“There is no greater calamity than to under-estimate the strength of your enemy. For to under-estimate the strength of your enemy is to lose your treasure. Therefore, when opposing troops meet in battle, victory belongs to the grieving side” - Lao Tze
In Defence Of A De-fence-less Bukit Kiara
It began in late 2011 with the erection of an unsightly metal fencing 3.6 meters high along the famed trails of the forest in Bukit Kiara. (coordinates 3°8′5″N 101°38′28″E). Dubbed The Great Wall “ by TRAKS (Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor), the battle-cry was sounded when bulldozers moved into a tranquil, defence-less Bukit Kiara to clear swathes of forest to make needless temporary tracks and roads causing collateral damage to flora and fauna, soil erosion, pollution to pristine streams downhill and fragmentation of existing trails network.
These trails have been designed and painstakingly crafted by TRAKS volunteers for bikers, hashers, runners and hikers taking into account sustainable and minimum environmental impact on Bukit Kiara based on IMBA International Standards and Trail-Care concept. Famously touted as “the only such world-class green lung in the heart of the city” the 37 kilometer trails have show-cased Bukit Kiara and Malaysia on the international tourist map. Since 2007, Bukit Kiara had been designated with approval by Cabinet as “Taman Awam Berskala Besar i.e. TABB or Large Scale Public Park of 466.86 acres but its gazettement remains elusive till today.
In defence of a defenceless Bukit Kiara, TRAKS volunteers turned to film-making to record and disseminate virally the damage and “rape” of what is sacred ground to them and a refuge to thousands of park-users.
An activist, aided by TRAKS volunteers, ignited a petition campaign launched by Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK), an NGO formed in 2001 to protect and preserve Bukit Kiara. The Save Bukit Kiara campaign is aimed at urging the authorities to:
Gazette Bukit Kiara as a Permanent Forest Park
Halt all construction activities on Bukit Kiara immediately and
Say no to development in or around Bukit Kiara
Walking The Talk To Save Bukit Kiara
Malaysian Nature Society, a key ally in FoBK, fronted the Awareness Walk of 15 July 2012 as the campaign gained momentum with thousands of people rallying to save Bukit Kiara. The Awareness Walk was successful in raising awareness of the need to protect and preserve one of the last remaining green lungs in the city for sustainable development. The campaign was also instrumental in immediately halting construction activities on Bukit Kiara. Assurances were given by the Minister of Local Government and Housing that Bukit Kiara will be gazetted as a Public Park upon the resolution of the issue of leases of specified lots to two large corporations.
What seemed to be a “victory” for the aggrieved side was short-lived however. In October 2012, FoBK was informed by the Mayor of City Hall (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur or DBKL) of Berjaya Corp’s development plans to build a commercial building, condos, a huge stadium, exhibition hall, hospital, etc. in the adjacent leased equestrian lots as well as a private access road to the Bukit Kiara trails!!!
An FoBK Coalition comprising of 44 Residents Associations (RAs) and 19 Environmental NGOs in the Klang Valley was quickly forged to counter the threat of commercial development and to press for the gazettement of Bukit Kiara as a Forest Park. A Save Bukit Kiara Walk took off on 17 March 2013 after FoBK’s appeal letter of 9 December 2012 to the PM, who passed the buck to the Mayor of DBKL, was met with indifference.
The second protest Walk reflected growing support for the Save Bukit Kiara cause as about 3,000 people showed up that Sunday morning. Supporters came all walks of life; concerned with questions of sustainable development, global warming, pollution, traffic congestion, possible increasing crime and even devaluation of property values in the surrounding areas that may accompany the proposed development. Children held posters of “save the forest and animals” while a banner cried out with “what about us?” to plead with the authorities and developers not to compromise the needs of future generations.
Will the protests of the grieving side in opposing the proposed development plans of Berjaya Corp be heard and halt development in and around Bukit Kiara? Will the primary objective of FoBK’s campaign to gazette Bukit Kiara as a Forest Park since Cabinet approval in 2007 be finally translated into reality in 2013 by the authorities?
The Ever- elusive Gazettement Of Bukit Kiara
According to the authorities, the gazettement of Bukit Kiara is held up because DBKL has not surrendered the leased equestrian Lot 52314 of 62.57 acres back to the Federal government due to a caveat placed on it in April 2008 by Berjaya Corp. (S- 21NCVC-52-2011, para 17).
Why did Berjaya place a caveat on Lot 52314 in 22 April 2008 after Cabinet had already on 27 June 2007 approved for the specific Lot to be part of Bukit Kiara in TABB outlined in the Kuala Lumpur Master Plan? Why was the registration of Berjaya Corp.’s caveat placed 15 years from entry in 1993, not rejected by the authorities then on justifiable grounds in the public’s interests? Why was the monthly rental of RM5,000 paid by Berjaya Corp. from 1993 till October 2000 for Lot 52314 of a good 62.57 acres further reduced to a mere RM2000 thereafter till 2010 ‘out of goodwill”? ( S-21NCVC -52-2011, para 38).
Approval for surrender of Lot 52314 back to the government had also been agreed by the Federal Territory Land Working Committee on 29 December 2009. The decision was conveyed to DBKL vide its letter dated 12 February 2010. Why did DBKL take more than a year to issue notice to Berjaya Corp. to surrender Lot 52314 only on 25 February 2011? ( S-21NCVC-52-2011, paras 35 & 41)
The High Court Ruling in the case of DBKL vs Bukit Kiara Resort Bhd( KBRB) of Berjaya Corp on Lot 52314 to remove Berjaya’s caveat ordered for a Lease Agreement to be executed between DBKL and Berjaya. The Court dismissed DBKL’s application for removal of Berjaya’s private caveat with costs on 21 September 2011 (S-21NCVC-10-2011, paras 72- 77). Why didn’t DBKL appeal against the High Court Ruling in the interest of an anxious public impatient with the elusive gazettement of Bukit Kiara?
Did DBKL follow the guidelines spelt out in the National Council for Local Government (NCLG) vide a Policy formulated on 9 August 1999 which states very clearly that “For open space that is not surrendered, action must be taken to ensure that it becomes government land and be subsequently reserved and gazetted”?
Lot 52314 comprised of 20 acres of open spaces ( Parcel D) and 43 acres of polo field and grandstand ( Parcel E) which will come within the ambit of the NCLG 1999 Policy on “open spaces”. According to former Town Councillor Mak Khuin Weng, - Our Right To Open Spaces - The Nut Graph, 15 November 2010 - the Policy cannot be ignored as the NCLG is defined under Article 95A of the Federal Constitution. Since Article 95A mandates that the policies of the NCLG be followed, the failure to implement the policy is tantamount to contempt of the Federal Constitution. Was the NCGL Policy adhered to by DBKL?
Why was compulsory acquisition of Lot 52314 of 62.57 acres also not considered by the government under the Land Acquisition Act 1960 in the interests of the public to enable the gazettement of Bukit Kiara, one of the last remaining green lungs in the city and a national treasure to the people?
Development In Bukit Kiara – For Profit?
According to The Star dated 4 December 2012 “City Hall told to separate Bukit Kiara land” the Mayor was quoted as saying “We have to follow the court order and nothing can be done now”. The report added that DBKL had “also proposed to the developer to include a hospital, community facilities and an international school in their project”.
Did the Court Ruling order DBKL to separate Kiara Land or to approve development on lot 52314? (S-21NCVC-10-2011 paras 72-77). On what authority did DBKL have to separate Kiara Land or approve any development on Bukit Kiara in conflict with what is expressed in the Title or upheld by the FT Ministry?
A Title search by FoBK on 18 March 2013 on Lot 50642 of 69.8 acres shows that the “land was to be used for equestrian and recreational purposes only…”. Similarly, a Title search on Lot 52314 also explicitly states “for equestrian, recreation and polo grounds only”.
Why then is any form of development even considered by DBKL since Section 108 of the National Land Code 1965 says a local authority cannot over-ride the ‘expressed conditions” stated in the Land Titles? Isn’t DBKL’s action seen to be in conflict with the directive of the Deputy Chief Secretary of the Ministry Of Federal territory and Urban Welfare who had said on 6 January 2010 in a meeting between DBKL and Berjaya Corp. that the government still upholds its decision NOT to allow any development in Lot 52314 and Lot 50642 based on the terrain and surroundings? (S-21NCC-52-2011, para 21)
A Fierce Green Fire
In the light of the questions revolving around the disputed Lot 52314 of 62.57 acres, a Title search was also conducted on 16 April 2013 on the leased Measat Lot 54268 of 100.154 acres in Bukit Kiara. This lot had been leased to Measat Digicast Sdn. Bhd in April 1998 for a term of 30 years. Why is there no pertinent information in the Title regarding category of land use, expressed conditions and whether it is a qualified or final title as it has been leased since 1998? Why was a caveat registered on the Lot in 29 April 2009 after Cabinet had already clearly designated it in June 2007 as an integral part of TABB in the KL Master Plan? Who had placed the caveat?
Will the questions raised regarding the leased lots 52314 and 54268 be addressed by the authorities to fulfill the government’s promises to place the interests of the public first to finally gazette Bukit Kiara?
Will Berjaya Corp. chose to leave a lasting legacy of a national treasure in its natural state as a ‘gift’ to the people and future generations to remember it by?
Will ‘victory” be rightfully accorded to the anxious public and the grieving side in its battle to commit the government of the day to finally gazette Bukit Kiara i. e. TABB of 466.86 acres as a “ Forest Public Park” as endorsed by Cabinet in June 2007?
Ultimately, “victory” in any battle can be achieved by only you, the people who can save Bukit Kiara, our national treasure from being developed for profit. A US documentary film entitled “A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet” poses this blazing question to all of us:“ If they can turn The Grand Canyon into a ‘cash register’, is any national park safe?”
The answer is up to you.
“Oppose #Berjaya, save #BukitKiara” Walk on March 17, 2013
Youtube video of the #SaveBukitKiara Walk on March 17 2013 organized by The Trails Association Of Kuala Lumpur & Selangor (TRAKS), the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Friends Of Bukit Kiara (FoBK)- filmed and edited by Phil Bee
Bukit Kiara: Will Commercial Development be allowed on the other side of the Fence?
The Fences at Bukit Kiara are up. It is disturbing to note that half of Bukit Kiara belongs to private owners. The key question is whether the private owners will now take steps to commercialize their side of the fence. Since Bukit Kiara has been designated a green lung, the private owners should display magnanimity by not developing their side of the fence.
We cannot imagine a situation where walkers and joggers have to bear with the noise, pollution and clatter coming from the condos, shopping malls, etc just next to the jogging trail.
Can we continue to enjoy the peace, quiet and tranquillity of Bukit Kiara? Not if the private owners develop their land.
This video is to heighten the awareness of the public who use the jogging trail at Bukit Kiara of what is going on and urge them not to support any move to develop the land on the other side of the fence. Please support us by forwarding the link of this video to your friends. Thank You.
Dr. Pola Singh & Liew Khooi Cheng - Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK)
Dr. Pola Singh (left) and Liew Khooi Cheng want to know the state’s long-term plans for Bukit Kiara, which has been indicated as a green area. Pic by Nashairi Mohd Nawi
Friends of Bukit Kiara are concerned that the demarcation is an indication of developments on the other side of the green lung.
For years, Bukit Kiara park goers walked and exercised on the hilly terrain of the green lung. However, the calming and relaxed surroundings are now marred by the sight of metal fences put up at parts of the park.
Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK) chairman Liew Khooi Cheng has expressed his concern over the metal fences, which were put up two months ago.
Liew, who described the structures as bad for the park’s flora and fauna, believed they were built to demarcate private and public land, which was the park, where work were currently being carried out.
“We fear that this is an indication of developments on the other side of the park, which is currently occupied by private land owners. We want an assurance from the authorities that no more developments have been planned here as we want to keep Bukit Kiara as it is, a part of conservation efforts,” he told Streets.
Streets’ recent visit to the park saw that a construction signboard had been erected, stating that security fences work was in progress at the park and that the work would be completed by Nov 18.
There were also signs on the metal fences, put up by the National Landscape Department, which stated that boundary fencing work was ongoing. Metal fences 3.6m high were being built along the park’s walking trail.
Liew said the entire park, including the areas occupied by private land owners such as the Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Resort, spanned 263ha in size.
About 30 to 40 years ago, said Liew, the land was acquired to build a public park and a mausoleum for VVIPs, but that plan did not materialise and parcels of land were distributed among several parties.
Concerned residents, said Liew, felt they had to do something before more land was parcelled out.
When FoBK was launched in 1991, it embarked on a signature campaign to conserve the park. The petition was submitted to the then-city mayor.
Last year, FoBK met Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail, who assured Liew and FoBK secretary, Dr Pola Singh, that he would not consider applications for development on Bukit Kiara.
Park visitors say the fence has been built to separate Bukit Kiara from private land on the other side. Pic by Nashairi Mohd Nawi
Liew said Fuad was actively pursuing the gazettement of the park.
“We are now left with 243ha of forest park land, which we are anxiously waiting for the department in charge of the park to gazette.
“We have requested for a meeting with the department and we are waiting for a response,” said Liew.
“We want to get the answers as to when the gazettement will happen, what these metal fences are for, will there be further development, and the long term plans for the park.”
Dr Pola said the park had been indicated as a green area but until FoBK received an official document saying so, it would not rest well.
A park user, who wanted to be known only as Carol, said: “The park should be kept as it is — without the fences. They take a way the essence of the park.
“I would not agree to any proposed developments here, because I want to enjoy the tranquility of the forest and the sounds of nature instead of the noise of development.”
Carol goes to the park in the late afternoon, every day without fail, for her daily walk.