Rakyat tightens belt, Najib wants to spend RM650 million on Taman Tugu?

Serious questions over RM650m park upgrade

QUESTION TIME The first thing that one has to note about this so-called Tugu forest park on which RM650 million will reportedly be spent is this: the park already exists – it is called Perdana Botanical Garden. Most Kuala Lumpur residents will know it simply as Lake Gardens – a more accurate name for this park which dates back to the late 1800s.

Regular visitors to the Lake Gardens will know that it covers the Tugu Negara (National Monument) area, Parliament, the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) building, Bukit Aman and the Bird Park, amongst others. It will be wrong to say or imply that a new forest park is to be built.

Here’s what The Star said prominently on its front page story yesterday titled ‘Forest in the city’: A huge green lung has been planned for the city centre…” The green lung is already there in the form of the Lake Gardens. What is being planned are additions. And they may not necessarily be beneficial to a forest park.

That immediately raise the question of why it will cost RM650 million in the first place, of which RM500 million will come from government-owned investment company Khazanah Nasional Bhd and the remaining RM150 million directly from the government.

What is it that will be done which will require RM650 million to be spent on the park between now and 2020 when the whole thing is going to be completed?

Here’s what Prime Minister Najib Razak said, according to The Star: “If Hyde Park is synonymous with London, and Central Park is synonymous with New York, I hope one day, Taman Tugu will be synonymous with KL as a global city. I don’t see this as something impossible because we can already see it happening.”

The report goes on: “Expressing his own excitement about the project, Najib said that when the first phase of the project is ready in the middle of 2018, the area will be a place where the people can come and enjoy its facilities and surroundings.

“‘Can you imagine – the people will have their very own mini tropical forest in the middle of the city,’ Najib said. It will have facilities such as restaurants, a camping area, canopy walks, zip lines, water park, jogging paths, walkways and cycling lanes, a gazebo and an observation deck.”

But the people already have a park there – a sort of a mini forest park for more than 100 years. And it was synonymous with Kuala Lumpur from before we gained independence when everyone called it the Lake Gardens. My brother once got lost in the park during the independence day celebration when thousands of Malaysians congregated there to celebrate. The police found him and took good care of him until our parents arrived.

The prime minister has to just go on any day to Lake Gardens or Perdana Botanical Gardens (how can Kuala Lumpur city be easily identified with a park if the park keeps on changing its name?) to see that park-starved Kuala Lumpur people flood this park, especially during weekends and that this is not a new facility that he is giving them.

Now we have another name for it – Taman Tugu – to cause even further confusion. Why can’t we just go back to the old simple name which generations of Kuala Lumpurians have identified with as simply Lake Gardens or its Malay equivalent Taman Tasik?

Serious questions over RM650m park upgrade
P Gunasegaram
6 Sept 2016

Tugu Negara Park – are we paying for Najib’s whims and ego?

COMMENT According to media reports, Malaysian taxpayers will soon have to foot the bill for the RM650 million man-made “mini tropical” forest that will soon ring the National Monument (Tugu Negara).

The bulk of the money, some RM500 million, will reportedly come from Finance Ministry holding company Khazanah Nasional, which is government-owned and funded with public funds.

And all this because Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak wants it to be so that, just as Hyde Park is synonymous with London and Central Park is synonymous with New York, he would have it that Tugu Negara Park be synonymous with Kuala Lumpur.

Najib might argue that the park’s end purpose is for the rakyat’s recreational use. But at a time when we are cutting millions from health and education spending, is it prudent to spend such an astronomical amount on a park, monumental or not?

I doubt the rakyat, having to work harder for every sen and maybe even holding more jobs to make do, would have much time nor inclination for recreation.

And are we then to have well-manicured, publicly funded gardens when our schools, universities and hospitals continue to degrade from lack of funds and maintenance?

What more when, as pointed out by critics of the plan, it is mooted during the time when our economy is not as stellar as it being touted, and when living costs are rising like a gaggle of sky rockets.

To assuage Najib’s personal ambition

Should we all tighten our belts and cut our food rations, deny our children access to quality education and neglect our national healthcare establishments, just so that Najib can have the mini-tropical forest that he asked us to imagine around the National Monument?

Are we, the rakyat, to pay through our nose, or whatever bodily orifice, just to assuage Najib’s personal ambition?

Are we then paying just to assuage Najib’s whim and ego?

Tugu Negara Park – are we paying for Najib’s whims and ego?
6 Sept 2016


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