Tussle over type of housing for Bukit Kiara longhouse settlers

Sivakumar Muniandy fears the older generation of Taman Rimba Kiara (TRK) may have been misled into entering the agreement with Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan (YWP) over new accommodations.

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of Bukit Kiara longhouse residents, who are descendants of rubber tappers, fear that an agreement signed by another group with the developers of the land may not be the best solution to their housing woes.

The younger group of settlers, the Bukit Kiara Rumah Panjang Residents’ Association (RA), is proposing that they be moved into townhouses built beside their current longhouses while an older group of settlers, Pertubuhan Penduduk Perumahan Awam Bukit Kiara, has signed an agreement that will likely see them moving into apartments.

Bukit Kiara Rumah Panjang RA secretary Sivakumar Muniandy fears the older generation of Taman Rimba Kiara (TRK) may have been misled into entering the agreement with Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan (YWP) over new accommodations.

“They have only been verbally assured by YWP that Memang Perkasa Bhd (a subsidiary of Malton Bhd) will build them permanent homes in a 29-storey block in its proposed development on part of the TRK park.”

It has been reported that the families staying in these longhouses since 1982 will be moved into the planned 29-storey apartment block when it is completed.

“In 2015, a master resettlement agreement (MRA) was signed between YWP and 98 of the older generation settlers. Under the agreement it was mentioned that the developer will offer the settlers ‘permanent affordable homes’ on the land next to the Sri Maha Mariamman temple and opposite the existing longhouses.

Sivakumar says about RM700,000 allocated by the developer for repair works at the longhouses has apparently gone “missing”.

“However, nothing in the agreement states the ‘affordable homes’ would be delivered in a 29-storey block which houses 350 affordable apartments. This is something that I believe the older generation settlers have overlooked,” said Sivakumar.

The older generation settlers who are represented by a separate RA, Pertubuhan Penduduk Perumahan Awam Bukit Kiara, have since been locked in a tussle with the younger generation RA over the proposed high-rise and high-density development.

“Why we decided to set up a separate RA was due to the older generation RA leaving us out of discussions and decisions which they made on our behalf. Not all of us agree to be relocated and definitely not relocated into a high-rise building.

“But we were not allowed to voice out our disagreements whenever we attended meetings with the older generation RA representatives.

“We saw that the longhouse settlers would be at the losing end, and that is when we decided to step in and engage with Save Taman Rimba Kiara (STRK) to see how we can save our neighbourhood from being relocated,” said Sivakumar.

The MRA agreement sighted by FMT, provided by STRK’s working group committee coordinator Leon Koay, states that the sale and purchase agreements for the affordable home units will only be executed at a later time.

“The description of the affordable home units is limited to the fact that they are to be about 850 sq ft in size. There is no specification of the fact that it will be a 29-storey block.

“It only mentions the affordable housing units as a stratified development. There is a catch-all clause that says the building specifications and building plans of the affordable housing units are subject to approval and shall be as determined by the developer,” said Koay.

Koay added that details were scarce in the MRA about what the longhouse residents would actually be getting.

It was reported in 2017 that Pertubuhan Penduduk Perumahan Awam Bukit Kiara group chairman Sunderam Vadiveloo said the MRA signed between his association and landowner YWP meant that the longhouse settlers would receive 100 units of affordable homes for free, and a further 100 units priced at a preferential rate of RM175,000 each.

However, upon discovering this, Sivakumar engaged STRK to assist in coming up with an alternative plan drawn up by architects volunteering with the group.

The alternative plan, which is supported by the younger generation settlers, comprises 104 townhouses that will cost RM15 million, which will not affect TRK.

Sivakumar added that he had since been reaching out to the older generation to propose the idea of the townhouse design, in hopes that they would understand what is at stake.

Meanwhile, Sivakumar said about RM700,000 allocated by developer Memang Perkasa for repair works at the longhouses had apparently gone “missing”.

“YWP negotiated for the funds for the longhouse residents, but until today, if you look at the condition of the houses, they don’t look like they have gone through RM700,000 worth of repair work.

“The last time they did anything was to lay sheets over the roofs. If you divide the sum evenly between the 100 units, each unit should get RM7,000. That is a rough calculation, because not all need the same kind of repairs.”

When asked, Koay said a report regarding the funds was made to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), but the younger settlers had yet to receive an update.

Earlier, it was reported that settlers had been waiting for 36 years for the government to fulfil its promise of finding them permanent homes.

What they got instead were dilapidated wooden houses, uncertainty and the risk of having to vacate even their current “temporary” homes due to proposed developments on the TRK land.

Last Wednesday, Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) residents’ bid to overturn the conditional planning permission and development order by Kuala Lumpur City Hall for the controversial high-rise residential project in TRK was denied by the High Court.

However, longhouse residents and the TTDI RA, along with STRK, say they are planning to appeal the decision.