The UKRC field fiasco
THE ball, excuse the pun, is firmly in Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim's court.
At the Selangor State Assembly sitting next week, the State government will be cajoled to live up to the election promise made by Gombak MP Azmin Ali and Ulu Kelang assemblyman Saari Sungib to give a piece of land, comprising a football field and a club house known as the Ulu Kelang Recreaction Club, "back" to the committee which has been managing the plot since 1958.
After promising to reverse former Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo's decision in 2004 to gazette the five-odd acres of land as open space, managed by the State Secretary, the UKRC committee, headed by Andrew Gopal, has been waiting for almost three years now for the Pakatan Rakyat government to keep its promise.
Andrew and Co. who have been fighting the battle relentlessly, have their hopes high that parity will be restored with the State government reversing Dr Mohd Khir's seven-year-old decision. It is for a good reason that they are doing so — residents in the area take pride in upkeeping what must be among the last good football pitches in the Klang Valley.
They have not only lovingly tended to its upkeep, they have developed a sentimental affinity for the club and football field, sandwiched between blocks of houses and threatened to be taken away by development due to its prime location.
The committee has maintained the place by creating their own funds, chipping in and collectively taking care of the field, and managing them well. They have frequent resident gatherings and families hold receptions of diverse sorts there.
It is home to them.
"The Pakatan Rakyat government must keep its election promise. It must," Andrew tells me.
"You know how much the place means to all of us. Generations of residents have sentimental attachment to the place. It is wrong to take it away from us."
Saari, it seems, is going to table a motion to reverse Dr Mohd Khir's gazette and return the plot to the UKRC committee.
The land had been alienated to UKRC by the Selangor State government, via the then Kuala Lumpur Land Office, on July 12, 1958.
UKRC had even paid RM690 for the surveyor's cost in August the same year to get the Pejabat Tanah Kuala Lumpur, as it was known then, to gazette the said recreational land under the control of the club.
Dr Mohd Khir had in 2004 re-gazetted the plot as open space after attempts to build condominiums there had met with huge public outcry.
The Malay Mail was, along with residents there, at the forefront in campaigning against the development. Azmin and Saari had then promised that the UKRC land issue would be resolved if Pakatan Rakyat took over the State administration.
On July 25, 2008, the Selangor MB had verbally informed Saari that he was very keen to resolve the UKRC controversy.
Andrew claims Khalid had asked that the UKRC file an application to purchase the land from the State government at a nominal fee.
UKRC duly complied, and on Aug 4 the same year, wrote in. There was no reply from Khalid's office. UKRC wrote again on June 25 and Oct 20, 2009.
Again, silence. In November 2009, the area's Village Development and Security Committee, Kuala Ampang (JKKK), comprising mostly UKRC members, wrote to Khalid to resolve the issue.
The MB's office replied that the State had no objection to allow UKRC to continue using the open space, subject to the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council's (MPAJ) conditions.
The council, it seems, has never interfered in UKRC's business. "They know UKRC will go to The Malay Mail," jokes Andrew.
As the chronology goes, UKRC wrote again on March 15, 2010. Mum was still the word.
Tired of the inaction, UKRC and the residents had a meeting with Saari on March 7 this year, and expressed their disappointment at the unwillingness of the State government to assist its two representatives to keep to their election promise.
An ultimatum, says Andrew, was given to Saari to resolve the matter. Saari had told them that he would table the motion and get assemblymen to support his proposal to return the land to UKRC.
Having been there on a number of occasions, I certainly know how much the club and field mean to them.
I have seen with my own eyes, as have many other colleagues of mine, how scores of residents would gather there whenever there was an occasion.
They flock there even to watch friendly football matches, like the few that I (and the likes of our group media advisor Datuk Ahirudin "Rocky" Attan and former sports editor Tony Mariadass) had taken part in against UKRC.
I hope Azmin, Saari and the State government keep the promise. It's wrong to take away these people's home.
YUSHAIMI YAHAYA is Editor-in-Chief of The Malay Mail. He carries ankle, knee and back injuries from his active field soccer days, and only indulges in the occasional game of futsal — preferably with players older than him. He is contactable at email@example.com.