Kampung Baru makes up only a small portion of the Titiwangsa constituency but the way it votes will have big bearing on the chances for Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani to retain the seat he won in GE13.
Based on the Sultan of Selangor’s edict more than a century ago, the land he bequeathed will belong to its Malay owners in perpetuity – in his own words; selagi ada bulan dan bintang (so long as the moon and stars shine).
While every inch of real estate surrounding the Malay reserve land already developed, Kampung Baru remains steadfastly mired in a time warp. With 2,000 registered voters out of a constituency numbering more than 20,000, attempts to woo voters are crucial as Johari won the seat by a mere 866-vote majority back in 2013.
The parliamentary constituency located right smack in the middle of the city centre is no not an easy constituency to win, much less hang on to or anyone harbouring ambitions to be its wakil rakyat.
With tangled ownership and inheritance issues, unrealised real estate potential and chaotic development, Titiwangsa is a big pot of old unresolved issues and brewing new problems.
Last GE13, Barisan Nasional won only two of the 11 parliamentary seats in the Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur. – Titiwangsa and Putrajaya. Thus, problem or not, Titiwangsa is a seat the incumbent BN is determined to retain to shore up BN's support in urban seats.
On Wednesday, Johari will be facing a three-cornered fight against Bersatu's Rina Harun of Pakatan Harapan and PAS' Mohamad Noor Mohamad.
Johari points to his local connections to appeal to Titiwangsa voters. He grew up in a poor family in nearby Kampung Pandan - a rags to riches tale of a poor Malay boy who made it as a chartered accountant before being propelled into national politics.
"I used my position (as UDA chairman) to bring development to Kg Baru. I came and met the traders and told them we need a better place. We built offices and retail outlets and this became the catalyst to leveraging. You need to buy time, engage and use the right strategy. You cannot use the same strategy as you develop squatter areas."
We have to continue explaining why there is no straightforward development in their areas despite being in the city centre, as compared to redevelopment of areas in squatter areas.
Kampung Baru's main problem is that most of the lots have multiple owners spanning generations, and some small lots can have more than a hundred owners owning a few square feet of real estate.
On top of that, some owners are either not traceable or unidentifiable, due to the land having been awarded to these Malay urban settlers about 118 years ago by the Selangor Sultan then.
(The documents states "selagi ada bulan dan bintang", the land belongs to them)
"These are not squatters but urban settlers who own heritage Malay reserve land. We will not acquire the land unless it is for the purpose of development of infrastructure for the public such as transport hubs.
"We need an estimated RM13 billion to acquire the whole land if the government wants to redevelop Kampung Baru. The government is not in that business. Our business is to ensure proper infrastructure, management of land and drainage, and waste collection," said Johari.
Johari, the former Finance Minister II, said that his biggest and most arduous task as MP was to answer the questions of his voters who questions the slow pace of development while playing diplomat between them and developers who eye the reserve.
"We have to continue explaining why there is no straightforward development in their areas despite being in the city centre, as compared to redevelopment of areas in squatter areas. Squatters can be relocated."
"These people own the land. The historical importance of Keramat is not easy to unwind. All of Kampung Baru is freehold," he says. "Some lots have hundreds of owners. That is the nature of property ownership when the title was given."
"There must be continuous engagement by the Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Ministry. There is no other way to face the voters. Popularity is not the issue. You have to confront and answer to their grievances, even if it means at the expense of political baggage," adds Johari.
Another important amenity in his constituency which he wants to preserve is the nearby Pasar Keramat.
"This is a historical market where you cannot see any other race except the Malays in an urban setting. How do we preserve the uniqueness by not neglecting development? We need to upgrade," says Johari, who hopes to gain a bigger mandate this time round for him to continue what he has been doing.
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