Uh oh. DBKL may have picked the wrong fight...with TTDI folk over Taman Rimba Kiara
Cilisos Media Sdn
03 October 2017
Remember last year in June Taman Tun Dr Ismail residents were
protesting against The Kuala Lumpur City Hall's (DBKL) new development
in their beloved Taman Rimba Kiara?
For TTDI residents (and for many more outside TTDI), Taman Rimba Kiara
is their escape spot without having to travel far. A favourite with
families, hikers, cyclists, fitness enthusiasts A green haven in an
urban city, and as you’ll find out below, an important source of
biodiversity. So imagine their horror when DBKL announced the new
You can’t paint with all the colours of the wind if you replace this park with a condo. Image from The Star
We first covered DBKL’s proposed developments in March earlier this year. In a nutshell:
DBKL wants to develop Taman Rimba Kiara
park into a luxury condo, and is highlighting that the profits will be
used to relocate longhouse residents who have lived there for
Among the complications are:
|The longhouse residents who are families of the plantation workers who
used to work on the rubber estates that covered Bukit Kiara decades ago
don’t actually want to be associated with the luxury condos.
|The part of Taman Rimba Kiara allocated to the condo used to belong to
the gomen, but was conveniently sliced off to be given to Yayasan
Wilayah Persekutuan, of which Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan
is also a Director. FYI a very similar case is also going on in
Now, the TTDI folks agree with affordable housing for longhouse
residents who have been waiting for it since the decade bell-bottoms
were cool. It’s just the RM3 billion luxury condo they didn’t have the
Why is TTDI’s protest different from others?
Today, it’s been more than one year now since the protest, and if
anything, things are heating up, and people are slowly realising that
TTDI is a bit different from other neighbourhoods. If we take
previous protests as examples, it can be said that residents protests
tend to blow over quite quickly, sometimes without achieving anything.
In 2014, residents of Kampung Chubadak Tambahan were evicted from their
homes after a developer won a contract. Not only did residents get
kicked out, they didn’t even get compensation at first. So they
challenged local authorities for ownership of the land, but lost and
were even called “squatters” by the judge. Later they tried to protest
for compensation and the Court of Appeal at least ruled to give them
that. But the sad thing is they still lost their homes.
Kg Chubadak’s residents living in tents after their houses were reduced to rubble :'( Image from Malay Mail)
And of course who could forget last year’s highway protests. Residents
were against felling and degazettement of vital forest reserves and
water catchment zones for the Klang Valley to build the proposed DASH,
SUKE and EKVE highways. In spite of this protest being a big one (they
collected 15,000 signatures) and getting a lot of media attention, it
appears that the developments will go ahead.
But as you (and we) are beginning to notice, just a teensy smidge, TTDI
residents really care about this park and they are not.backing.down. We
spoke to Hafiz Abu Bakar who is the Chairman of the TTDI Resident’s
Association (RA) and Leon Koay the Taman Rimba Kiara Working Group
committee member, to tell us what makes TTDI so unique.
DBKL was about to find out that they messed with the wrong neighbourhood!
DBKL put up the notice in June last year
One day in June 2016, a signboard came up showing a notice put up by
DBKL. Immediately, the Residents’ Association called for a town hall
meeting on a Saturday.
“More than 200 people turned up. The
purpose to inform residents of what the project is about, what we
thought of it, and why we wanted to protest the next day. So on Sunday
we had first protest in Taman Rimba Kiara itself where 1,000 people
showed up.” – Hafiz told CILISOS
They managed to rally so many people by using social media to get the
word out. With the prospect of the much loved Taman Rimba Kiara being
chopped away and replaced with concrete blocks was too much to bear for
park users, so the issue resonated with the public, who came to show
TTDI protest. Image from NST
Some months later, they organised their second protest where they went
with a friendlier approach – a picnic protest! 200-300 residents came
and they had a barbeque, balloons and games. The reason they went with
this soft approach was just to show the authorities that the park is
widely used residents and public at large, explained Hafiz, who has
lived in TTDI slightly more than 30 years.
On top of that, the RA started a petition where they managed to collect
5,000++ signatures. Wah, it sounds like the TTDI RA is super organised!
If you’ve ever been in an RA before, you’d know that some of them are
not the most efficient and things hardly get done in meetings.
At the same time, their meetings swelled to about 700 attendees. They’ve never had this many people, according to Hafiz.
Their meetings are swinging
When DBKL realised that these people meant business, they invited them
for a hearing, chaired by Datuk Najib (not the PM). It was attended by
around 20 residents (at this point, Leon wasn’t part of the group yet),
representatives from developer also there, plus officers from DBKL. So
they discussed back and forth, the developer tried to show what the
project is about, but they could not change the residents’ stand.
“From day 1 we have been telling DBKL
that the longhouse should go ahead. They were rubber estate workers and
were promised proper housing. But you don’t need 8 blocks of
multi-storey condos for them. We want the project to be called off
entirely.” – Hafiz
In spite of the hearing, DBKL continued to ignore their petitions to
save the park. Finally, TTDI residents put their foot down and told
DBKL, see you in court. The hearing has been set for 12 Oct. WHOA shizz
just got real!
TTDI RA’s efforts have been impressive so far, but wait, it gets better…
After that, they created a working group and engaged the engineers, architects and lawyers of TTDI
TTDI RA holding a press conference. Circled are Hafiz (left) and Leon. Image from tamanrimbakiara.net
TTDI RA is made up of volunteers from various professions and skills,
but among committee members, they didn’t have the necessary skill sets
to approach this case beyond the usual neighbourhood issues, like
dealing with potholes. So TTDI’s lawyers, engineers, and architects
volunteered their expertise. Also, Association of Accredited
Advertising Agents (4As) CEO Khairudin Rahim roped in the media and
many other NGOs. Khairudin managed to get them covered in 50 articles
this year alone, no money spent.
They set up a legal sub-committee, created a Working Group of about 10
people, out of that they created Technical Working Group of 10-12
people, and a Strategy Group. At this point, Leon, who was formerly a
lawyer, turned Treasurer with Standard Chartered, turned Managing
Director of investment and consulting firm, Bangsawan Group, joined the
cause as a Working Group committee member. He has lived in TTDI for 14
years (to TTDI residents that’s considered still a rookie 😀 ).
You know what they did next? They got their volunteer architects to
come up with an alternative blueprint for affordable housing for the
One that obviously did not include a luxury condo and would only cost
RM15 million, according to their architects, not RM3 billion, which is
DBKL’s estimate figure for the project. To do this, Leon tells us they
really spoke to the longhouse residents to understand their needs, ie.
how many rooms they need, etc.
Whoah. TTDI architects proposed this alternative for housing for the longhouse residents
“The drawing done by an architect firm
based in TTDI. We also have town planners who are residents. They work
with engineering firms now. Some used to work with Ministries, some are
retired. We have engineers, environmental engineers, sustainability
consultants, etc.” – Leon told CILISOS
Through multiple WhatsApp groups and mamak meetings, they divided and
delegated tasks. It’s insane!! You should see the number of documents
to emailed to us. So detailed. These folks really went all the way.
This was what they emailed to us, omg
In fact the residents went as far as to take photos of surveyors for proof and stuff.
It was in the Dropbox folder Leon shared with us
As Leon and Hafiz explained, the residents have tried to be polite and
constructive, but due to the disappointing response from DBKL, they
decided to take the City Hall to court. In order to do that, they
needed to have something called a legal standing, which means they
needed a legitimate reason for taking legal action.
Fortunately, the group strategically decided that the best chance for
legal standing came in the form of 5 condos that are closest in
proximity to the development – the people most affected by the new
condo. Leon and the others spoke to the condo managements, who then
convened their own AGMs. All of them were unanimously unhappy with the
development and agreed to participate. However, to pay for lawyer fees
and such, of course they needed to raise funds. So, they hired Alliff
Benjamin Suhaimi from Thomas Philip.
“We went around the community and asked quietly who wanted to donate.
We spoke to people who were a bit affluent first and the issue
resonates with them, so they contributed. We got a base fund together,
a few tens of thousands. We had to set up a fund first, to show the
people living in the condo, let’s work together, you know, we’re not at
zero.” – Leon
[P/S: The reason why they raised funds quietly was because there are
quite a few people in TTDI who are ‘a bit up there’, who can’t be seen
to be antagonistic towards the Government, but they still wanted to
save the park.]
TTDI residents pledging their support to the protest. Image from The Star
All they had to do was set up a cash box during townhall meetings and
the donations poured in. In the end, whatever their financial
background, the residents of TTDI really stood united and gave whatever
they were able to.
Because Taman Rimba really means something to them
Amazingly (or perhaps not so amazingly), Hafiz and Leon have not
encountered anyone who is against their cause, everyone has been
supportive. But why? We asked Hafiz and Leon what the park means to
If you remember in our previous article we mentioned that DBKL wanted
to turn Bukit Kiara into a botanical garden, but they aborted the
project. The park became the base where they planted larger trees to
relocate around the botanical gardens afterwards.
“The choice of trees was deliberate, there are lots of fruit trees
which attracted lots of birds. The bird life in the park amazing. You
can find hornbills there. Where in KL could you find hornbills?!
Biodiversity shows how rich this place is. We don’t have many of these
places left in KL, so if we don’t protect, we will have nothing left.”
“All of us in KL are not always fortunate enough to have houses with
large compounds and gardens. So a park is very precious to us. We have
a place here where we can do our brisk walks, our kids can play
football. People have come together and started to get to know each
other. We want it to be as livable as possible.” – Hafiz
The entire process has gotten them closer to their neighbours
TTDI residents protesting in June 2016. Image from The Star
As far as Hafiz can remember, the RA has never had a protest of this
scale before, but they are quite determined to protect the park. “It
cost DBKL RM30 million to create the public park ages ago in the first
place. If they can do this to a public park, they might even take a
school padang and build a condo there, who’s to say,” he added.
The issue has stirred up something in each of the TTDI residents’
hearts and many have eagerly contributed of their time, money and
resources where they can. It has also showcased how mature, independent
and constructive their RA can be. When an Opposition politician offered
help, they politely turned it down, saying this is something they have
to do on their own!
“It angers us when DBKL said we have
been influenced by the Opposition. We can think for ourselves, we have
not engaged any politician from any side. It’s not a political agenda,
it’s a community agenda.” – Hafiz
More than that, the issue has gotten them closer to their neighbours.
The RA has seen a significant increase in signups. People just bring
the forms and become members. Last year alone they received 70 new
members, which is so much more than the regular number, Hafiz
explained. And if TTDI residents can do it, it gives hope to other RAs
So the court hearing is happening on 12 October. If you want this to
succeed, share this widely and hopefully it will set a strong precedent
for residents everywhere.
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