plot is 8,000 square foot, with those having properties built on it to be paid based on the value of the structure in addition to their land.

Landowners are also given the options to sell their land for cash, or half cash with the rest offset by property of the same value, or shares from the project. The gross development value of the plan is estimated at RM30 billion.

Yet, Kampung Baru folks still felt they were being shortchanged. Feeling that their land was markedly undervalued, some called on the government to make public detailed breakdowns of JPPH’s valuation, while others said any consideration to sell will hinge on the government’s ability to up their offer.

“I think most of them will settle for RM1,000 psqf,” Zainal, a retired civil servant, told Malay Mail on the sidelines of the meeting.

“Many of them don’t have a problem with selling, I believe. And to be honest I think the government will increase their offer.”

Khalid himself said today’s townhall is only an “opening” for future talks and did not discount the possibility of fulfilling some of the landowners’ demands.

For example, the minister has agreed to raise to Cabinet a proposal to exempt the land sales from tax although he gave no commitment that it would be met.

As for keeping Kampung Baru’s redevelopment status exclusively to the Malays, the FT minister explained that the community’s claim to the land is protected by the Kampung Baru Development Corporation 2011.

Khalid said the government will prohibit the purchase of homes by minority communities there.

“We want to ensure Malay elements will always underscore the development of Kampung Baru so we retain its Malay identity,” he said.

The 220 acre development project will see the land-use ratio increase to nine million square foot from one currently, with residential properties making up 70 per cent and the rest allocated for commercial plots.

The plan will also include a green area as part of its sustainable commitment and a designated “Heritage Village” where cultural centres will be built to commemorate Kampung Baru’s history as one of the oldest Malay settlements in the city.

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