Longhouse settlers in limbo amid fight over Taman Rimba Kiara redevelopment

Ragananthini Vethasalam

Bukit Kiara longhouse residents are still waiting to move to new affordable homes promised to them years ago. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, March 31, 2019.

SETTLERS at the Bukit Kiara longhouse continue to live in shabby, pest-infested homes while their hopes for permanent housing are in limbo as Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) residents argue with the authorities over the redevelopment of Taman Rimba Kiara.

The redevelopment would mean new and free affordable housing units promised to them in eight blocks of luxury serviced apartments under a joint venture between Malton Bhd and Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan.

Longhouse residents met during a recent visit said their wooden homes were infested by pests, including snakes, and had unstable and leaky roofs.

A longhouse resident who wanted to be known as Saras said they had been promised new affordable homes four years ago, after years of living in the wooden longhouse that they were relocated to in 1982 from the Bukit Kiara estate to make way for TTDI’s development.

Each household in the longhouse pays RM45 in rent per unit.

“This (affordable homes) is what we have been fighting for all along,” Saras said.

Her relative Susila said the issue had dragged on long enough without a solution. In the meantime, some residents had died and others had their children married off.

“How long are we supposed to continue living in deplorable conditions? Decades have passed and our children are even married. There were people who dreamt of having an apartment unit but they died without their wish being fulfilled.”

The longhouse, where nearly 100 families of former Indian estate workers live, is adjacent to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in TTDI and opposite the Taman Rimba Eco Park.

Taman Rimba Kiara is one of the least green lungs in Kuala Lumpur. The 4.6ha park is the habitat for various flora and fauna. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, March 31, 2019.

The park was re-zoned for development by the former administration and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall but TTDI residents are fighting the project as it would cause congestion to the suburban residential area.

They also allege that the project was approved by the former Barisan Nasional Federal Territories minister with conflict of interest and corruption involved.

Under a scaled-down version of the project, parts of the Taman Rimba park would be lost, leaving 6.9ha or 17 acres of the existing park intact, a compromise which was negotiated by current Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad. 

The longhouse residents say it is acceptable but TTDI residents are still against it.

The longhouse families had entered into a Master Resettlement Agreement with Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan in 2015 which stipulated that affordable housing would be built for the first generation of settlers, while the second generation could purchase similar units at a discounted rate.

Another resident who works as an Alam Damai contractor said opposition from the TTDI residents who wanted the land to remain as a green lung is straining the situation further.

“They just want a place to jog. They already have a place to do their recreation – why bother us.They are torturing us.

“They feel that this new development will cramp up the place and they will have less place to exercise or carry out their activities.”

A longhouse settler says TTDI residents who want the land to remain as a green lung is straining the redevelopment issue further. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, March 31, 2019.

He agreed with the views of Bukit Kiara Public Housing Residents Association chairman V. Sunderam, who two days ago had issued a statement taking on the “powerful and elite” residents of the affluent TTDI suburb for preventing the settlers from getting new homes.

But another group representing the longhouse residents, Bukit Kiara Rumah Panjang Residents’ Association, disputed Sunderam’s allegations, saying that he does not represent the entire longhouse community.

The secretary of the second group, Sivakumar Muniandy, said in a statement yesterday that Sunderam does not speak for the entire longhouse community, and his (Sunderam’s) association excludes many of the recognised residents of the longhouse.

“For your information, there are two registered residents’ associations within Bukit Kiara Rumah Panjang. Our association, Persatuan Penduduk Rumah Panjang Bukit Kiara, is registered under the Registrar of Societies since 2009.

“We ask that Sunderam stop trying to act as if he speaks for all the Rumah Panjang residents. He does not,” Sivakumar had said yesterday.

Meanwhile, a resident of the longhouse told The Malaysian Insight they have waited for years but have yet to see any results nor have they received any letters on the issue.

“A lot of parties are giving us problems, not just one. Build us a house and we will be happy there and will not disrupt anything,” said the woman who works as a cleaner and has lived at the longhouse since its beginning. She did not want to be named.

“This has been going on since 2015. It is tough. It’s already 2019 soon it’s going to be 2020. We had hoped we can settle in by 2020 but looks like it is not going to happen.”

She added that the settlers had been promised new homes since the time of former MIC president and works minister S. Samy Vellu, but have yet to see anything concrete. 

The longhouse residents feel let down by Segambut MP Hannah yeoh as they have yet to see any concrete moves from her part. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, March 31, 2019.

They also felt let down as they have yet to see any concrete moves from Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh, despite having met her.

As for Khalid, the federal territories minister told the residents during a visit last year that he was still new and will have to look into the matter to provide them with the “best solution”.

Khalid in recent days had come under fire for stating that Kuala Lumpur City Hall would have to fork out RM150 million if the project at Taman Rimba Kiara was not allowed to continue.

The minister had defended himself, saying it was “easy for laymen to talk” without bearing the consequences of contractual agreements.

Hannah Yeoh, meanwhile, refused to take questions when met at the Segambut Family Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

However, she said she will issue a statement on the matter soon. – March 31, 2019.

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