KUALA LUMPUR — September 29, 2019: There was a fleeting pause when Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad was shown the picture of a proposed 93-storey skyscraper that the government wanted to build in Kampung Baru here.
“Is building towers the only way we can showcase our local identity?” was Shahrir’s poser over the tower of which its design was inspired from the folding and creases of sampin and tanjak –the most iconic traditional Malay garments.
The contentious tower, which is the brainchild of Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad –who is Shahrir’s younger brother– made headlines a day after Khalid endured a rowdy town hall session with the residents of Kampung Baru.
The residents believed that Khalid’s offer to buy their land –which sits in the middle of the city centre– for re-development purposes at RM850 per square feet was nonsensical.
“Look at other developed nations, instead of building skyscrapers, they preserve their old buildings,” said Shahrir who believed that the development of Kampung Baru must be done in an “altruistic” manner.
Shahrir was once the federal territories minister during the Barisan Nasional administration.
He said that instead of buying the lands in Kampung Baru, the government should encourage and assist the landowners, who are predominantly Malays to spruce up their houses.
“The current way is too capitalistic. That’s not what the Malays want. The Malays are mostly socialistic in nature, and they prefer to share wealth equally,” said Shahrir.
The idea of re-development for Kampung Baru was not new and has been talked about for decades.
During Shahrir’s ministerial stint, the focus was to redevelop the squatter areas within the 117-year-old Malay settlement with the objective of increasing home ownership by low income city dwellers.
The proper plan to modernise Kampung Baru was formally introduced in 2010 by Datuk Seri Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, who was the then federal territories minister.
The Kampung Baru Development Corporation Bill was passed in parliament the next year.
The plan was for the government, through the Kampung Baru Development Corporation, to act as a facilitator in the development of Kampung Baru.
Progress however, was still sluggish.
This was so, said a source from the corporation, because the then BN government wanted to get the consensus of all landowners in Kampung Baru before any development can take place.
“The problem with the lands in Kampung Baru is that almost every family members are named as landowners. Some have moved away and so a lot of time and resources were used to find them and get their consent.
“But the latest buyout offer and the signature tower was never part of the original plan. The plan has been completely overhauled…I guess the new government wanted to do things the easy way,” said the source.