Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Public awareness about the Atkinson Clock Tower issue is growing among KK city youth, says Heritage Sabah.


KOTA KINABALU (15th Dec 2010): Heritage Sabah, one of several groups opposing a massive 16-storey commercial development proposed to be built just metres away from the historical Atkinson Clock Tower - KK city’s oldest standing landmark – today said society in general underestimates growing awareness among the youth in the city for heritage.

Heritage Sabah volunteers explaining the significance of the historic Atkinson Clock Tower, KK city's oldest landmark

A 10-minute public awareness talk by the group about the historical value of the Atkinson Clock Tower built in 1905, was a feature event during the 2-day Hobbycon 2010 convention held in Citymall Shopping Complex, attended by more than 1,000 people.

- a cosplay enthusiast at Hobbycon 2010 holds up a leaflet of the Save Our Heritage campaign for Atkinson Clock Tower

More than 500 members of the public at the event signed the group’s petition urging the state government to scrap the controversial project, which has caused a public outcry as the commercial project consisting of a shopping mall, offices and hotel threatens to destroy the heritage value of the 105-year-old landmark of KK city.

KK youth crowd lining up to sign the petition

“Majority of the signatories supporting the SAVE OUR HERITAGE campaign during the signature drive on 11-12 December were Sabahan youths between ages of 18-28. What surprised us was that some youths had been walking up to us asking, ‘where do we sign (the petition) even before we went on stage for our presentation’”, said Heritage Sabah group spokesperson Richard Nelson Sokial.

“As it turns out, many of them have been keeping themselves updated with the ongoing development of the Atkinson Clock Tower issue on Facebook.

“This is a pleasantly surprising and encouraging turn of events, not just for the SAVE OUR HERITAGE campaign but also because it gives us hope that the next generation of Sabahans – who are our state’s future leaders and stakeholders – are able to think for themselves and appreciate the importance of preserving our historical landmarks.”

Members of the public signing the Save Our Heritage petition at Hobbycon 2010

The project known as ‘Atkinson Tower’, a joint venture between developer Benteng Pulangan Sdn. Bhd. and Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (SHTDA) struck a raw nerve with concerned members of the public when the project’s dubious approval was exposed via social network Facebook.

The issue has even led to SHTDA Chairman Datuk Rubin Balang calling for the resignation of Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun who questioned the project’s prior approval. Subsequently, the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was rejected.

The developer’s proposal has since been sent back to the Central Board for reassessment. But while Central Board has kept mum on whether to approve or scrap the project, it is widely speculated that the controversial project will proceed as planned.

Responding to this, Sokial said “Many citizens of KK city have voiced their objection to this proposed commercial project next to our historical city landmark, knowing that it will destroy its heritage significance”, says Sokial. “We are also aware that Sabah Museum is opposed to this project. Local NGOs and professional bodies such PAM Sabah Chapter has officially voiced their disagreeance with this project as well, citing several negative urban impacts to the city of Kota Kinabalu.

“Now, even youths of KK are voicing out their opinion against the project. But our past track record in Sabah has shown us that, commercial projects like these tend to get approved despite the public’s objection.

“Thus, in my personal opinion, the general public is cynical about the transparency of the evaluation process for this 16-storey shopping mall. We cannot blame the Rakyat. It is really up to the government to regain the people’s trust and confidence by listening to the Rakyat’s concerns.”

“Unchecked commercial development should not be made at the expense of our city’s historical legacy and our society’s social integrity. The Atkinson Clock Tower area should be developed as a public recreation park, not another shopping mall. This is the right thing to do. We owe it to the next generation of Sabahans. We urge the Central Board to make the right decision”, he added.


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