Work on the Jalan Sultan MRT has started, much to the dismay of Chinatown's people.
KUALA LUMPUR: More than 800 people protested along Jalan Sultan today, calling for the My Rapid Transit (MRT) construction in the area be stopped immediately.
Gathering in front of the Klang Bus Stand at 11.50am, the crowd demanded for an end to the demolition of three government-owned buildings here.
(The three government-owned buildings are the Klang Bus Stand, Plaza Warisan and the UdaOcean shopping centre.)
They worried that the demolition would mark the start of the construction of underground MRT tunnels, which the community here fears will bring an end to many of oldest buildings in the area – also popularly known as Chinatown.
“Stop the demolition, save Jalan Sultan!,” the crowd chanted in front of the stand.
Dressed in black and wielding banners, they accused MRT Corp – the MRT’s project owners – of not listening to the community’s worries.
Disappointed supporter, Connie Cheng, 44, told FMT: “This is our culture. These old buildings were built by our forefathers. Now that they want to develop this, we oppose it.”
Jalan Sultan resident (who only wanted to be known as) Heng, 22, said that the government should have considered an alternative MRT route, instead of pushing its way through Jalan Sultan.
“We should use an alternative route, so we can preserve our cultural heritage.”
“[With] realignment, they can still build the MRT without destroying all this buildings. [Now] all the culture [here] and economic [situation here] will be affected,” he said.
Soft limestone soil
In mid-August last year, 23 Jalan Sultan lot-owners were told that their buildings were going to be taken through land acquisition for the construction of underground Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT tunnels.
At the time, they feared that their buildings would be demolished to make way for the massive public transport project, which is expected to be finished by 2017.
(Some have estimated the project to have an estimated budget of more than RM50 billion, though the government has not released full figures yet.)
Unhappy with being notified about the matter at the very last minute, they took their grouses to politicians, and warned the government not to grab their land by force.
They were also concerned that Chinatown’s soft limestone soil would pose a problem when tunnels are bored benath buildings here.
Many demanded that MRT Corp realign its underground tracks to follow Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, instead of going beneath Jalan Sultan.
They now fear that their requests have fallen on deaf ears.
On May 3, MRT Corp announced that work in “redeveloping” the Klang Bus Stand would start immediately.
‘Defend our heritage’
According to an MRT Corp press statement, “initial preparatory works” started in early April 2012. The redevelopment, it added, would take about six months to complete.
Accompanied by a host of DAP MPs, including Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun and Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai, the crowd then marched to Jalan Tun HS Lee at 12.30pm to continue their protest there.
They shouted slogans, and play musical instruments to numerous passers-by and motorists, who reacted in support of the crowd’s demands.
The crowd then dispersed peacefully at 1pm.
Although today’s crowd was heavily Chinese, heritage NGO Majlis Permuafakatan Perkampungan Warisan chairman Ishak Surin (who was present) said that Jalan Sultan was a Malaysian cultural icon.
“We believe that the fight for the people, and their voice can change the situation.”
“Jalan Sultan is not just for the Chinese, it is also for the Malays! Defend our heritage!” he said.
In a later press conference, Chinese Assembly Hall secretary-general Yong Yew Wei said that many businesses saw a 30% drop in business since MRT Corp started their work here.
Along with other Chinatown representatives, he demanded that the government go back to the drawing board and realign the MRT’s underground tracks.
Even so, he did not appear confident that the government would do this.
“Only public strength can stop this nonsense, I don’t think MRT Corp is not listening to us,” he said.
(MRT Corp is a government-linked company, wholly-owned by the Ministry of Finance.)
He added that there was nothing Jalan Sultan residents could do to physically stop the MRT work from continuing.
Despite this, Yong said: “We’re not going to give up hope.”