Melaka govt’s redevelopment of school land hits snag

MELAKA: The Melaka government’s plan to acquire the prime tract where five historical schools are located in the city centre for redevelopment has hit a snag.

Chief Minister Datuk Wira Idris Haron, who was deputy education minister prior to assuming his current post, said yesterday that the schools would instead be rehabilitated and restored as part of the Bandar Hilir Heritage Zone.

The schools occupy about 75 acres (30.1ha) of prime land in Bandar Hilir Melaka and with a conservative value of at least RM200 per sq ft, their commercial value is too high to ignore.

Land values in Melaka have escalated in tandem with other cities, thanks to the tourism boom in the state. This is especially evident in the Bandar Hilir area located in the centre of the historic city. Close to major tourist attractions as well as the city’s commercial district, a condominium unit in the vicinity can fetch between RM300,000 and RM2 million.

The Edge Financial Daily has learnt that several parties have indicated interest in undertaking  several mixed development projects in the area, which include hotels and a mall.

Bandar Hilir is also where five historical schools — with a combined age of 646 years — are based.

The first target was the Malacca High School in Jalan Chan Koon Cheng — the nation’s second oldest school. Neighbouring it are St Francis Institution (established in 1880); the 106-year-old Sekolah Kebangsaan Bandar Hilir; Infant Jesus Convent which is 154 years old; and Sacred Heart Convent which was established in 1950 — all four located in Jalan Parameswara.

With the exception of the Sacred Heart and the Infant Jesus which are partially funded, the other schools are owned wholly by the education ministry.

Attempts to acquire the 15.6 acre Malacca High School from the education ministry resulted in vehement protests by the school community and apparently scuttled attempts to take over the land.

To recap, in a letter to the state education department on April 3, the state government indicated its intention to acquire the school and relocate it to Ujong Pasir, some 5km away.

The state education department forwarded the request to the ministry which on June 30 instructed the department to obtain feedback from the school principal, teachers, Parent-Teacher Association and alumni.

State Education, Higher Education, Science, Technology, Green Technology and Innovations Committee chairman, Datuk Md Yunos Husin said there was a need to relocate Malacca High School to ease the traffic congestion.

Despite the respite it received yesterday, there is concern that with commercial interests being the main motivation, there will be future attempts to acquire the land.

A teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity said it is feared that approval for Malacca High School’s relocation would be the start of the relocation of other schools in the vicinity.

In 1993, Malacca High School, St Francis Institution and Sacred Heart Convent faced relocation for a traffic dispersal system but this move was scrapped following strong protests by the respective school communities including their alumni.

Malacca High School former student and teacher Datuk V Sivaraman said there had been numerous attempts to acquire the land under previous administrations.

The five historic schools occupy about 75 acres (30.1ha) of prime land in Bandar Hilir Melaka and with a conservative value of at least RM200 per sq ft, their commercial value is too high to ignore.

“But former chief ministers like Datuk Seri Mohd Adib Adam, Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik and Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam were alumnus of the school and did not support the acquisition,” he said when contacted.

An official of the Malacca High School Old Pupils Association said traffic dispersal does not make sense for such a big area.

“Traffic dispersal is only part of it, from what we understand there could be commercial interests with some developers’ names being thrown around,” said the official.

The school’s alumni include former director-general of education Tan Sri Dr Abd Rahman Arshad and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on August 1, 2014.


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