This is the question that will be answered when a group of residents from Bangsar meet representatives from Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the Federal Territories Lands and Mines Office today to discuss a controversial commercial development on a plot of land in Bangsar which was meant to be a public open space.
To be chaired by City Hall, the meeting is expected to see representatives from several neighbourhoods in Bangsar seeking answers on how land meant to be an open space was converted into a commercial area and how City Hall issued a development order for the construction of a four-storey commercial building.
The 9am meeting today comes following mounting dissatisfaction from residents, some dating back to 40 years ago, when the 0.2 hectare land was first surrendered to City Hall by the original land owner, Eng Lian Enterprise Sdn Bhd to be turned into an open space.
While fingers were previously pointed at the previous Barisan Nasional government, residents had vented their frustration with Twentytwo13 last month over the inaction of the Pakatan Harapan government to undo the wrong, despite previous promises.
The change in land status of the land is part of the 273 infringements recorded in the now gazetted Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020.
Issues that are expected to be raised during the meeting today include:
- Why did City Hall issue a development order for the project, knowing the department and the Federal Territories Ministry had since 2008 been trying to return the land to the people after it was ‘blatantly robbed’ from the public due to their own inefficiency.
- Why was the land status changed from open space to commercial when it was marked as an open space in the Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020?
- Is it true the planning permission was granted to the developer on the same day the Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020 was gazetted (Oct 30, 2018) by the Pakatan Harapan government?
While Eng Lian had surrendered the land to City Hall in 1977, the land office had previously gone on record to say it did not mark it as an open space as there was no request to do so from City Hall, allowing present land owner Melor Travels Sdn Bhd to obtain a 99-year lease over the land.
Melor Travels, had in 1999, paid a RM2 million premium to obtain the lease.
As such, City Hall may claim it acted according to law by issuing the relevant development permission as Melor Travels is the rightful owner of the land, based on records from the land office.
Affected residents, however, said a public hearing session was never held when the authorities decided to allow a change of land status.
“We learnt about this development in late 2017, and the authorities never called for a public hearing when the land status was changed from open space to commercial,” said a long-time Bangsar resident who requested anonymity.
“Despite the authorities now claiming such hearings are no longer mandatory since the city plan had been gazetted, what transpired here is just wrong.
“It is blatant. The land was robbed. The authorities cannot claim otherwise.”
Will the authorities get away once again by telling residents their hands are tied as the lease obtained by the present land owners will only expire in 2098 and that the project had been approved by the previous government?
Or will they do the right thing by undoing the wrong created by them?
Hopefully, the voices of the people will finally matter.