Friday, November 26, 2010

Heritage Sabah urges Rubin Balang to quit, thanks Masidi for defending historical site.


KOTA KINABALU (26th Nov 2010): The Heritage Sabah group is urging Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (SHTDA) chairman Datuk Rubin Balang to step down for failing to uphold his appointed responsibilities as a government servant.

The group has also expressed its disappointment with Balang over his recent comments regarding the site of the 105-year-old Atkinson Clock Tower.

Heritage Sabah spokesperson Richard Nelson Sokial said based on the SHTDA’s profile in its website, the Authority’s main role is to improve living conditions of Sabahans in rural and suburbs by constructing low-cost homes.

“What does building a luxurious 16-storey shopping mall-cum-hotel in the middle of the city – on top of a historical site, no less – have anything to do with SHTDA’s portfolio?”

“Datuk Rubin Balang has continually and deliberately looked for reasons to diminish the historical value of the Clock Tower site in order to justify this project. It goes to show that some people will say anything to justify building the 16-storey shopping mall.

“We are extremely shocked and disappointed. Over the years, land owner SHTDA has not even provided dustbins or proper lighting at the Atkinson Clock Tower site as a show of goodwill for visitors coming to see this landmark.

“Now suddenly Datuk Rubin claims that the only way to enhance the place is by building a big commercial building next to the clock tower. There’s no correlative logic in such statements. What is his true agenda?”

The group said Balang’s actions do not seem to reflect his duties as a government servant, but that of aspirations of a private developer.

“Our group feels he should resign because as a government servant he seems to have deviated from his appointed role as SHTDA chairman to facilitate the development of new townships in Sabah outside of the capital city of Kota Kinabalu.

Sokial also took Balang to task for going on the record to say that the clock tower and its site which even survived World War Two had no historical value.

“His latest comments are not only a direct insult to the efforts of the Sabah Museum, historians, heritage advocators and our local tourism industry but also the people of Sabah who have long regarded the Atkinson Clock Tower as one of the few British colonial historical sites left,” he said.

The site on which the clock tower was erected was the focal point of the local community since the establishment of the colonial township called Jesselton in 1899 and its development into modern-day Kota Kinabalu city.

It was a shipping beacon for decades until land reclamation made it less prominent. This makes the site historical because the clock tower and its exact location contributed towards the betterment of the town and its prosperity.

“The Atkinson Clock Tower is the only point of origin from where the citizens of the city can still trace our early history since 1905.”

“Why is Rubin Balang so keen in developing this 16-storey commercial shopping mall project which will block the view of the Atkinson Clock Tower?

“Is he a personal beneficiary if this shopping mall project is approved? Why is SHTDA now building shopping malls in a city already overridden with shopping malls, when it should be concentrating on low-cost housing in new towns?

“The citizens of KK city deserve better than this. We do not want to live in the shadow of yet another overpowering commercial building that not only threatens our historical legacy but reminds us that there is no hope for a better Sabah because those entrusted to serve the people are putting their personal agendas ahead of the Rakyat’s needs.”

The group, meanwhile, supports Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun’s statement to defend the historical value of the clock tower site.

“We thank Datuk Masidi for his concern and sensitivity towards our public campaign in our efforts to save our city heritage landmark and its surrounding historical site,” Sokial said.

Public support for the Heritage Sabah group opposing the project continues to grow with more than 2,000 online signatories and hundreds of written petitions from people from all walks of life, stating their objection over the controversial project.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lost in translation: It’s SHTDA, not Central Board says Heritage Sabah group

Press Release

Heritage Sabah group has identified and apologized for an oversight in its press release yesterday that suggests the Central Board was responsible for the upkeep of the clock tower area.

“Wordings in our published press release yesterday had unintentionally suggested that the Central Board was responsible for the upkeep of the land around the clock tower and that the Board had RM50 million in its coffers. It is actually SHTDA (Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority) or more popularly known by its BM name LPPB (Lembaga Perancangan Pembangunan Bandar) who is the actual land owner and possessing this substantial amount of money, and not the Central Board that is currently reassessing the 16-storey shopping mall proposal’, says group spokesperson Richard Nelson Sokial.

“However, we stand by our statement urging the state government to scrap the 16-storey commercial development next to the historic clock tower,” he said.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Heritage Sabah Repeats Call to Stop Project at Clock Tower Site


KOTA KINABALU (14th Nov 2010): The Sabah State Government must scrap plans to build a 16-storey hotel cum shopping mall at Signal Hill, metres away from the 105-year old Atkinson Clock Tower.

Heritage Sabah, a group that is speaking up against the project, said it was still waiting for a decision to be made in response to the proposed development.

“The recent Batu Sapi by-election may have been the focus of the general public but it has not swayed our attention from this issue that threatens the future heritage of our city and consequently the state of Sabah”, said the group’s spokeperson Richard Nelson Sokial.

“We are awaiting the decision of the Central Town and Planning Board in response to this issue. A majority of Sabahans and Kota Kinabalu city folk are strongly opposed to the project.

“A better option is to preserve the pristine surroundings of the heritage site as a public park for the city,” Sokial said in a statement.

An online petition opposing the controversial project has garnered over 2,000 signatures since news broke about the development.

Sokial said a majority of petition signers argued that there is no need for yet another commercial shopping mall as there is an excess of empty shoplots in existing commercial areas in the city.

Some commented that the proposed commercial building threatens to block views of the historic clock tower and diminish its heritage value.

Heritage Sabah said though the controversial issue has made headlines, there has been little effort on the part of City Hall to clean-up and beautify the existing hillside.

“Our city’s Atkinson Clock Tower was voted 5th of 94 tower sites in Asia by Lonely Planet, the world’s best travel guide. It has been internationally recognized as a tourist attraction of our city.

“But it is extremely disappointing that since the issue was raised, neither City Hall nor the Central Board has offered to put up proper garbage bins for locals and visitors to the clock tower, which is Kota Kinabalu city’s most enduring landmark and a tourist attraction in the city.

“And yet, the reason given by some parties eager to develop this hillside is based on excuses that the place is dirty and ill-maintained,” he said.

He added that the Board has boasted it has at least RM50 million ringgit in its coffers and that it should out of goodwill buy some dustbins.

“As proud citizens of the city, we are confident that locals and visitors passing regularly through the site will gladly help to ensure the cleanliness of the place by disposing garbage properly if dustbins are made available on the hillside,” added Sokial. 

A surviving relic of WWII, the Atkinson Clock Tower built in 1905 has seen the rise of Sabah’s capital from a sleepy township called Jesselton into a modern city.

“Decentralization would be the best option for the Board and its developer partner. Propose a land swap and build the commercial shopping mall elsewhere outside the city limits in a non-heritage area. It will be in line with the Board’s actual role and responsibilities to develop new townships outside of Kota Kinabalu,” he said.