Sunday, December 25, 2011

Heritage Sabah Submission to the Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan 2020

Submission by Heritage Sabah to the Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan 2020
13 December 2011


• This submission is made by the Heritage Sabah Community Group in response to the contents of the Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan 2020.


Who is making this submission?

• Heritage Sabah is a community group dedicated to advocating the architectural conservation of historical sites and buildings in Sabah. The organisation aims to educate and bring awareness to Sabahan of all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds about the importance of preserving built heritage in defining and consolidating the identity of Sabah.


The Heritage Sabah Community Group welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan 2020 as part of its public consultation process. We fully support and commend Kota Kinabalu City Hall’s initiative to provide a platform for the general public to be more vocal of their needs and concerns about the future of Kota Kinabalu City development.

As a heritage organisation, we enthusiastically support the introduction of policies which relate to the protection of heritage, particularly Policy UD1, TOUR 1.1 and TOUR 2 of the Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan (KKLP) 2020. The adoption of such policies is an important and positive step towards elevating the profile of heritage preservation as an urban theme that should not be neglected.

However, we feel that the subject of built heritage preservation is not adequately addressed in the Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan 2020 and that the actions and strategies proposed to carry the above policies through leave much to be desired.

We raise the following matters for Kota Kinabalu City Hall’s (KKCH) consideration:

1 Lack of consolidated policies for Heritage Preservation

It is set out in the Kota Kinabalu Structure Plan 2030 for Kota Kinabalu to be “a city which is built on its cultural and historical assets whether they are natural or manmade. A city which uses every occasion to make that connection between its peoples, natural and historical assets and where its cultural and historical heritage is expressed through its buildings, landscaping, signage and in the way it celebrates events.”

Given this vision, it is clear that there should be significant priority given to conserving and restoring both natural AND manmade heritage. However, the way in which this broad vision is addressed through supporting policies at the local level does not seem to reflect such a priority. We feel that although heritage preservation policies have been addressed among the Urban Design, Tourism, and Open Space and Recreation sections, there is lack of direction and an overall consolidation for the different aspects within the broad theme of heritage.

2 Heritage Preservation - Where to from here?

Moving forward from the overall broad objective of heritage preservation in the Kota Kinabalu Structure Plan 2030, we feel that there is a need for KKCH to inform the next steps to effectively enforce the stipulated policies within the Draft KKLP 2020. A detailed set of guidelines will avoid potential difficulties in achieving the full realisation of policy objectives.

3 Heritage Precincts

In reference to policy UDS1 and TOUR1.1, we strongly believe that the area covering Atkinson Clock tower, Padang Merdeka, Australia Place and the Sabah Tourism Board Building has great potential to become a heritage precinct for KK city, designed with a heritage walk that reflects the historical development of the city from Settlement to Present. We believe that a master plan should be put in place for the restoration and beautification of this precinct as well as all other sites of cultural and historical significance. This will create awareness and educate present and future generations of the essence of Kota Kinabalu City’s identity as well as return vibrant activity to the area.

It is important to add that Heritage Sabah does understand the fact that there may not be many heritage sites to be protected or restored within the Kota Kinabalu district to require a scope of work of such scale. However, we feel that such circumstances substantially justify that there should not be any excuse that potential heritage sites and precincts cannot be identified or at least more significantly indicated/highlighted in the Draft KKLP 2020. This will ensure a more beneficial and desirable outcome towards functional and sensitive designs for heritage sites.

4 Enforcement Measures

For any proposed (re)development of historically significant precincts and sites, we strongly believe that a heritage assessment and consultation should be a mandatory procedure when preparing Development Proposal Reports (See Part VIII: Development of Land, Memorandum, Draft KKLP 2020). However, in the proposed Draft KKLP 2020 Memorandum, there seems to be no specific mention for such procedures.

5 Other Aspects of Heritage Preservation to be considered

Apart from the preservation of historically significant built structures as heritage, we would also like to add that the preservation of Natural Heritage and Social/Cultural Heritage (as stated in i & ii below) are also vital to the preservation of the overall historical, ecological, and cultural significance of Kota Kinabalu.

i. Natural Heritage: Existing Mangrove or Swamps and Lagoons to be preserved and its ecological value enhanced. To conserve the existing flora and fauna apparent on-site.

ii. Cultural Heritage: Historical Settlement Patterns such as the water villages to be thoughtfully considered and integrated into the design of any redevelopment schemes proposed for places of such settlements (e.g. existing water villages). Redevelopment schemes consistent to the setting, character and context of the site will “respect and contribute positively to the character of natural landscapes” (Part E-2, Draft K.K.L.P. 2020). For example, a potential redevelopment effort of the Sembulan Water Village that takes into account the former character of settlement across water informs a distinctive design where the natural features of the site are integral to the redevelopment and gentrification of its place.

Although these areas of interests are not a primary focus of the Heritage Sabah Community Group advocacy activities, we nevertheless recognize the importance of these areas in relation to their important contribution towards the betterment of Kota Kinabalu city.

Heritage Sabah will be happy to work with KKCH and provide input in the development of any detailed guidelines or recommendations highlighted in this submission. We hope this is a good start for further discussions with the local authority to refine ideas and provisions in the Draft KKLP 2020.






A city which is built on its cultural and historical assets whether they are natural or man-made. A city which uses every occasion to make that connection between its peoples, natural and historical assets and where its cultural and historical heritage is expressed through its buildings, landscaping, signage and in the way it celebrates events.


8.3 TOURISM- Policies and strategies

Identify and fund the restoration of buildings and property that have historical heritage value to Kota Kinabalu City


Map 10.1

“The city’s many natural and man-made attractions will also be promoted”
“KKCH will aim to conserve and restore the few buildings and areas that survived the Allied bombings of the city at the end of the Second World War.”



The key areas which are strategic to Urban Design in KK City are:
-Landmark buildings


POLICY UD1- KKCH to identify key structural assets of the city and articulate the ‘vision’ for their preservation and enhancement.

Actions & strategies:

UD1.1 KKCH will work in consultation with Muzium Department, PAM Sabah Chapter and relevant NGO’s to identify buildings, structures and places to be conserved.


KKCH will:

-Fund the restoration of buildings and properties having historical heritage value


POLICY TOUR1.1-KKCH shall concentrate efforts on:

-Identifying one or more heritage trails in Kota Kinabalu CBD
-Creating an urban trail such as a cultural/historic route

-‘Interpreting’ places where visitors stop and congregate such as parks, streets, civic places, significant heritage sites, rest stops, roadhouses, key vistas and lookouts.


POLICY TOUR2 – Identify and fund the restoration of buildings and property that have historical heritage value to Kota Kinabalu City

Actions & strategies:

TOUR2.1 KKCH shall:

· Identify, retain and preserve materials and features of significant buildings.

· Consider funding the replacement of extensively deteriorated features of significant buildings that are valuable

· Re-create missing features on significant buildings where practical

· Energy efficiency/ accessibility considerations/ health and safety code considerations


“Conservation” means an area set apart for the purpose of the conservation or preservation of natural and/or cultural values.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Heritage Sabah group meet DBKK, submit objection form for local planning

PRESS RELEASE: 24-12-2011

Kota Kinabalu (24 December 2011) – Representatives of Heritage Sabah, a group of concerned public citizens who are opposing an unpopular commercial project next to the historical Atkinson Clock Tower have submitted their objections of the DBKK Local Draft Plan 2020 during the Public Consultation period that supposed to ends on 26th December 2011 but was extended to 26th January 2012

The group also attended DBKK Meet the Client Session on 21st December 2011 and was represented by activist Jefferi Chang. Among the questions asked by Heritage Sabah via Chang to the KK Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir was whether DBKK would outright reject the 16-storey project next to the city’s oldest historical monument.

KK City Mayor replied that “He would write to seek further details from state town planning as to what the status is concerning the 16 storey project.

However, his reply was received with mixed reviews by the group.

“By seeking further details from the state town planning authorities it shows that DBKK is relying on the State Town and Regional Planning Department for advice when in fact they have their own Town Planning Department and a City Planning Committee that approved the plan”, commented local heritage advocate Richard Nelson Sokial, spokesperson for the group.

“From what we understand, the only body other than City Hall itself that can be asked for advice should be the Central Town and County Planning Board”.

He added that “Heritage Sabah has taken note that our new city Mayor has inherited important issues that need to be decided for the good of KK city and its citizens. We hope he will make the right decision for the Atkinson Clock Tower and not be pressured to be a rubber stamp for people in high places”.

“If you want the people of Sabah to love Kota Kinabalu, please protect our city history”.

The group also questioned the wisdom of the zoning of the Atkinson Clock Tower and its surrounding area – Town Padang, Australia Place, KK Community Hall and Gaya Street under ‘Commercial Zone’ and during the recent Sabah State Planning Standards Workshop held on last week, Heritage Sabah reps suggested for special controls to be implemented for all known historical sites and buildings so that their integrity and intrinsic value would not be compromised by uncontrolled commercial developments.

“It would be wiser to consider rezoning this stretch of area as a “historical preservation district”. Having a Historical Preservation District would add more variety and interest to our city, which will be 113 years old in 2012”, Sokial said.

“There needs to be a conscious effort made by the local authorities to preserve Kota Kinabalu’s city history. A city that neglects its historical sites and buildings loses a lot of its attractions”, he said regarding Sabah’s state capital that was established as Jesselton township in 1899.


Thursday, December 15, 2011



KOTA KINABALU, Thursday, 15th December 2011- Members of Heritage Sabah welcomed the Director Sabah Town and Regional Planning Department Encik Mursidi Sapie’s statement that the Central Board had rejected the project near Atkinson Clock Tower. However, the group is just as concerned now as it has always been regarding plans for future development on lands adjoining and near the Atkinson Clock Tower and Padang Merdeka.

They referred in particular to Mursidi’s comment that the developers can appeal upon fulfilling the requirements of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report as well as museum and tourism authorities’ conditions. They wondered who would be considering the appeal and whether or not the same people, departments and agencies involved in the approval of the development in the first place would once again be involved in considering the appeal.

Mr. Chang Chiew Kok @ Jefferi Johan, a representative of Heritage Sabah thanked the Planning Department’s Director Mursidi Hj. Sapie for recognizing the group as key stakeholders and inviting them to the Sabah Planning Standards Workshop held on the 13th and 14th of December at Palace Hotel.

The group felt they were given an opportunity to make several important recommendations among which were that the protection of heritage sites needed to be written into policy, clearly identified on plans, and further supported by proper controls and processes. The same controls should also apply to adjoining buildings and sites to ensure that the objectives for heritage preservation are not compromised.

The group is now waiting anxiously to see if and how their recommendations will be handled by the Town and Regional Planning Department, Central Board and local authorities in Sabah. They are looking forward to the new guidelines that the Sabah Town & Regional Planning Department promised to draw up and hope proper public and key stakeholder consultation on these guidelines will be followed by these heritage sites and their immediate surrounding areas being gazetted in reference to their historical context.

On a related matter, Chang also informed that the Heritage Sabah group is also currently studying the Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan 2020 and will object to the plan if it thinks that heritage sites in Kota Kinabalu will not be properly protected.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

“We can now learn the truth”, says Atkinson Clock Tower applicants


THURSDAY, 15th September, 2011 - The bid by a housewife and a local activist to halt the construction of a controversial 16-story commercial building next to the historical Atkinson Clock Tower has resulted in DBKK and the Central Board making available their minutes of meetings to the applicants.

The appplicants Lim Swee Geck and Jefferi Chang obtained the full set of minutes from their former counsel yesterday evening. The applicants were represented by their new counsel, Chung Jiun Dau in court.

Prior to the court proceedings, DBKK and Central Board had refused to release the minutes to the applicants stating that the document were marked as ‘sulit’ (classified).

The court was invited to widen the scope of the application for Judicial Review to beyond the provision of copies of the minutes, but the high court declined on the basis that leave (permission) was granted in July for the applicants only to apply for a court order for the minutes from DBKK and the Central Board.

This latest development of the applicant’s case means that they can now go through the minutes and determine how the approval of the 16-storey commercial block-cum-shopping mall was granted during the meetings of DBKK and Central board.

The applicants hailed the result as an encouraging move towards better transparency in Sabah government departments and hopefully accountability for this case as well as for other future commercial development ventures.

“Finally, we can learn the truth of how the 16-storey commercial building project got its approval”, says housewife Lim, who attended the court hearing today.

Meanwhile, Sabah heritage lovers were elated that the local authorities have finally cleared up some unsightly bushes that were obstructing KK city’s historical clock tower from public view.

“For more than 20 years, the historical clock tower was a forgotten piece of KK city history, obscured by a giant commercial billboard that was removed after some complaints were made”, says heritage advocate Richard Nelson Sokial, who wrote a commentary lamenting the lack of heritage appreciation for the clock tower in 2005.

“Last week, the local authorities cleared some of the bushes blocking in front of the clock tower. Now everyone in town can see the clock’s double-faced clock again. This is a step in the right direction.”

He attributed this positive development as a result of the Save Our Heritage Atkinson Clock Tower Campaign, a public awareness effort powered mostly by young Sabahans below the age of 35 in an attempt to save the clock tower’s historic site. He also praised the local authorities citing that this was a gesture of goodwill for the heritage conservation of the entire site.

“Hopefully more and more people will grow to appreciate our historical clock tower. People can now see the significance of the clock tower is as an enduring landmark of KK city”, he said adding that it was becoming more and more realistic for the public that the pristine, tree-covered area around the clock tower should be preserved as a public park, instead of being destroyed by the construction of a 16-storey modern commercial complex.

“It gives us hope that we can still save this site. The campaign has created a lot of buzz and awareness amongst the Sabahan people - especially young KK folk. To be part of saving local heritage is a strong indicator of the younger generation of Sabahans is becoming increasingly knowledgeable and vocal as to how they want their city and state of Sabah to be carefully planned and administered.”

He encouraged the public to visit the 106-year-old clock tower, which is still working and chimes hourly despite the roar of the city’s unending vehicular traffic.

“The ‘Save Our Heritage Atkinson Clock Tower’ campaign has captured the imagination of the Sabah youth community. They have been empowered – and support this campaign because it has given them a sense of pride, identity and love for KK city. It is also a testimony that young Sabahans today have a voice of their own and are able to make a positive contribution to the betterment of our society when they work towards a common goal of preserving heritage,” he said.

Kota Kinabalu city currently suffers from an influx of commercial shopping mall development projects, some of which are still empty and devoid of regular patrons. Despite these recent turn of events, however, the fate of the historical Atkinson Clock Tower site still remains in limbo.


Friday, August 19, 2011

“If the KK city library structure is salvagable, we should save it”, says local heritage advocate.


KOTA KINABALU, Friday 19th August – Local heritage advocator Richard Nelson Sokial believes that the city would benefit from having two libraries instead of one new centralized building.

His statement is a response to the public outcry by a group of civic activists who launched a signature campaign against plans by the State Library to move the Kota Kinabalu Regional Library out from its current 35-year-old building located behind the City Hall premises here. The new city library is scheduled to be built in Tanjung Aru.

Sokial who visited the forementioned library building stated that he was prior informed by Sabah State Library staff regarding the plans to demolish the building, but he did not know what would be built in its place.

However, he expressed his doubts over whether it was wise to entirely relocate the city library to a new site in Tg. Aru. “Instead, it may be a good idea to have two separate libraries – both at Tg. Aru and on its existing location in the city, because by moving everything to Tg. Aru, the traffic congestion problem that currently exists at Tg. Aru there will become even worse”.

When asked on whether the existing library should be preserved, Sokial stated that “it would be wonderful if we could not only save the city library building but also restore it to its original design”. Sokial stated that the past renovations made did not do any justice to the original architectural design of the city library building built in the 1970s.

“I have fond memories of the city library because as it was this very building that instilled in me, the love of books and knowledge. As a child, the staircase to the adult reference section, as I recall, used to have a central skylight that allowed natural sunlight into the building. The landscaped garden, the open circulation of the library sections made learning such an enjoyable experience. They don’t design buildings like this in KK anymore”

He went so far as to compare that the design of the 2-storey existing city library to be even better than the Sabah State Library Headquarters building located off Jalan Penampang. “Of course, the Sabah State Library building does serve its function well, but the architecture of the city library has always been more welcoming and conducive for general public reading and even as a meeting place for students and city dwellers. It would be a pity to see it gone”.

“The city library has a strategic location with views overlooking towards Gaya Street and across to the Town Padang. Its external circulation areas, shaded by greenery, make it enjoyable for pedestrians who visit the library.”

However, having inspected the building recently, he pointed out that there were some serious cracks on some of the beams and internal pillars of the existing city library, and suggested that if the civic group wanted to save the building, it would be advisable to first conduct a structural assessment and dilapidation study on whether the current structure was salvagable.

“Depending on how serious the structural damage is, we can only then determine whether or not the building can be saved. In some cases, the damage may be too great.”

On whether or not he agreed with a new library building, Sokial said “in the context and interest of the city, it is imperative that whatever built - or retained - at this particular site must still be used to serve the public and not for the benefit of a few selected individuals.

“If a new library is built, the low-rise scale and architecture of the new building should be designed in the spirit of the original library, complimentary for the needs of the city folk. If the existing library can be saved, it needs to be upgraded because it is currently quite run-down“.

“But if demolishing the city library is an excuse to build yet another commercial building in mall-saturated Kota Kinabalu, I would disagree wholeheartedly”, he said citing the situation of the yet unresolved case of the 16-storey shopping mall next to the Atkinson Clock Tower, KK city’s oldest landmark.


Thursday, August 4, 2011


Heritage advocator Richard Nelson Sokial believes that the historic townships in Sabah, particularly along the railroad are untapped tourism resources.

He listed several towns including Beaufort, Bongawan, Membakut, Papar, Kimanis, Kinarut and Weston as historical towns that flourished thanks to the North Borneo railroad started in 1896 by the British North Borneo Chartered Company administration.

“Many young Sabahans do not even know that these towns have their own history. For instance, the town of Weston was named after Arthur J. West, the railroad engineer who built the first rail from Bukau to Beaufort township between 1896 – 1900. Therefore, the town of Weston can trace its history back to 115 years ago. Sadly, nothing architecturally significant from that era exists today – except for the old jetty which is estimated to be more than 100 years old. The local communities in some of these towns have lost a lot of their architectural heritage”.

He believed that the Sabah State Government and Sabah Railways could tap into the potential of promoting heritage tours using the railroad as the primary means of travelling to these pre –WWII towns.

“Heritage tours could be conducted for those who want to experience something other than nature and orangutans. I myself have taken the new Sabah Railway trains to all the historical towns along its operational route. The new trains are comfortable and there is a lot of interesting views to see along the way”, he said.

“For the budget backpacker, travelling along the Sabah Railway would be aviable option to explore into the heartland of Sabah. They could stop and stay at the various townships that still retain their historical shophouses like Kinarut, Bongawan and Membakut. To my knowledge, many of these shops are now rented out to sub-tenants with some of the upper floors left vacant. With proper supervision, repairs and initiative, these vacant lots can be turned into budget backpackers accommodation”.

“Imagine how many tourists would love to stay in an old colonial building that has a historical value to the local community – it could start an economic boom for the township again. There is a significant value in heritage branding of these townships, if done properly with the right amount of funding and expertise”.

He noted that some existing buildings in townships such as Membakut and Bongawan have unique and distinct architectural details that link directly to the glory days of the British Empire.

“One of the corner shophouses in Bongawan, for instance, has a window ornamentation with the date ‘1939’ on its gable. The style is distinctively Chinese with influences of British Colonial style. Many of these townships flourished between the 1920-1930s because of the rubber boom of that era”.

“Another architectural feature is the use of decorated bargeboards on the roof ends of the shophouses. These timber bargeboards are a distinctive feature of British Victorian architecture”, says Sokial who studied architecture at University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

He noted that some of these old shophouses have already been slated for demolition upon the expiry of their land leases within the next few years. He urged the state government to study the merits of preserving selected building sites in towns along the original North Borneo railway lines which is currently operating under Sabah Railways.

“Saving heritage is not just for the tourists. It’s for the people of Sabah as well. Locals who commute from one town to another via train can learn a little about the history of each heritage town at their respective train stops. A generation of Sabahans that understands their history is a generation that can change the course of their future”, he added.

“A heritage town loses all its meaning and identity if its historical buildings are destroyed in the name of commercial development. However, it is still possible to develop a township for the modern needs of the local community and still retain some heritage character of the old buildings”.

Sokial who is currently doing a research on several historical townships along Sabah’s West Coast Division urges the locals to take pride in their historical buildings.

“It is a testimony that once upon a time, the town in which they now live in was once a piece of history, not just for Sabah but for UK, Australia, Japan and the rest of the world”. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011



Kota Kinabalu, (12 July 2011) Wednesday: High Court judge Datuk David Wong granted leave to housewife, Lim Swee Geck and social activist Jefferi Chang in Judicial Review proceeding heard this morning in open court.

The Applicants had applied an Order of Mandamus for DBKK and Central Board to provide all minutes of all meetings of DBKK and Central Board in respect of the development surrounding the Atkinson Clock Tower.

The High Court granted leave to the Applicants. On 7th and 8th july 2011 the DBKK had written to the Applicant, Jefferi to reject his application for the DBKK minutes pertaining to the project.

The DBKK in their letter cited that the minutes were classified as “SULIT” under the Official Secrets Act 1972. The letter was produced to the court by the applicants' counsel; Marcel Jude Joseph during the open court hearing at 10 morning today.

However, the high court judge disagreed and granted leave to the Applicants. The minutes are crucial to discover whether DBKK had complied with all the requirements of Town and Country Planning laws and local government laws.

The State Attorney General Datuk Roderic Fernandez appeared for the DBKK and Central Board and Counsel Steve Ritikos represented the Federal Attorney General Chambers while Marcel Jude appeared for the applicants.

The application was argued vigorously by both sides before Datuk David Wong gave his ruling. This is probably the first time ordinary citizens such as the applicants have successfully challenged the decisions of the state government calling for transparency and protection of the environment.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Atkinson Clock Tower judicial review process on 12th July 2011


KOTA KINABALU: Heritage advocate Richard Nelson Sokial hopes that the judge presiding over the Atkinson Clock Tower judicial review process on 12th July 2011 will rule in favor of transparency and openness for the sake of public interest.

“The Atkinson Clock Tower controversy has attracted so much attention that further scrutiny over the 16-storey shopping mall project and the facts pertaining how the local authorities approved this heritage-destroying project should be made public for the people of Sabah to study and understand how the process of approval was obtained,” he said.

Aerial view of Atkinson Clock Tower (centre of photo) and its surrounding areas.

The case of the judicial review has been dragged on for months by the defendants City Hall, SHTDA and the Central Board since shocking news of the controversial shopping mall project first came to light on social network Facebook in September 2010. A concerned housewife Lim Swee Geck and social activist Jefferi Chang subsequently filed a judicial review against the project.

In an effort to save the heritage significance of the Atkinson Clock Tower – a city landmark built in 1905, more than 2,200 individuals have signed an online petition urging the controversial project to be scrapped in favour of turning the 106-year-old historical site into a public park.

“Sabahans care about their history. We care about our heritage. It is part of our state pride and identity”, said Sokial who started the online petition.

As an observer, Sokial also questions the motive behind the process of judicial review being dragged out for such a long time by the defendants.

“Why has the judicial review been adjourned again and again? Is it an attempt to hide the truth behind how the project was approved?

“In statements, they (defendants) keep saying that the project is being reviewed. But that was several months ago, what was the verdict of their meetings? Why does it take so long for them to make a decision?”

“Is this a reflection of how other reviews of developments in Sabah is done as well? What actually goes on during these Central Board meetings? How efficient is this system that takes months to come up with a proper solution?”

“So far, all the delay and false-starts has done is to raise more questions and doubts about how commercial development projects are approved in Sabah.”

Sokial, who is the spokesperson of a local group Heritage Sabah reiterates that the group is not anti-development but merely concerned about the diminishing value of the city’s historical landmarks and heritage sites.

“As stakeholders of KK city and as the people of Sabah, we have a right to know how this project was approved and to have all the facts pertaining the case laid bare in the court of law so that in the future, all property owners, heritage lovers, developers, investors and Sabahans in general are better informed and empowered to understand how the process for approval for the city, towns and our entire state are evaluated.

“If the court allows for a fair review for this case, it will be an eye-opener for the general public of how our laws act in serve the best interests of our local people,” Sokial said.

He cautioned the defendants not to underestimate the intelligence of the general Sabah public, citing that while the general populace may not be experts in city planning, their opinions of how they want their city to be sustained and responsibly managed is crucial, adding that local authorities must be held accountable for the decisions that they make on behalf of the entire population of Kota Kinabalu city.

“If SHTDA, City Hall and Central Board have indeed been exercising a fair, corruption-free, transparent and public-orientated review of all projects submitted to them all these years, then there should be no problem for them to produce the actual minutes of meetings they have had upon request on how they reviewed the merits of the proposed shopping mall development at the Atkinson Clock Tower site. It is stated in our state laws that such information is not confidential and may be inspected upon public request.”

He urged to the public to keep close tabs on the developments of the Atkinson Clock Tower case as a point of reference.

“A lot of people – including commercial developers – will be affected by the outcome of this judicial review. It will shed light on certain practices made by local authorities in order to allow for proposed commercial developments to be approved. Hence I would urge local developers to support the plea for a judicial review for the clock tower site. We must encourage responsible development proposals.”

“Our nation is now calling for our Malaysian government to be clean of corruption and to prove their commitment to serving the interests of the rakyat. This is a landmark case for how commercial development is approved in Sabah – and is a chance for the public to judge whether our current court system favors a fair and transparent process that serves the needs and interests of the common Sabahan people,” he said.

“Let the judicial review of the Atkinson Clock Tower have its day in court. Show the people of Sabah that the court of law upholds truth and justice for all.”


Saturday, June 18, 2011

KK city youths, heritage lovers rally to support the Save Our Heritage Atkinson Clock Tower Campaign


The Heritage Sabah group opposing the construction of a 16-storey shopping mall in the historic heart of Kota Kinabalu city received a tremendous boost of support from members of the public urging the relevant authorities to turn the historical site into a public park.

The crowd comprising mainly of Sabahan youths and heritage lovers gathered on Saturday morning at the site of KK city’s 106-year-old wooden clock tower to show their support for heritage conservation and reiterated their call for the scrapping of the controversial 16-storey shopping mall project to be built only 6.3 metres away from the historic clock tower.

Wearing T-shirts ‘SAVE OUR HERITAGE – ATKINSON CLOCK TOWER’ and a large banner with the same slogan, the group and their supporters camped out at the base of the clock tower, took photos to commemorate the event and even shared stories about the history of Kota Kinabalu and the Atkinson Clock Tower.

Heritage Sabah group spokesperson Richard Nelson Sokial who led the campaign said that a majority of Sabahans believe that the matter has been resolved and the clock tower is safe from harm.

“The issue of the 16-storey shopping mall hotel next to the clock tower has been dragged out for such a long time to the point that many Sabahans have been misled into thinking that the Atkinson Clock Tower is now safe. However, it is not. The construction of the shopping mall has only been delayed for a judicial review. The project has not been cancelled yet.”

The 106-year-old Atkinson clock tower built in 1905, was the center of controversy last year when it was exposed through social network Facebook that a ‘silent’ project was being built on the site of KK city’s last green lung and historical site. The project was revealed to be an enormous 16-storey commercial shopping mall hotel, a joint venture between Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (SHTDA) and developer Benteng Pulangan Sdn. Bhd.

Following the public outrage of the heritage-insensitive and poorly planned development that threatens to destroy the historical value of the entire site, the developer has allegedly shut down its website, casting doubts on the transparency of approving commercial developments by the Central Board.

A housewife and a social activist have filed for a judicial review of the 16-storey shopping mall project – naming DBKK, SHTDA and Central Board as the parties accountable for the controversial approval of the project. Meanwhile, the fate of the clock tower and its surrounding green area remains in limbo.

When asked to comment on the upcoming judicial review on this Monday, 20th June 2011, Sokial said, “It would be an advantage to the beneficiaries of this 16-storey shopping mall project if the Sabah public simply forgot about this issue”, he says. “We believe that the minute the citizens of KK city become complacent, the shopping mall project will most likely resume again. It will ruin our city”.

“Our gathering today is an important one because it will go down in KK city’s history that Sabah’s younger generation are the moving force behind the growing Sabah heritage awareness campaign. The young people of KK city are now well-educated, vocal and very much aware of the importance of protecting our historical landmarks”.

“We urge the Sabah government to return this small but historical place back to the people. It is not suitable for a shopping mall. If we can save the Atkinson Clock Tower and have its entire hillside gazetted as a public park…one day, a child will look up at this clock tower in its pristine environment and ask why there is no massive commercial development there, unlike other places in our city. That’s when we can tell this story - that in 2011, a group of concerned public citizens, rallied to save this clock tower and its hillside – the last historical landmark in KK - against a poorly planned and unwanted commercial shopping mall project”.

“Saving our heritage leaves behind a legacy - and an important lesson for the next generation of Sabahans to uphold; to be a good society, to have personal integrity, to be unwavering in our community values and most importantly, to be responsible citizens of our beloved city of Kota Kinabalu”.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Atkinson Clock Tower issue is not over, says Heritage Sabah group


KOTA KINABALU (16 May 2011): The Atkinson Clock Tower issue has not been resolved, says Heritage Sabah, one of the groups opposing the construction of a controversial 16-storey shopping mall-cum-hotel in the heart of the city’s last surviving heritage sites.

“Many Sabahans think that because the issue has died down, the matter is resolved”, said Heritage Sabah spokesperson Richard Nelson Sokial.

“In reality, the issue is far from over. If the High Court rules in favour of the developer and its associated partners to build a proposed shopping mall, one of Kota Kinabalu city’s last surviving historical sites will be destroyed.”

Sokial was referring to a judicial review filed by a housewife Lim Swee Geck and social activist Jefferi Chang against the Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (SHTDA) and Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu (DBKK) at the height of the Atkinson Clock Tower controversy that began in last year after rumours of a commercial development at the foot of Signal Hill was leaked through social network Facebook. The city of Kota Kinabalu is currently overrun with commercial shopping malls – many with empty, unused shop lot units.

The massive public outcry that ensued over the fate of the historical clock tower prompted Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun to intervene, and subsequently the controversial project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was rejected by the Environment Protection Department under his ministry.

SHTDA Chairman Datuk Rubin Balang subsequently called for Datuk Masidi’s resignation and claimed that the site of the clock tower was not historical, prompting further public outrage. In a damage control attempt, State Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Hajiji Hj. Mohd Noor requested NGOs and interested parties not to publicize the issue any further.

SHTDA and its activities portfolio are under the Sabah Ministry of Local Government and Housing. The Central Board is responsible for assessing the approval of the controversial 16-storey shopping mall and other development projects is also chaired by Permanent Secretary to the Sabah Ministry of Local Government and Housing.

The Sabah Museum that oversees the upkeep of the city’s 106-year-old colonial clock tower built in 1905, has denied giving any permission to SHTDA for a commercial building to be built next to the 15.24m wooden clock tower – built in memory of Kota Kinabalu (then Jesselton)’s first District Officer, Francis George Atkinson who died of ‘Borneo Fever’ (Malaria) in 1902.

The clock tower is protected under the state’s Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Enactment 1997 and the state’s Antiquities and Treasure Trove Enactment 1977. The historical site was gazetted in 1983.

Meanwhile, public sentiment to save the old clock tower and its surrounding area prompted the formation of group Heritage Sabah urging for the scrapping of the proposed 16-storey shopping mall-cum-hotel. The group launched an online petition to the Sabah State Government to turn the historical site into a city park instead. Support for the group’s online petition ( has since garnered more than 2,200 signatures to date and with more than 6,000 more fans on their Facebook community page.

Sokial urged the public to be well-informed about the issue and not to be lulled into a false sense of security as the fate of the city’s much-loved clock tower and its hillside are still in limbo. He also took pessimists to task for speculating that the clock tower and its surrounding areas could not be saved due to alleged corruption and abuse of authority by the local government trustees.

“We should give the Sabah state government a chance to rectify past wrongdoings. If the current state government truly has the interests of KK city folk and Sabahans at heart, there is still room for them to do right by the rakyat and turn this historical place into a public park for all – and not another shopping mall,” Sokial said.

The judicial review of the Atkinson Clock Tower case will be held on the 6th June 2011 at the Kota Kinabalu High Court.