DBKL: Send in protest against redevelopment of iconic Vivekanada Ashram building

What the future holds: The signage by DBKL calling for written objections from residents on the redevelopment of the Vivekananda Ashram by Nov 11.

THE public is invited to give their views on the redevelopment of the century-old Vivekananda Ashram in Brickfields by Nov 11.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has put up a signboard in front of the iconic building, inviting the public to send in their objections to its Planning Department at Menara DBKL 1 in Jalan Raja Laut.

The notice from the Kuala Lumpur mayor also stated that DBKL had received an application from the developer, seeking its permission to change the land status from institutional to commercial, in order to build a block of 23-storey serviced apartment (264 units), an eight-storey carpark podium, and a one-storey basement carpark on Lot 33, Jalan Tun Sambanthan.

The Brickfields Community Society, a coalition of 40 non-governmental organisations including schools, temples, churches and business groups, plans to send in its objections on the proposed redevelopment project.

Brickfields RT chairman S.K.K. Naidu, who is a member of the society, said its members planned to organise a meeting in Brickfields tomorrow with stakeholders to discuss their next course of action.

He said the main agenda was to put forward a plan to save the Vivekananda Ashram from redevelopment.

“We will also form a committee to voice our objections in writing to DBKL before the deadline.

“The meeting will also touch on two other upcoming development projects in the township we will announce our plans after that,’’ he said, adding that the number of people against the proposed redevelopment of the 110-year-old ashram building was steadily growing.

Former Gerakan Youth Sports and Culture vice-president S. Paranjothy, also a resident in the area, had led a protest to stop the sale of the ashram land in 2004. He said, back then, the community had put a stop to the project and lobbied for the building to be gazetted as a heritage site.

“The Government made the attempt to do so and I have documents to show this. However, I am not sure what happened after that,’’ he said.

Paranjothy said if the trustees of the ashram were poor, than they should open up the committee to new members and let others manage the place.

“As far as I know, many are willing to help, but the trustees have never asked for help officially,’’ he said.

In a press statement, MIC Youth chief C. Sivarraajh said the trustees had a moral obligation to consult the Indian community before redeveloping the site.

“They must consult leaders of the Indian community, NGOs, temples and institutions such as Hindu Sangam and various political parties before making a decision.

“They cannot just sell off or redevelop the ashram which is the pride of the Indian community,” Sivarraajh said in the statement.

Last week, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib said it was up to the community to preserve the iconic building in Brickfields, saying that the people must send in their objections to DBKL.

StarMetro had reported on Oct 16 that the Vivekananda Trustees intended to redevelop the historical landmark as it had no funds to manage the building and four schools under its trust.

The trustees had previously tried to sell the land — the first time about 25 years ago and another 10 years ago for RM15mil.

The earlier project was aborted after public protests.

Netizens also took to The Star Online Facebook page to express their unhappiness over the project.

The page had over 500 shares and hundreds of comments from people nationwide protesting the move to build the tower over the historical landmark.

Following the exclusive report, a Facebook page called Save Vivekananda Ashramam Brickfields was set up on Oct 18 to protest the redevelopment plans.

As of 4pm yesterday, the page had gained 7,235 likes.

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