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.