Saturday, June 05, 2010

Kampung Baru land will not be sold to non-Malays

UMNO's Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Raja Datuk Nong Chick Raja Zainal Abidin is quoted saying, "not a single square inch of land in the redevelopment of the Kampung Baru Settlement in Kuala Lumpur will be sold to non-Malays."

The Malay Mail had earlier quoted a 72 year old resident of Kampung Baru swore that they will fight for their land and would not accept any apportioning of the land to non-Malays to buy or invest in.

Holistically looking at it, this affront to the Prime Minister's attempt at redeveloping Kampung Baru would appear enviable to many. The patriotism shown and the willingness to sacrifice is the kind of character that a nation being confronted by outside enemies requires to defend itself.

These posturings are obviously headline grabbing. Who ever heard of one 72 year old Baki Hussin? And until I read the Malaysian Insider article I did not even realise that we had an Urban Wellbeing Ministry. See, the usefulness of brouhaha in Malaysia? If you are an UMNO politician intent on impressing your latest girlfriend, say just about anything and get quoted in the next day's press!! She'd be impressed!! I cannot deny that our Ministers are men of substance, knowledgeable and are indeed smart. How else do they become a Minister? They cannot possibly be making idiotic statements. So, why else do they make it if not for getting media exposure? And of course the media are well trained to make them appear to be fools for the statements they make. But really, beyond impressing local bimbos who don't necessarily have the brains to analyse the essence of such statements, what other value can you put to it?

This redevelopment of Kampung Baru has been on the agenda of just about every administration, I suppose, since Tunku Abdul Rahman. The wealth or the value that is suspended in that piece of real estate is so enormous that, if the entire land is made available to the world to exploit to its fullest extent, the wealth created can potentially amount to a significant proportion of our GDP.

At the same time, it also stands as an icon, or a snub, which ever way you want to look at it. Iconic, because it stands as a reminder of a value system of a race that is proud of its heritage. It stands as an inheritance bestowed by their forefathers. And if, there has not been much change since the time when I drove through it some 30 years ago or so, it provides just about the only insight into an era that has been captured in several of the P Ramlee and 1950s and early 1960s Malay movies. Nostalgic. Earlier this year I went with friends to one of the Nasi Beriani stores. Yes, I felt like I was the only Indian around. And my friend the only Chinese. But we were there with a few Malay friends. There was no fear. I indeed felt welcome.

Reading the Malay Mail and our Minister Raja Nong Chick, however, suddenly Kampung Baru seems a little unwelcoming. The "spite" that you read between the lines when they claim the entire territory, and rightfully too, for the Malay race. The barring of any greed that might drive non-Malays into buying property there would be a snub for the likes of Vincent Tan, Francis Yeoh or the Tongs and other property barons. Unfortunately as a customer, I also view this as telling me that I really have no business there as well. They don't consider me as a potential customer who might want to buy property, produce or services that might be rendered there in the new Kampung Baru. Come to think of it, when I was there for lunch earlier this year, I noticed there were a number of traders and business activities going on that I never realised one could get right there at your door step if you were operating a business in the city centre.

This has got me thinking.

Is this how the UMNO led government ensures the Malay will forever remain undervalued? The Malay, according to UMNO should never realise the full potential of his assets and resources! That is why, what could be worth RM1,500 per sq ft is destined to not gain for the Malay anything more than RM350 per sq ft. And it is ingrained in the Malays' mind that this RM350 is such a windfall that he should be satisfied with it? That he should be proud of the fact that he has just sacrificed RM1,150 per sq ft for the pride of the Malay race, a value that UMNO keeps promoting as one they should die for!

Maintaining the mentality that is there about Kampung Baru and other Malay reserve assets, rights and resources ensures that the market to which these assets and resources are exposed to is confined to only the Malay market. When nasi lemak can be sold for RM10 a packet, confining its access to only the Malays means that same nasi lemak can only be sold for RM4.00 a packet. This is how the Malay is kept poor and reliant on the largesse of the UMNO led government.

Simple economics really. The larger market is not stifling the values and the prices the Malay can potentially obtain for his property and produce. Indeed I don't see any kind of prejudice against Malay assets or Malay produce or services. But because the Malay land, produce and service itself is substantially influenced by the access it usually gives to these, and, therefore, guided by the value the Malay market is prepared to give, and this includes salaries paid in employment, these become naturally undervalued when it reaches the open market. As far as I am concerned, I am fine by that. I do like my nasi lemak. And instead of RM10, if I only need to pay RM4 for it, it tastes all the more better.