One of the hottest issues that have singed many parties in the development of Kuala Lumpur is in regard to the problems of Kampung Baru. It has remained what has been termed as a 'slum and squatter area' although situated right in the heart of the city. While some peripheral development had been undertaken and the Malay shops in and around the area have undergone some changes, the development as a whole is negligible when compared to the changes that have occurred elsewhere in the city of KL and its metropolitan areas.
There had been and there are now plans to develop the area so that the lands can be utilized to their full potentials. Kampung Baru if given the right conditions for investment and commercialization could easily become another golden triangle. But the 100% Malay residents and landowners are not comfortable with the idea of non-bumi investors coming in to buy over the lands from them, nor are the Bumiputras of the nation as a whole willing to see Kampung Baru "invaded" by the non-Bumis. As such no real progress has been made since Merdeka.
To develop the area and attract non-Bumi and foreign investment, there is no doubt that Kampung Baru has to be opened to the non-Malay towkays and taycoons. No Malay entrepreneur would be able to come up with the kind of capital investment necessary to turn the "slump area" into a buzzling commercial and residential center. While such development would not require that the present residents of Kampung Baru be displaced or pushed out since they can be offered luxurious homes with millions of ringgit as payment (or compensation) for their lands, the fact remains that they will loose the lands that they have owned for generations. And THAT is the most sensitive of all the issues involved.
So, how can that issue be resolved? One land owner and an ex-senior government officials with considerable experience in development planning, suggested to me that the answer is quite simple. Just allow the land to be utilized ON LEASE for say 60-90 years as necessary to allow the investors to get back their money with a comfortable margin. In this way the land DOES NOT ACTUALLY LEAVE the hands of the currents owners. Will the business community buy up the commercial and residential
premises if they will not become the outright owners? Or should the premises be only rented out? These are the ensuing issues to be considered. In either case the proposal will become less attractive to the potential investors who want to make their fortune on the development of the prime land.
Another possibility is for the government itself to take over the development of the last bastion of Malay settlement in KL. It should not let the matter be handled by a private agency which would certainly try to make as much profit as possible at the expense of the landowners. Only the government can protect and preserve the ownership rights of the landowners in Kampung Baru, who, left to the 'seduction' of the wealthy private investors would succumb to their monetary temptations. The greed for money among the landowners themselves would let Kampung Baru slip into the hands of the non-Bumi capitalists.
The need for the non-Bumi entrepreneurs to help boost up the commercial value of Kampung Baru should be confined to the development of business and commercial activities, not the sales of prime land.