A community faces demolition when an expressway pushes through the area next year.
By Deborah Tobin
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – November 5, 2015
Some residents of the Kuala Lumpur neighbourhood, Pekan Ampang are concerned about plans to demolish parts of their community to make way for a new expressway next year.
On Oct. 17, more than 200 people attended the Pekan Ampang Heritage Talk and Photo Walk, an event organized by young area resident Sarah Amer and a group of friends.
Amer has taken on a leadership role in the fight to spread the word about the imminent loss of the historic district.
She is concerned that the plans for the expressway have not been well-communicated to the residents, many of whom are elderly unilingual Chinese speakers.
“I find myself being in the position of telling an old man that his shop isn’t going to be around anymore,” said Amer.
“We could see that it was important to start mobilizing the community to realize that outsiders are taking an interest in this issue and that they realize what we have here. It’s really unique.”
The crowd gathered in the Dewan centre in the heart of Pekan Ampang to listen to Razak Bahrom describe the history of the area. He told how the area was once a town in its own right. Pekan Ampang was built around tin mining in the mid-19th century before Kuala Lumpur was established. The tin mines were mined out by the 1980s.
Bahrom is a local resident who describes himself as an amateur historian.
“I come from a long line of history-minded people,” said Bahrom. “My grandfather passed on much of the history of the area to me.”
At the back of the community centre, a group of young residents used pastels to colour in a series of drawings of the area created by local artist Stephanie Yong.
“I wanted to preserve the look of the buildings here before some of them get demolished,” said Yong. “I want to document 40 or 50 buildings so that people will remember this stretch of road. I try to keep my drawings as accurate as possible so that former residents will be able to recognize the shop they went to for years for their vegetables.”
After the heritage talk, the crowd spilled out onto the street hoping to meet shop owners and take some photos.
Chung Lee sat in the front of his tiny shop in the shade of a faded canvas awning smoking a cigarette in the steamy noontime heat.
“I have been in this shop for many, many years. Maybe I’m too old now,” said Lee through his grandson, who translated for him. “My grandson will go to college. He doesn’t want to run a shop.”
Shop owners will receive financial compensation for their properties.
Amer said: “Some of the tenants are in their golden years, so the compensation is kind of a way out for them, but they do feel that their way of life will change dramatically. They feel powerless.”
Ampang Jaya Municipal Council has said that the town has no heritage value.