Trouble in Taman Rimba: The Residents

Politics
By Ariff Roose

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The development in Taman Rimba Kiara is said to be only for the benefit of the longhouse residents. But it seems that the longhouse community themselves are becoming increasingly divided about the issue

The first part of the article explained the intricate politics surrounding the proposed Taman Rimba Kiara development. It highlighted the questionable tactics used to acquire and develop a plot of land within Taman Rimba Kiara. The government was keen to emphasize their humble intentions to provide permanent housing for longhouse residents - even if it means building more than 1,000 units of multi-million dollar apartments to subsidise an affordable apartment block.

But how do the longhouse residents feel about it? 

Since the eighties, the longhouse residents have waited patiently as each passing administration kept failing on their responsibilities to provide their permanent housing. And finally, after 38 years, their concerns are being attended to. But while the collective community is in full support of the government’s move to (finally) act on their promise, their two residents associations can’t seem to agree on where and how their future homes should be built.

Opposing the proposed development is the Bukit Kiara Rumah Panjang Residents Association. Formed in 2009, and representative of the younger generation, the group stands alongside the Save Taman Rimba Group and TTDI Residents’ Association in rejecting Yayasan’s RM3 billion project. They are in favour of a more empathetic RM15 million, 104 unit townhouse project created by volunteer professionals of Save Taman Rimba Group, which doesn’t sacrifice any part of the park.

The Bukit Kiara Rumah Panjang Residents Association had doubts about the development right from the start. When the authorities approached the longhouse community to sign the master resettlement agreement (MRA), the group was skeptical about its intent, as it didn’t reveal anything about when, where or how the housing project would actually proceed. The MRA had only outlined a deal which guaranteed 100 free units of affordable housing, and another 100 at a discounted rate. The group further added that many families outside the group were equally skeptical of it, but were eventually scared into doing so with notions of homelessness if they didn’t comply.

But for the other longhouse residents’ association, Pertubuhan Penduduk Perumahan Awam Bukit Kiara, all the commotion surrounding the project is but a distraction. They’re focused on getting their long-awaited homes as quickly as possible. Formed in 2003 and representative of the older generation of longhouse families, the group snapped up at the opportunity to sign the MRA as it presented them with a lucrative deal. Their proactivity in signing the agreement, coupled with the fact that most of its members are of the original 98 families that were displaced in the eighties, led DBKL to recognize this group as the sole representative of the entire longhouse community.

The current state of the longhouses | Picture: TheStarOnline
The current state of the longhouses | Picture: TheStarOnline


The strained relationship between the two groups may have begun as a relatively minor disagreement, but as the battle for the park heated up, so too did their conflicts. The first group initially challenged DBKL’s preferential treatment, then went on to accuse the second group of a host of mischievous things. In addition to the alleged use of scare tactics to persuade the longhouse residents to sign the MRA, the second group was accused of purposely rejecting new membership applications, constantly refusing to meet to discuss urgent community matters, as well as the misappropriation of funds. The latter relates to the RM700,000 given by the developers in 2016, for repair works on the longhouses - which the first group claims to be missing. It was eventually found to be at no real fault to the second group, and was due to the incompetencies of Yayasan’s contractor. To this day, some of the longhouses remain in a deplorable state.

The longhouse residents are clearly fractured by the development project in Taman Rimba Kiara. All of these complexities and indeterminable accusations serves as a glaring reminder of the troubles that a questionable development could cause. The shady dealings and details of the project doesn’t allow for the affected residents to make educated decisions as a community. 

And, if you account for the dubious land acquisition, the unethical exploitation of the situation and the ingrained politics that has already surrounded the development, the case doesn’t just seem like a simple disagreement between two separate communities and the local authorities. It now seems entirely representative of all the other cases of corruption that has plagued this city and country.

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The court had recently dismissed an appeal to halt any development within Taman Rimba Kiara - resulting in a court order to pay RM40,000 in legal fees. The TTDI Residents’ Association and Save Taman Rimba Group is seeking donations to aid the costs. If you’d like to help their cause, you can do so here.