Federal Hill residents still awaiting official order on development freeze

Works by SP Setia on National Institute of Health land have commenced despite the lack of a development order by DBKL.

PETALING JAYA: Residents in the vicinity of Bukit Persekutuan or Federal Hill, Bukit Bandaraya and Bangsar Utama are still awaiting an official announcement on the development freeze confirmed by the Kuala Lumpur mayor last December.

According to Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur (SKL) deputy chairman M Ali, mayor Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan had assured the residents that he would issue an order to freeze any development in and around Bukit Persekutuan.

“It was during a meeting with residents at the site designated for development,” he said.

At the time, he added, the residents were “delighted” to receive the mayor’s assurance.

“(But) we are still waiting. We are wondering what is happening,” he told FMT.

Bukit Persekutuan, a 20-hectare plot of land near KL Sentral, was acquired in 2012 by SP Setia in a land swap in return for the construction of a replacement facility for the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the developer’s township in Setia Alam, Shah Alam.

Ali, along with other residents, again urged the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to revisit the entire land-swap deal.

“We, the community, feel that the entire transaction was mala fide. It is important that the PH government request that the Attorney-General’s Chambers review the deal.”

He said development should be frozen as a development order (DO) had not been issued.

“The PH government should offer alternative sites to the private party in Shah Alam,” he added.

“Since the land deal has finally landed as a government-linked company venture under Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) and the finance ministry with the health ministry having a 20% interest, it would be easier to review the entire deal.”

In March, The Edge reported that SP Setia Bhd had entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Mekar Gemilang Sdn Bhd to acquire the remaining 50% stake in Setia Federal Hill (Bukit Persekutuan) for RM431.89 million.

Setia Federal Hill’s core assets are the two parcels of leasehold land near Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, totalling about 51.57 acres.

In 2015, SP Setia reportedly said it expected the Bukit Persekutuan project, which had a gross development value of RM15 billion at the time, to begin contributing to sales from 2017 onwards.

Environmental groups have since urged the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to be transparent in its operations. They have also called on DBKL and the federal territories ministry to ensure that “sweetheart deals” are not allowed.

It was also reported that while residents in the area faced an uphill task in challenging the land swap, environmental activists had suggested that they could ask DBKL if it had already issued the DO for the project to SP Setia.

Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia president Nithi Nesadurai said if a DO had yet to be issued, residents might be able to challenge the deal.

Since then, SKL on behalf of residents’ associations in affected areas has highlighted several issues that residents would face should the development be allowed.

“The land swap was shrouded in secrecy and without any engagement with the local community or society at large.

“We strongly suspect that this was one of the reasons why the Draft Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020 was not gazetted in 2012/2013 – to make way for projects such as these.

“Whatever construction took place inside the complex was done without display of proper signboards visible to the public.

“Matured trees, shrubs and bushes have been uprooted in the typical ‘a la Malaysian style’ – slaughter the greenery first and then plant some trees to window dress and show statistics that developers are concerned about having green development,” Ali said.

He added that Bukit Persekutuan is classified as “Slope Level 4” bordering residences in Bukit Persekutuan, Bangsar Utama, Bangsar Park and Bukit Bandaraya.

“These residences, including established historical traditional homes, will be at great risk if large-scale development takes place.

“One should not ignore that Bukit Persekutuan has been primarily a historical residential zone with great environmental, emotional and sentimental attachments to a large number of people. It has been and still is a national landmark,” he said.

Besides residential premises, there are at least three Royal household properties in Bukit Persekutuan, Ali said.

He added that the entire Bukit Persekutuan, including the NIH complex, must be preserved and protected as national heritage linked to Taman Tasik Perdana (Perdana Botanical Gardens), Taman Botani, Taman Tugu, Parliament House and the Bank Negara complex.

“On Jan 10 this year, we were invited by the health ministry for a briefing chaired by Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, along with Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil.

“But to our disappointment, during the meeting, we were only informed by health ministry officials that they were happy with the land swap as they have gained an integrated complex in Setia Alam.

“We were told that whatever happens to the NIH complex in Bukit Persekutuan is between DBKL and the community to sort it out, with others who have an interest in it. This attitude was a disappointment coming from the health ministry, with no concern for the community,” he said.