Malaysia's Malay enclave of Kampung Baru inches closer to redevelopment

A model of the new Kampung Baru (dark brown on the left) showing tall buildings, with downtown Kuala Lumpur being across the Klang River. ST PHOTO: NADIRAH RODZI

KUALA LUMPUR - After decades of stalemate, the Pakatan Harapan government is inching closer to redeveloping Kuala Lumpur's biggest Malay enclave of Kampung Baru, after it raised its offer to RM1,000 (S$331) per square feet to landowners last year.

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad said he is optimistic that a plan to modernise the 120-year-old village, comprising old village houses and ageing apartments, will be finalised by June this year based on feedback obtained from landowners.

The Kampung Bharu Development Corp, a government agency which develops, coordinates and regulates development in the area, had held meetings with landowners to discuss issues, he said.

"These meetings have been held since early last month and we have met nearly 50 per cent of the 5,374 landowners in Kampung Baru," Mr Khalid said.

"From the total, 97 per cent said they are ready to sell their lots to pave the way for the Kampung Baru Development Plan and Insya Allah (God willing), we will finalise it in the next six months," he told reporters on Sunday.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said that the area with its dilapidated buildings and cramped roads is an eyesore, and an embarrassment for the Malay community, Malaysia's majority community, as tourist brochures describe it as a "traditional Malay village".

Still, not everyone wants to sell their plot.

Kampung Baru landowner Mohd Farid Rahmat, who owns a portion of his house along with 10 other cousins, is holding out from selling as it is simply not profitable enough for him and he likes staying in the city.

"I just don't want to sell it," he told The Straits Times.

Under the masterplan drawn up by the government, once approved by the enclave's residents, the government will take over the area and build tall residential and office blocks along with modern commercial buildings and upgraded infrastructure on the sprawling 90ha site, slightly larger than Singapore's Botanic Gardens.

The Straits Times understands that the government is hoping to obtain at least 80 per cent approval from the 5,374 landowners in order to go ahead with rebuilding the area involved.

The Mahathir administration in Oct raised its offer to landowners in Kampung Baru, from a RM850 offer made in Sept to RM1,000 per sq ft, enticing more landowners to agree with the government's plan.

Successive prime ministers since Tun Dr Mahathir himself in the 1980s have eyed this piece of land, a stone's throw from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, for redevelopment but previous attempts to woo its owners have failed.

Landowners who take up the offer will be paid RM850 per sq feet in cash, while the remaining RM150 will be in the form of shares in a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to be set up.

They are also promised a 15 per cent discount on properties in the new development, should they agree to buy these.

This time around, the government hopes that the offer is sweet enough for a breakthrough and will enable it to modernise the area, which is dwarfed by swanky condominiums and gleaming office towers just across the narrow Klang River.

Multiple ownership of individual lots have thwarted previous attempts to revamp the village.

Not only is there difficulty in getting consent from landowners, the situation is further compounded by Muslim inheritance laws that split the parcels into smaller plots, with many beneficiaries. Some of the lots can have up to 100 heirs.

The issue is also a highly emotive one, as the village is historically significant, being the site for many political events and rallies.

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