PERZIM head– Khamis Abas – hails as the Malacca conservation czar promptly went about his new business when he unveiled villagers in Banda Kaba and Bukit Cina as the state’s new recipient of Heritage Village status. (The Star, April17, 2009 – Two more villages to be gazetted).
These “special status” villages or Kampung Warisan, according to the GM of the museum board, are in line with the Chief Minister’s vision to enhance the development of Malacca as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The two villages – Banda Kaba and Bukit Cina - totaling some 280 families are two of the oldest settlements in the historic city. Once they are listed under the Malacca Conservation Enactment 1993, the villages join Kampung Morten, Kampung Chetti and Portuguese Settlement and Chinatown enclaves in Heeren Street and Jonker Walk to be accorded the special status.
Khamis is adamant that by enlisting the villages, it would go a long way to preserve the quaint kampong surrounding and the century old Malay attap houses. And this being Malacca, the move he adds would be a boon to tourist arrival in the areas.
This surprising turn of event may be the lifeline the residents in the affected areas are waiting for.
Because of its proximity to the town center, the population consisting of mostly wage earners and small petty traders has for decades lived without knowing when the juggernaut of development will strike their stilted homes next.
This previously peaceful racially mix settlement lost its earlier charm when public flats and other property projects made inroads into their neighborhood. In the pipeline, a condominium is set to cast its domineering shadow over Banda Kaba .
Those who lived their life here can vouch for what they see as a threat to the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood. Residents suffer unbearable ding from traffic jams and the narrow roads are choked with outstation vehicles.
However, the affected residents could face tougher headaches if they plan to renovate their homes under the new regime. The state is also unashamedly vague on this crucial matters because many of houses are weathered and battered, and in dire needs of repair.
Already the residents have been ‘advised’ that they must seek special permission from the City Hall and PERZIM for approval if they plan to uplift their homes. Like so many urban villages all over the world, their trouble is far from over yet. Sadly, the fate and the future of the affected villagers are in a limbo too.
In the end, they maybe just mere pawn in a bureaucratic nightmare created by the authority to juggle between conservation and money making ventures disguised as tourism.