Wednesday 19 October 2022

Bukit Dinding and all our Highland

When I was in Primary Six at Pasir Panjang English School, Singapore in 1957, we had to be able to fill in a sketch map of Malaya with various geographical details as required by the school syllabus.

Note the location of the resource-rich States of Perak, Selangor and Negri Sembilan, all "acquired" by the 1874 Pangkor Treaty.  The marginal and poorer States of Perlis and the East Coast only had rice and coconuts - which offered little scope for profitable enterprise.

This morning, on our way home from breakfast, I made the spouse stop the car to let me snap a few more pictures of my much-loved Banjaran Titiwangsa.   In my 1957 map, Banjaran Titiwangsa was known as merely the Main Range! What a put-down name for the backbone of the Malay Peninsula.

Banjaran Titiwangsa as seen on the road from Sri Rampai to Setiawangsa.  

Banjaran Titiwangsa, if you can appreciate it behind the clutter of development.

Banjaran Titiwangsa and her magnificient limestone outcrops, again overshadowed by the ugly pinnacles of development and greed.

I shall savour such views of my mountain-backbone - but I fear that in 30 or 50 years' time or even sooner, "some rich men (will) come and rape" (2.42 in the video) those mountains.  

From the age of 13 (Primary School), through my Senior Cambridge, Higher School Certificate and my degree at Singapore University, geography (and maps especially) has always been my favourite subject, yet nowhere was I made aware of how tin mining and the clearance of forests for rubber had ravaged the environment of the Semenanjung in the pursuit of profit and "progress". In the time of my youth, I suppose few people thought about challenging and criticising the desecration of the landscape in the non-western parts of the British Empire by the Brits and their compradores.  

However, in one of my spouse's old books - "Illustrated Guide to the Federated Malay States" (1923) edited by Cuthbert Woodville and illustrated by Mrs H.C. Barnard - I noticed a reference, bland though it may be , to what happens to a valley as a consequence of tin mining:

A river valley dug, flooded, scraped and scoured for tin as noted in 1923.

When I got home, I decided to check "The Last Resort", one of my favourite songs by the  Eagles.  It encapsulates so much of what has, is, and will happen to the beautiful landscape of our Tanah Air.

The rape of the land of the First People (The "Red Indians" ) in USA was based on the ideology of the Manifest Destiny (referred to as "destiny" in the above song).  "We satisfy our endless needs, justify our bloody deeds. In the name of destiny, in the name of God" (5.11).

 As for Malaya, the violation of the Semenanjung's landscape was engineered by British Imperialism and powered by imported labour, merchants, traders and administrators from China and India especially after the Pangkor treaty. 

Here is a sample of the instigation and drive to develop(?) and exploit (?) the resources of the Semenanjung

The Manifest of the Semenanjung's Destiny.


I was quite taken by this Youtube comment on the Eagles' song:

" .... a simple fact that no white man (me included) could ever love this land as much as any Native American, they fought for over 400 years to keep their home and we just kept pushing and pushing them......" by Robert Flor.

On the matter of love and respect for their land, can the bumiputra Malay-Muslim be compared to the Native American?  Unfortunately not, I fear, despite Islam's teaching that we Muslims are supposed to be the Stewards of Creation :

"Cannot misuse all these natural resources beyond their immediate needs"

When we, in our arrogance decide to place our abode in locations that threaten and abuse nature .....

....... then we and others in the vicinity have to pay a price. 

We desire (and developers are always happy to feed that wish and vanity) that our abodes be built on high land or high slopes so that we can get a much-envied exclusive view and establish that we have achieved high stature in our life style.

We desire such elevated locations because it will promise us high returns on investment.

We also desire such lofty positions because it ensures good feng shui.

So when I noted several banners appearing in Setiawangsa .....

......  I decided to look up the background of Bukit Dinding.

This map taken from the website Mapcarta shows the position of Bukit Dinding between Setiawangsa in the southeast to Wangsa Maju in the north.  Bukit Dinding is 291 meters high, which is just a little short of a few metres to be classified as a mountain. A mountain has to be 1000 feet high (304.8 meters).  It is a very popular spot for hikers  and cyclists.

For the past six to seven years, we have seen a growing number of youngsters, both male and female ( almost 100% Malays) gathering on weekends and public holidays to hike along the path that goes up Bukit Dinding. Good for them, we said.  Sometimes we can see almost 100 cars sitting along the road, as well as motor bikes and bicycles - all, as a rule, conscientiously parked.  It is a sight worth remembering.  So the preservation and protection of Bukit Dinding means a lot - not only to the residents at the bottom of the hill - but to these youngters enjoying a good healthy exercise instead of parking themelves in front of the TV or wandering around shopping malls. 

I was quite curious about that route up the slope. So four days ago on a weekday afternoon when there wouldn't be any walkers this late-septuagenarian decided to give it a look. 

Oh, how I wish I could turn the clock back to 53 years ago when at 25, with a group of NCC Officers, we drove from Singapore to climb Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir), on the border of Melaka and Johor.  Gunung Ledang is 1276 meters high.  On the afternoon of the next day we got down to the base of the mountain and drove back to Singapore.  The climb and the view at the top was awesome.  It was worth every painful joint and muscle ache in the body.

Before I left for that trip, my Abah gave me this petua (advice).  Do not pluck or break any leaf or twig or branch or flower on your climb up Gunung Ledang.  Secondly, do not look back or anwer when you hear someone calling your name from behind you.  Aaah, father knows best.

Oh Malaysia, you do not know how lucky you are to have all this natural beauty - to have all these hills, mountains, and forests, all these wonderful coastlines and rivers, to savour and appreciate.  But I fear there won't be much of a legacy to leave behind for future generations if the present one does not make a greater effort to preserve what is left - places like Bukit Dinding and many others that are about to be turned to  "Places where the pretty people play - hungry for power", see 2.30 in the video.

Remember this by arwah Usman Awang?

Bukit Dinding and all the surrounding areas were once - before the British came - a tropical rain forest.  They were then sold or bestowed for planting thousands and thousands of acres of rubber.  Then urbanization created new owners, and now these owners are allocating these prime areas for huge new housing developments. 

This view of Bukit Dinding will be obliterated in a couple of decades or maybe earlier. Image taken from Malay Mail 9 Oct 2022.

This fate of Bukit Dinding as envisaged by the developer Nova Pesona.

Nova Pesona  according to ctos .....

....... and Nova Pesona is a subsidiary of  .....

..... IGB (Ipoh Garden Berhad).  A corporate profile of IGB Berhad writes : it is "primarily a property company engaged in all aspects of the property industry.  Its core business is in retail, commercial, residential, construction, and hospitality.  The company also has investments in water treatment, information technology and data analytics and education.

IGB Berhad is one of the largest listed property companies in Malaysia with footprints across Asia, Australia, the United States of America and United Kingdom,"

As for Nova Pesona, according to the Malay Mail ( 9 Oct 2022)

From the Malay Mail , 9 Oct 2022. According to the Kuala Lumpur City Plan, large parts of Bukit Dinding have been designated for "housing" as early as 1983. Only the peak of the hill has been designated as a no-development zone.  Nova Pesona .......... owns the largest parcel out of the five parcels carved out and zoned for "housing" there.  All are owned by private developers.

I find it quite mind-boggling how such hills and mountains (let alone lowlands) can be owned by "private developers".  It is like accepting that large parcels of The Great Wall of China or the Cheviot Hills or Yorkshire Moors can now belong to private developers!

But, there's no way that the Chinese and the Brits will allow themselves to be caught or manoeuvred into the same situation as the Semenanjung Malays faced all those years ago.

Hopefully, the campaign for Saving Bukit Dinding will not be regarded as just another Nimby (Not in my Backyard) attempt to preserve the sanctity of their homes at the foothills of Bukit Dinding - although these are certainly under constant threat of soil erosion where they are and any more pressure of "development" by property developers will exacerbate their situation.  These residents are confronting a very powerful property corporation and hopefully DBKL will take a strong stand in choosing stability (for the hills and the homes ) over profit.  

This campaign should be an eye opener, for Malays especially,  that no more of  the Tanah Pusaka - the hills, forests, mountains, sea-shores - shall be "pledged, hocked, pawned, peddled, marketed, mortgaged and auctioned ....... to the highest bidder and their middle men and agents - though all too often we still get shortchanged" (as AsH has said before!)

Despite Merdeka, despite increasing wealth, despite the investment in religious and secular education, Malays have succumbed to corruption, cronyism and nepotism and now as we can see at every election and proceedings in Parliament, they are scratching out each other's eyes for bigger and bigger slices of the  booty in the name of the Rakyat and democracy.

Here's an illuminating blast from the past.

I recall this quote from Punch, 1878. 

I am not hungry, but thank goodness, I am greedy.

For all the residents of Setiawangsa and Wangsa Maju, keep the flag flying.