PETALING JAYA: Stakeholders in Kuala Lumpur have urged the government to intervene in the land lease issue involving Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) and the Federal Territories Land and Mines Office (PPTGWP).
The lease, which is due to expire on Sept 6, is currently under judicial review following the school's application to seek a stay against PPTGWP's refusal to renew it.
Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun said the decision by the land office, if continued, would result in the loss of historical and heritage buildings in the country.
Repossession of the land by PPTGWP, he added, would create a serious problem due to the high number of students in KL with many schools already filled to their maximum quota.
"If CBN has to be closed down, it will surely affect many students.
"I hope the Federal Government can take immediate action to extend the lease to ensure all students have an opportunity to learn," he said when contacted on Tuesday (April 20).
Former principal Vimala Mathews, who ran the school from 1994 to 1999 before retiring, said it was unthinkable if CBN had to be closed down.
"I cannot believe that the government is refusing to renew the lease for a school that is over 120 years old.
"Thousands of girls have received their education here and have become successful. This is a school of tradition which has served the nation for many years," she said.
Local government and town planning expert Derek Fernandez echoed the call for the government to renew the lease, adding that CBN should be listed as national heritage under the National Heritage Act 2005.
He said the school was considered a public facility and fell under a heritage zone in the Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020 and Federal Territories Planning Act 1982.
"The protection of schools and public facilities in the city is crucial to justify the high ratio of development to ensure a sustainable development.
"Unfortunately, many schools in the city often become a target of 'predatory vultures', which see these schools as a source of cheap land for high-intensity developments.
"This leads to many such plots being developed without proper supporting educational infrastructures in the surroundings," he said.
CBN alumni - Sandra Jean Corray, Kristina Rai Scott, Datin Dr Sakina Ali and Dina Zaman - said they owe their career and personal success to the school.
In a statement, they said CBN, like all the mission schools in Malaysia, promoted discipline, tenacity and resilience, and even more importantly, multiculturalism.
They said now is the time to ensure CBN is made a heritage school and national treasure.
St John's Alumni Association Kuala Lumpur on its Facebook page called on its alumni to sign an online petition to save CBN.
"CBN has done its fair share in providing quality education for all and is a nation-building icon.
"It would be a great loss should it close its gates permanently and deprive future students from realising their potential as their predecessors have over a century," it said.
The petition has garnered more than 19,000 signatures as of noon on April 20.
Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said CBN was an iconic school, which had produced many alumni from all racial and religious backgrounds who had contributed to the country.
"Schools such as CBN strengthen the spirit of racial diversity that exists in our education system.
"To allow CBN to go, it sends the message that the government does not value education, especially women's education," he said in a statement on his Facebook page on April 20.