‘Name change can wait, fix other issues in Bangsar South first’

Benjamin Yee, director of documentary ‘Big Bad Bangsar’.

PETALING JAYA: A filmmaker who recently documented the debate over the proposal to restore Bangsar South to its original name of Kampung Kerinchi says there are more pressing issues at hand than the area’s name.

Benjamin Yee, director of “Big Bad Bangsar”, told FMT that he had spoken to Bangsar South residents who said they did not want the move to be pushed through right now.

“Fahmi Fadzil’s proposal is justified, but my opinion is that there are more important things to settle now,” he said, referring to the Lembah Pantai MP who had pledged to push for the return of the Kampung Kerinchi name during his campaign for the May 9 general election.

“This can be the last step. He should first control how property is being developed there. Don’t just allow people to come, buy land and build. Look at how congested the place has become over the years.

“Things are quite bad. No one is held accountable.”

Yee, 21, told FMT that rapid development and traffic congestion were issues that Bangsar residents had been up in arms about for years.

“This is something that my respondents were highly passionate about,” the broadcasting major said in a recent interview.

He was referring to his 13-minute documentary in which he and his team spoke to Bangsar residents about this and other issues shortly before the May 9 polls.

Fahmi, whose Lembah Pantai parliamentary constituency consists of Bangsar and Pantai Dalam, promised to restore Bangsar South to its original name within his first 100 days in office if he was elected as MP.

This was so that the culture and history of the area would not be forgotten, he said.

He has since amended his pledge, saying he only wants to return the prominence of the Kerinchi name to the historic village and will not push for the Bangsar South label to be dropped.

Yee said this about-turn came as no surprise, adding that there were some who felt strongly about the proposed change in name and others who wanted Bangsar South to stay.

Yee, who is a final-year student at IACT College, said what was more important were Fahmi’s efforts to solve gentrification issues in Bangsar.

He said Fahmi could start with helping those in low-cost flats who are reportedly being kicked out by developers.

“There are a lot of cases where people are forced out by gangsters who are bribed by developers,” he said, claiming that this had been happening for a number of years.

“This is why property developers have to be in the same room with residents and council members to get their approval before starting on projects.”

He said some residents had told him that they could no longer afford to stay in the area due to the rising cost of living but did not know where to go after being kicked out by developers to make way for the construction of new high-rise buildings.

If Fahmi was unable to stop such development, he said, the MP should provide accommodation for the low-income groups.

“We need more programmes which benefit all residents, not just those who are building and occupying land,” he said.

He also questioned the point of putting up so many new buildings if there was no one to occupy them.

Kampung Kerinchi traces its roots back to the 18th century when a Kerinci community from Indonesia settled there to escape Dutch rule in the country.

Over the years, it became a major Malay settlement and was for a long time home to the old Kampung Kerinchi flats, some of which are still standing today.

It was renamed as Bangsar South six years ago after being acquired by the UOA Group.

Redevelopment began in 2007. The project now features multiple residential and commercial buildings facing the Federal Highway near Menara TM.

Concerns were previously raised about the possible effect of reverting Bangsar South to its original name on property prices and business.

However, Yee dismissed these, pointing to the Bukit Damansara area which was renamed Damansara Heights following a similar acquisition.

“Property prices were not affected that much then, so use this case study as a precedent. Listen to the grassroots’ opinions and decide whether the name needs to be changed.

“But work on these other issues first,” he said.

He also told FMT he was monitoring the Bangsar South developments as he was concerned over the issue and hoped to make a follow-up film in the near future.

Yee’s documentary “Big Bad Bangsar” will be featured in the FreedomFilmFest (FFF), an international human rights documentary film festival held yearly in PJ, which runs from Sept 29 to Oct 6 this year.

The documentary will debut on Oct 2 at the PJ Live Arts, Jaya One. Tickets are available on the FFF website.