By Kurniawati Kamarudin
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- The government's decision to increase its offer price for the Kampung Baru land to RM1,000 per square foot has elicited a mixed reaction from the residents.
However, only a handful of them are smiling at the offer. Most of the residents don't want their land in the 122-year-old Malay settlement, strategically located in the city centre, to be sold to other parties.
These landowners and their beneficiaries are not resisting change but want any redevelopment plan for the area to take cognisance of their requirements.
Whether the government's proposed redevelopment of Kampung Baru will proceed without any snag will be known at the end of this month when the 3,000-odd landowners and beneficiaries provide their feedback to the government's offer.
On Oct 24, Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad announced that the government is offering RM1,000 per square foot as the final price for buying over the land in Kampung Baru.
At a town hall session with Kampung Baru residents on Sept 21, the minister informed them that they would be offered RM850 per square foot, but most of them felt the price was unreasonable considering the strategic location of their settlement.
LET THE RESIDENTS DECIDE
Legal expert Prof Datuk Salleh Buang.
--Pix courtesy of Prof Datuk Salleh Buang.
Legal expert Prof Datuk Salleh Buang said any plan to redevelop Kampung Baru should be finalised together with the landowners themselves.
"They should decide whether they want to sell their land lots or not. The forceful acquisition of their land (under the Land Acquisition Act 1960) should only be done as a last resort," he told Bernama, adding that the government should act in the best interests of the residents of Kampung Baru and not "according to what suits the authorities best".
No matter how the redevelopment takes place -- via the direct sale of the land lots to the developer or joint ventures between the landowners and the developer -- it would entail a lengthy and complicated negotiation process, he said.
The onus is on the government to provide the residents with a detailed account of its redevelopment plan for Kampung Baru so that they comprehend fully what awaits them in the future.
Kampung Baru Landowners and Beneficiaries Association secretary Zainudin Ismail .
--Pix courtesy of Zainudin Ismail
"The residents have to make an informed decision. It's not fair for the government to ask the residents to make a decision without them knowing what is in store for their settlement," he added. RETAIN KAMPUNG ATMOSPHERE
The 90.35-hectare Kampung Baru settlement comprises Kampung Periuk, Kampung Masjid, Kampung Atas A, Kampung Atas B, Kampung Hujung Pasir, Kampung Paya and Kampung Pindah.
According to Kampong Bharu Development Corporation's 2010 census, Kampung Baru had a total of 18,372 residents. Under the government's redevelopment plan, its population is estimated to grow to 160,000 by 2050.
Currently, there are between 3,500 and 4,000 residential units in Kampung Baru while the redevelopment plan envisages an addition of another 45,000 units.
Kampung Baru Landowners and Beneficiaries Association secretary Zainudin Ismail said the residents are not saying 'no' to development but they do not quite agree with the redevelopment plan proposed by the government.
He said the association members, comprising over 200 landowners and beneficiaries, want to retain the "kampung atmosphere" of their settlement that has existed for over a century.
"We have become accustomed to our surroundings. I myself come from Kampung Atas A and we've all been living as a community for so many years," he said, adding that they also did not agree with the government's offer of RM1,000 per square foot for their land.
He felt that a more reasonable rate would be RM1,300 per square foot, which was what some Kampung Baru residents, particularly those living in Kampung Atas A, were paid when their land was acquired for the construction of an MRT station. OWN REDEVELOPMENT PLAN
According to Zainudin, Kampung Baru landowners and beneficiaries have their own development model for the settlement but cannot implement it due to financial constraints.
He said if the government sincerely wants to help to redevelop Kampung Baru, its RM10 billion allocation for the land acquisition should be given to the residents to enable them to develop their land themselves.
"Many Kampung Baru residents who were born and bred here have become successful and have become experts in the legal, architecture and engineering fields. And, they are ever ready to work together to redevelop this area in accordance with the requirements of the people here," he said.
He said his association has, in fact, already drawn up its own redevelopment plan with the help of experts and that it would be presented to about 1,500 Kampung Baru landowners and beneficiaries during a gathering to be held soon at the Sultan Sulaiman Club.
"We feel that the wakaf
approach is most appropriate for the redevelopment of Kampung Baru as this is the only way to protect our ownership rights," said Zainudin, who declined to give more details on their redevelopment plan.
Land Professionals Association of Malaysia president Prof Dr Ismail Omar agreed that the wakaf
(endowment made by a Muslim to a religious, educational or charitable cause) concept was the best approach to take to develop Kampung Baru.
properties cannot be sold or bought and it will serve as the saviour of the Muslim community because the land can be developed without eroding the land ownership and heritage rights," he said. Wakaf
comes in various forms such as cash, real estate, investment, houses and others which can benefit the owner and other stakeholders, he explained.
Following the redevelopment of their land, rental income from the buildings concerned will benefit the owners and beneficiaries for several generations.
Ismail, who is also a senior lecturer in real estate management at Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, said the redevelopment would also create new job opportunities in the areas of property management and maintenance.
"Property assets have to be managed and maintained professionally, otherwise their market value and rentals will slide down which will cause losses for the owners," he added. GENERATE INCOME FOR GOVERNMENT
Developments using the wakaf
approach will also benefit the government as it can collect land conversion fees, subdivision fees and other charges when the land development application is submitted to the relevant authorities.
Once the new buildings are completed, the government can collect quit rent twice a year, as well as the fees for business licences and others.
Ismail also pointed out that Kampung Baru's redevelopment plan need not have to be all about residential properties being replaced with skyscrapers.
He said the settlement's traditional houses that are still liveable can be allocated funds to enable their owners to restore them to their former glory.
He said many cities worldwide like London (United Kingdom) have successfully restored their historic buildings which remained unaffected by the overall development taking place there.
"This is not a very difficult thing to do and requires less capital too. Our restoration experts can retain the (original) identity of Kampung Baru as a centre of Malay culture, arts and heritage and let it be well-known all over the world, " he said, adding that it would also attract more tourists to the area.
Translated by Rema Nambiar