THE management of Kwong Tong Cemetery, one of the biggest Chinese cemeteries in Kuala Lumpur, has objected to the proposal to expand the boundary for the city’s central business district (CBD).
This is because the planned 862ha expansion, as stated in the draft Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan 2040 (KLSP 2040), would encroach on the 147ha cemetery land.
Public feedback on KLSP 2040 was closed on May 18 and Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) planning department is now evaluating the draft plan.
A DBKL spokesperson said the evaluation would be presented to the Federal Territories (FT) Ministry and was expected to be revealed by the end of the year.
Currently, the CBD boundary covers 1,814ha of land in Kuala Lumpur. In the draft KLSP 2040, the expansion of boundary would cover KL Sentral, Tun Razak Exchange and the Bandar Malaysia development site.
Various parties are now pushing DBKL to call for a meeting with the cemetery management committee to discuss the matter over fears that the cemetery could lose its heritage status.
Kwong Tong Cemetery, founded in 1893 in Bukit Petaling, was gazetted a national heritage zone in June last year.
The century-old cemetery is the final resting place of historical Chinese kapitans, including Yap Ah Loy and Yap Kwan Seng.
It also houses the Japanese War Memorial for those killed during the Japanese occupation.
There is a multi-storey columbaria to store funeral urns, a museum showcasing the history of different clans and artefacts that include a traditional hearse.
Cemetery management president Lee Chun Kong, who is also Federation of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Chinese Cemetery president, said the objection had been sent and a proposal to maintain the heritage status of the cemetery, among other ideas, would be submitted later.
Among the ideas, he said, was for a buffer zone to be created around the site’s perimeter to ensure that its characteristics and identity would not be negatively affected by surrounding developments.
“The cultural heritage site is put into jeopardy with the inclusion of the cemetery within the CBD boundary and we fear it would be turned into a commercial area.
“This is one of the green areas in Kuala Lumpur and should not be included as part of future development in the capital city, ” he said, adding that an earlier idea to develop the cemetery in 1996 was shelved in 2000.
Lee said about RM2mil was spent beautifying the place over the last 10 years, adding that the management was now drafting a five-year plan to make the place a Kuala Lumpur landmark.
“This includes cultural and heritage preservation efforts for the future generation, ” he added.
Federal Territory MCA liaison committee chairman Nicole Wong has brought the cemetery management’s concern to the attention of Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa.
“We suggest that the government engage with them in a meeting to find an amicable solution that benefits all.
“The plan was supposed to be tabled in May but it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ” she said, adding that she would follow-up on the issue.
Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai said he was waiting for a hearing to be held with relevant authorities and stakeholders.
“We have submitted a memorandum to DBKL and the FT Ministry to object to the expansion of the CBD boundary.
“Because of its historical importance, the cemetery should be preserved permanently, ” he said, adding that a nearby Hindu crematorium and Sikh cemetery were also under threat.
Urban land use and transportation planning specialist Goh Bok Yen said the draft KLSP 2040 was illogical because the cemetery land was a gazetted heritage site.
“The rationale behind drawing up the CBD boundary expansion is to target the area to be developed into commercial land.
“In the previous KLSP 2020, the cemetery was a heritage zone.
“If the draft KLSP 2040 is to be finalised and gazetted, it means the cemetery land use will be changed from heritage into businesses, which goes against KLSP 2020.
“If there is no intention to develop the place, the cemetery land should be carved out and not be included en bloc as part of the CDB area, ” Goh said, adding that the cemetery also had potential to be a Unesco heritage site.