KNOWLEDGE is power. But only if you know how to use it.
A fitting quote in view of how many objections have been raised in relation to various development plans in Kuala Lumpur, especially in the city centre.
As we see numerous projects rapidly take shape, the issue of demolishing places of heritage and nature has been cropping up just as fast.
Don’t get me wrong. Development is important for the growth of any country but it can become a hefty price to pay if there is no line drawn for how many trees one may cut down or the number of places of heritage that can be torn down.
However, if communities come together, pool their resources and stick to their guns, they can make a huge difference by determining the outcome of projects in the pipeline.
Let’s look back at a couple of cases where development projects were planned on green spaces or land where monumental buildings sat, and how the locals influenced decisions by banding together.
In June, the 64-year-old Taoist Hock Sui Tong temple in Kepong, which was to be demolished to make way for development, received a reprieve in a civil suit filed by the developer of the land it occupies.
In the application for vacant possession filed on Nov 7, 2016, the temple caretaker Ng Ah Sang, 42, and several others who occupied Lot 19126, 19127 and 19128 in Taman Kepong were named as defendants.
According to their lawyer P. Uthayakumar, the court held that the temple was not a “squatter simpliciter.”
Despite the win, the “defendants” wanted to settle the matter amicably and were willing to move out as long as the temple could be relocated to a legal site.
On Oct 1, 2015, The Star reported that a group of former estate workers had sought a court order to declare the demolition of the 130-year-old Kuil Sri Nagakanni Amman temple in Segambut by two developers was a criminal act.
On Sept 8 last year, a court order only allowed one developer to get vacant possession of the land and the former estate workers were required to vacate the land.
In the application for the court order, the former estate workers had asked that both developers rebuild the temple at its original site.
These are just two examples of people taking the time and effort to understand their rights and stand up for a cause they believe in.
Holding protests and going to the mass media only make up one part of the struggle. The real hurdle is going forth despite hitting a brick wall or two along the way.
One case comes to mind.
As a reporter, I once covered several protests by a group of residents who objected to a development project that was being planned on a vital green space near their houses.
When an objection letter to Kuala Lumpur City Hall failed to bring about a change in decision, the chairman of the residents association informed me that they would not pursue the matter further.
“We do not have the resources to go further although we did talk to a lawyer about it. We have tried going to court in the past over other matters but those went on anyway,” he said.
Later when Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) residents decided to go to court in their bid to protect Taman Rimba Kiara from development, many claimed that they were able to do so as they had the financial resources.
But after talking to the residents there, I realised that money without the knowledge and willpower to see a cause through was pointless.
When StarMetro reported on the TTDI residents going to court for a green space they loved fiercely, it seemed like many residents associations were inspired by their courage. I even received enquiries from some who wanted to get in touch with these TTDI residents.
It appears that small groups of people have lit a fire, inspiring many to fight for the things that matter.
Let’s hope this “fire” continues for their benefit and that of future generations.