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 www.atkinsontower.com, 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”.