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Business as usual at jogging park?
Published on: Sunday, October 01, 2017

By Horward Luther King Jr
TAMAN TUN Stephens Park in Bukit Padang, was built in the 1970s and has since transformed into one of the popular places for ardent exercise buffs who want to burn a few calories and stay healthy.

It is also very popular with retirees strolling around with their buddies to kill their idle time as well as families with young children feeding the fish and letting their kids having a taste of outdoor life.

They come from all walks of life regardless of race, religion, creed and age, reflecting the harmonious culture of multi- racial-cultural-religious of various communities way-back to colonial time, but the majority of them are ordinary folks who deem that the Park is the cheapest place to sweat it out.

Over the decades, their number has grown exponentially and their presence in the Park can be felt strongly everyday without fail.

The Park was leased out in 1997, during Datuk Panglima Yong Tet Lee as the Chief Minister, to Silverado Corporation Sdn. Bhd., by way of a lengthy 20-year concession agreement, despite the vivid hues and outcries and protests of members of the public who wanted the Park preserved.

The concessionaire had quickly constructed and erected three permanent structures there which are now known as the Kampong Nelayan/Beijing BBQ Restaurant, the Water World Team Park and the Putera Theatre Ballroom.

No one knows exactly what were the terms and conditions of that concession agreement, in particular, the concessionaire’s deliveries and obligations under it.

From the sketchy press information, then and now, the concessaire is supposed to “manage” the Park but it is everybody’s guess what it entails.

Other than the grass is cut regularly the Park’s environment and facilities have, in fact, deteriorated over the tenure of the concession.

The lake is so polluted by siltation, indiscriminate dumping of food waste, rubbish and the discharge of sewage into it directly, that tilapia, crab, frogs and other creatures that used to thrive there in the past are virtually extinct.

The wooden foot bridge that crisscrosses the lake may collapse anytime due to years of negligence.

Mud from landslides is not cleared properly or prevented.

Facilities, such as push-ups and swings donated in the past by corporate citizens, are long gone and not replaced.

The hawkers’ areas where they are doing a thriving business is so filthy and smelly but nobody seem to care.

Did DBKK health inspectors and officers of the Health Department come and do routine inspection?

No new facilities are constructed. Not a single parking lot is added despite the ever-growing number of exercise buffs.

Even the car parks in and around Putera Ballroom are now out-of-bound to them.

The only visible improvement is the many hiking and mountain-biking tracks to the top of the small hill in the Park.

Not a single sen is believed to have come out from the concessionaire, nor Kota Kinabalu City Hall ( DBKK ), which is the caretaker of all parks and open spaces and the Barisan Nasional State Government of the day inclusive.

It was reported in March 2011, that DBKK had issued two (2) warning letters to the concessionaire to rectify the shortcomings with regard to the maintenance of the environmental conditions in the Park.

The then DBKK Director-General, who is currently the Mayor, Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, said that he was not satisfied with the situation there.

He even threatened DBKK would issue a last warning letter immediately, and that drastic action would be taken against the concessionaire without further notice.

Nobody knew whether any last warning was issued but it is believed that the concessionaire had done nothing until today. Now, are we having a talking and no action DBKK?

Worse still, when the concessionaire ceased the operation at the Water World Theme Park in October 2016, the facilities and equipment were just left to rot.

Overgrown grass and bushes were not cut. The fencing is falling apart due to termite infection and years of negligence.

The empty swimming pools are collecting rain water which is an excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Shouldn’t that place be reverted to its original state?

Isn’t there any penalty clause if the concessionaire should fail to do so? Or, is DBKK more than happy to clean the mess at the taxpayers’ expenses?

Or the Health Department would spring into action when there is an outbreak of denggi-fever at the Park?

It must have come as a big relief and joy to the exercise buffs and the general public at large when news broke out last March that this concessionaire had expired and that the concessionaire would shut down the place and hand back the 3 structures to DBKK.

As events unfolded in the ensuing months, their happiness were just short-lived rumours even so that the Park will be turned into another commercial development.

In June, the Mayor declared in no uncertain terms that The Park belongs to DBKK. It is a gazetted Park.

There is no issue about commercial development, and as long as he was the Mayor, he would not allow anything to happen.”

He then threw a time-bomb by saying that DBKK had taken over the Park and management, of the sundry shops, reflexology and hawkers’ centre and that the concessionaire agreement would continue until December after new terms would be negotiated next year.

Meanwhile, the swimming pool area would be developed into a cultural scenario.

Isn’t turning the swimming pool into a cultural scenario a commercial development?

When the concession agreement is extended next year after new terms are negotiated, the restaurants and the ballroom will be back in business.

Are they not commercial activities that should not be allowed to happen in a gazetted park?

Isn’t it a clear Breach of Laws and Regulations pertaining to local government, planning and land use?

Isn’t DBKK in clear Breach of its functions by extending such a concession agreement?

Another bombshell was thrown in by Luyang Assemblyman, Hiew King Chew.

He was reported to have said that DBKK was sourcing for funds to the tune of RM20 million to upgrade the whole Park, including “ clearing the area, building new resting sheds integrated children playgrounds and jogging tracks, making good hill-slope and climbing steps, improving operational office, making good foot-bridge and upgrading Tai-chi platform, and so on.

Alas, why should the taxpayers be made to foot the bill?

Shouldn’t they have been the concessionaire’s deliveries and obligations in the concession agreement in the first place?

If they are not, it begs the question, is the Park leased to the concessionaire for a song?

If they are, how if the concessionaire has failed to fulfil its contractual deliveries and obligations and yet escape scrutiny?

And so on, what basis it is still the forerunner to continue the concession agreement, after new terms are negotiated next year, as the Mayor had implied?

Moreover, isn’t it ridiculous and defying logic for DBKK to continue the concession agreement until end of this year and take back the “Management” of the Park, meaning at the taxpayers’ expense?

Even a kindergarten kid is able to tell it is a raw deal.

They should redeem by allowing the concession agreement to lapse, demolish, the Kampong Nelayan/Beijing Ballroom BBQ Restaurant and the Water World Theme Park structures but keep the Putera Ballroom to be used as a community hall.

Restore and upgrade the Park by all means, surely a State which boosts of having an annual revenue budget of RM3 billion cannot afford to spend to RM20 million for the wellbeing of the ordinary folks. Do the taxpayers have a choice? The terms of the State and Government is subject to renewal every 5 years.

All people-elected representatives are voted as servants to bring development and progress to their respective States and county as a whole.

Horward Luther King Jr., Freedom fighter/activist Sandakan

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