Comment: Charmed by Fraser’s Hill? Let’s save it!

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  • Sunday, 09 Aug 2020

Natural wonder: The fresh air, cool climate, untouched nature and colourful wildlife are some of the attractions that Fraser’s Hill has to offer. — Photos: NIK JASSMIN HEW & SEAN YAP

FRASER’s Hill has many lovers and we residents don’t mind sharing it. From the time the Bishop of Singapore, the Right Reverend CJ Ferguson-Davie, and the Chaplain of Selangor, Reverend AB Champion, went on that little excursion up the hill on the bridle path to see what was up here in 1917 – or perhaps even more than a decade before that, when the mysterious Louis (Lewis) Fraser was said to have chosen the hill to explore mining – the hill has had a way of charming one’s heart and senses. If one opens one’s heart and senses.

For someone like me who spent my entire childhood on this special hill, it is where my heart belongs. In recent years I find myself running to it every now and then and am slowly re-growing roots there.

There are lovers of the hill who are locals and there are those who are visitors. For visitors, what brings them back over and over again is definitely its charm. The tranquility, fresh air, cool climate, untouched nature, beautiful gardens, birds, and friends they have made on the hill make up some of the charm the hill has to offer.

Fraser’s Hill is no doubt the best place to access untouched rainforest and it is no secret that it is an internationally-acclaimed bird sanctuary.

I have met visitors on the hill who have been returning here over and over again since the 1970s, so when the old Maybank Lodge was completely demolished two weeks ago, along with the long-time derelict Jelai Resort, to make way for a resort and spa in a block that’s almost three times taller than anything the hill has ever seen, it was not just loving locals who felt it but also thousands of its lovers from all over the world.

Over 10 years ago, while living in Britain and when Facebook was first introduced, I took the chance to reconnect with old friends and started a group I named “We Are Special, We Grew Up In Fraser’s Hill”. It was really exciting to see who’d click the bait and as I vetted and approved members, all the memories rushed back.

It was amazing to reconnect with people you grew up with and the group was special as it gathered people who have known each other since birth, including childhood sweethearts! It was funny and exciting when I reconnected with my childhood crush – there we were 20 years after we lost touch with each other, confessing and telling stories of our puppy love.

Over time our friendship grew. Not because of our love for each other, but because of the love we share for Fraser’s Hill. I have never had the chance to share this deep love I have for the hill ever, and to have my good friend sharing his feelings about it too is special. If there was anyone else who loved this hill more than me, I believe it was him, and probably Sir George Maxwell (Chief Secretary of the Federated Malay States, 1921-1926).

When I was growing up, the hill was very well maintained and protected, even in its development. The entire hill was a garden full of beautiful flowers and it had many suitable activities on offer, the bungalows and private gardens then were accessible to everyone to enjoy, a kind of “walkers rights” like you have in England. The hill truly lived up to its name “Little England”.

All of this was under the care and supervision of a very special man who the people of Fraser’s Hill still speak highly of to this very day: Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamarudin. He is my idol. I even had a secret dream to be the general manager of Fraser’s Hill, just like him! It’s really not the post that I am after, but the ability to maintain and care for the hill.

In a way my dream has come true. Three years ago, my childhood crush and I formed FH Events with the intention of putting our love for Fraser’s Hill and its people into action, to make the hills “come alive” again. Through it, we have organised all kinds of activities for the local children; we have conducted story nights called “Mari Bercerita di Bukit Fraser” that had even seen National Laureate Datuk A. Samad Said making an appearance once. Now, we are offering various programmes for visiting children and running the Fraser’s Hill Story Walk, to share with others our love for the hill.

Sometime last year, after having to apply for a signboard for Fraser’s Hill at Sungai Chiling on behalf of local businesses, we decided that it would be easier if we set up a society, not only to assist the local community in such things but also to facilitate our aim to promote and preserve the nature and heritage of Fraser’s Hill. We asked others who love the hill to join us to form Persatuan Alam dan Warisan Bukit Fraser (PAWBF). The criteria for membership is very strict: We agreed that we will only accept those who truly love the hill and its people.

Then two weeks ago, our hearts were broken by the demolition of the colonial bungalow. And when we saw the design of the 15-storey building that is to be built on the site of where the old lodge used to be, we knew we couldn’t let it happen. There are too many concerns surrounding it – aside from looking out of place – and too many environmental impacts to consider. For one, what will become of the birds and insects, as well as the other wildlife?

A 15-storey tower will cause light pollution that will affect stargazing opportunities on the hill.  will be lost with light pollution from the new 15 storey tower.A 15-storey tower will cause light pollution that will affect stargazing opportunities on the hill. will be lost with light pollution from the new 15 storey tower.

We kept quiet when other developments had impacted the environment here. The Jeriau Waterfall which was synonymous with Fraser’s Hill back then is now no longer the pride and joy of the hill because of an abandoned golf course development.

Prior to the Maybank Lodge destruction, two other bungalows also made way for development. One was Mentakab Bungalow that made way for Silver Park Resort and the other was Bishop House. This was the very house of the Bishop of Singapore who proposed that Fraser’s Hill would make a good hill station.

So now, we hope everyone who loves Frasers Hill will support our cause to save the hill from further destruction.

PAWBF has started a petition online to call for a review of the Fraser’s Hill Resort & Spa Plan. We will not give up on having the entire hill listed as a part of national heritage. We hope everyone who reads this can sign the petition to protect our natural legacy.

Nik Jassmin Hew is the chairman of Persatuan Alam dan Warisan Bukit Fraser. The views expressed here are solely her own.

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