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Kampung Baru At The Crossroad

By: Dr Azhari Karim, Former Malaysia Ambassador

TUCKED away among tall concrete and steel structures, Kampung Baru, the only “remaining-strictly” for Malays enclave in modern and metropolitan Kuala Lumpur, if all goes planned by the government, will soon outlive its identity.

At a townhall meeting held over the weekend at Dewan Perdana Felda, Kampung Baru residents were told that the government intends to acquire the whole enclave for a massive redevelopment project which will kickstart soon.

The government will try to meet residents’ expectations of a realistic amount to be determined eventually for acquisition and development costs.

Between now and the future, we may well ask who will gain the most from the “new Kampung Baru” exercise?

For the government a completed project of this magnitude will deliver upon the Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto and what the leadership had announced earlier, which was to prioritise its promises for the people and the country.

The new Kampung Baru will signify a victory of sorts for not only Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad but more for the new coalition government that he is leading.

It was not lost on Dr Mahathir that Kampung Baru will also help deliver the Malays out of their permanent “stupor” into citizens of a future Malaysia that is fully developed.

But is this what the Malays in the country want?

Maybe we can read the research work written by Tan Sri Dr Suleiman Mohamed published in his book, Transformasi Sosial Melayu Bandar, Lokman Haji Mohd Zen’s Sejarah Kampung Bharu, and Di Sini Awal Segalanya Bermula.

For the Malays, Kampung Baru is the “crown jewel” of the Malay psyche. Take it away and untold consequences might spill over to the people and the country.

History had seen the Malays taking assertive action one after another to bring about positive changes to their community.

Such positive interventions would include bringing down the Malayan Union proposal in 1946; setting the country right again after the racial riots of 1969 and supporting the protests calling for change in 1998.

Kampung Baru has been part of the so called “Malay reality”. It is a reference to the innate ability of the Malays to rationalise their existence in this world and beyond. It also informed the Malays on their limits of tolerance, mental state and frame of mind.

These have enabled them to survive in the face of challenges to their personal, psychological, spiritual, economic and socio-cultural wellbeing all these years.

With the intense pace of development in the country, the Malays will have to come to terms soon on what to do with the changing environment of their reality.

This becomes necessary as their existence, determined by their psyche or mindset, is facing challenges from various quarters within the country. Several of these challenges have been making news headlines in recent months.

These include the need to protect the dignity and position of the Malay rulers, the growing number of Malays being investigated for various misdemeanours under the law and, more recently, even Malays are accusing one another of being “racist” and “anti-Islam”.

It is feared that the failure to settle the Kampung Baru conundrum and its related issues to the benefit of the Malays will lead to a further loosening of the construct of the Malay reality.

It has to be understood that the British colonial administration had not left the country in 1957 without firstly having ensured that the Malays would make it through the post-colonial period with adequate constitutional and legal provisions with regard to their rights and privileges.

In fact almost all government administration and political leadership that have come to rule the country thereafter have contributed towards the materialisation of the Malay reality.

Finally it has to be said that for changes to be effected for Kampung Baru, the proponents must take into consideration the fact that the Malays will never give up an inch of their land (tanah Melayu).

This would be considered as pushing them out of the “microcosm of their motherland”.

Source : NST Opinion.

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