PETALING JAYA: A non-governmental organisation and a city planning expert have expressed mixed views over the government granting a 60-year lease extension to SMK Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) today.
Save Kuala Lumpur (Save KL) chairman M Ali poured cold water over the move, saying that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin should have gazetted the school as a heritage site instead.
“We have been advocating that buildings of that age, being over 100 years old, should be protected as a heritage site.
“Why are we talking about just 60 years? After this, what will happen 60 years down the line? We will go through the same process,” he told FMT when contacted.
Previously, Badan Warisan Malaysia similarly urged the government to protect the school, as it was important to Malaysia’s heritage.
Last December, the federal territories land office issued a letter of non-renewal for the school’s lease, which is due to expire on Sept 6.
The CBN alumni association launched a petition two days ago urging the government to renew it. They also sought to quash the initial decision not to renew the lease at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Monday.
Derek Fernandez, however, lauded the “fantastic” decision, saying it was in line with Muhyiddin’s policy in 2013 as the then deputy prime minister and education minister.
“He said the education ministry was not against extending the leases for mission schools, as long as they were used for education,” he said, adding that since 2013, there have been no public announcements of any changes to the policy.
Fernandez, who is also a lawyer, said it was therefore, not within the power of any federal land agency, or even any ministry, to reverse such policies without Cabinet approval.
In a statement today, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said it granted the lease extension to CBN after taking into account the importance of the school’s contributions to the nation since 1899.
It said the extension of the lease was “specifically for educational purposes only”.
Meanwhile, Sister Mary Theresa Chua, who is Lady Superior of the Society of Saint Maur, thanked the government for extending the land lease for 60 years.
“We thank God Almighty for giving us the grace and privilege to continue our vocation to educate children in this beautiful country.
“We also thank Malaysians for their love, care and concern towards the well-being of Convent Bukit Nanas, which has been educating children for some 122 years,” she said in a statement.
Sister Chua said she represented the school’s board of trustees in a meeting this afternoon with the chief secretary to the government and the federal territories land and mines director, to discuss the extension of the land lease.
Established in 1899 by missionaries, the all-girls school is one of Malaysia’s oldest schools and one of the last few all-girls schools in Kuala Lumpur.