Full of history: Iconic landmarks such as Dataran Merdeka, the Royal Selang or Club, Panggung Bandaraya, Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad each has its own unique story.
THE word ‘city’ has its origins in the Latin word ‘civis’, which means citizen, and Badan Warisan Malaysia executive director Elizabeth Cardosa said these people and their stories help make a city rich.
“We do not know what we may be losing in the face of development. The character of places rich in history is being changed and the past lost until what we have is akin to an incomplete jigsaw puzzle,” she said.
Cardosa emphasised the need for a cultural map for Kuala Lumpur — a collection of information that will help us understand the history and value of a place.
“Such a map may have influenced today’s decision-making differently. Similarly, when we do not know what makes a place unique through its meaning and history, our level of appreciation is not as profound as it could be and there is no sense of belonging,” she said.
She cited the Kampung Baru redevelopment plans as an example where it may be at risk of losing its distinctive character.
“Looking at the plans that are on display for the public right now, I wonder if this place that has a unique history will look like just about anywhere else in future?
“What will differentiate it from, let us say, Putrajaya?” she asked.
Malaysian Institute of Planners president Md Nazri Mohd Noordin, who grew up in Kampung Baru, said the area was already losing its character.
“There are many foreigners living there now and most people are just too busy trying to make ends meet that they have no time for anything else. Gone are the days when the community spirit of togetherness was there,” he said.
He also said that the KL Draft Structure Plan 2020 needed to be gazetted as soon as possible.
“It is more than a plan, it is an establishment of trust between the public and the authorities. Everyone needs a guide and transparency must go hand-in-hand with it.
“Plans can be changed when it no longer works as time goes by. Nobody can predict the future. For instance, who could have imagined an icon like the Petronas Twin Towers when the area was still a race track?”
Md Nazri added that old values still had a place in the modern world but people needed to change their mindsets and find ways to integrate it back into their lives.
Cardosa said culture was not a fad but about values.
“We have to remember and learn from our past, be it be negative or positive events. Saving our heritage and culture is not something to be displayed as a tourist attraction but is something for ourselves to appreciate,” she added.