MALACCA: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron has stepped into the controversy at Kampung Chitty in Gajah Berang here, ordering a probe into the approval of a high-rise condominium project at what is arguably the oldest settlement in the historical city.
According to a state government source, Idris wanted a thorough investigation to identify those responsible for the approval of the project in 2009.
The project is within the buffer zone of an area recognised by Unesco as a heritage site.
The village was gazetted as a heritage village in July 2002.
The project, involving two 22-storey condominium blocks, a 12-storey hotel annex and a six-storey car park, was believed to have been shelved but was later found to have been approved.
The developer is said to have resumed work six months ago.
The source said Idris was upset as the settlement of “Indian Peranakans” was part of the city’s heritage.
It was learnt that the state government might have to fork out about RM30 mil in compensation if it re-acquires the land.
The source revealed that Idris had told his officers to look into solving the issue immediately as it was causing a major “headache” to the administration.
“My boss wants to re-examine the documents pertaining to the project and see how it can be resolved without affecting the heritage site.
“He is serious about resolving the matter but he has to manage it carefully as the approval was granted before he was appointed as Chief Minister,” the source said.
Kampung Chitty’s Welfare and Cultural Association’ president K. Supramania slammed the state government for reneging on its promise made during a Deepavali open house in 2012.
He said former Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam had told the community the project would not go on.
“Despite feeling disappointed, we still have trust in the state government to resolve the issue,” he said.
Supramania said the settlement preceded other ethnic enclaves in the city, adding that the state government should not neglect the welfare of one of the earliest communities in Malacca.
“There are many ways for the state government to acquire the land, including getting funds allocated under the National Heritage Act 2005, if it really wants to save the village from development.
He said the approval of the project should be re-evaluated based on the principles of Operational Guidelines for World Heritage by Unesco, ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) and Icomos (International Council on Monuments and Sites).
He said three Hindu temples, dating back to more than 300 years, were at risk if piling work begins.
“Our only hope now is that the Chief Minister will intervene and stop the project,” he added.