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.


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