Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bid to preserve leprosy site

By : Jennifer Gomez
Lee Chor SengLee runs a nursery at the Sungai Buloh Leprosy Settlement with the help of two workers.
Lee Chor SengLee runs a nursery at the Sungai Buloh Leprosy Settlement with the help of two workers.

SUNGAI BULOH: The remaining 48ha of the leprosy settlement here should be maintained as a national heritage.

The Save Valley of Hope Solidarity Group , a non-governmental organisation, intends to raise public awareness on the significance of the place to ensure its conservation.

"For example, this is truly a melting pot of the various races who lived together and were self-supporting. It's a live classroom for us to teach our young about solidarity and not rely on handouts," said Teoh Chee Keong, the organising committee co-ordinator of an upcoming carnival themed "I Love Valley of Hope".

The carnival, which among others wants to show the public that it is safe to be around former leprosy patients, will be held on Dec 8 and 9 at the Sungai Buloh Leprosy Settlement.

Programmes include photo and floral exhibitions, a documentary screening on the history of the settlement, a youth camp and a drawing competition for children.
The settlement has been the centre of attention ever since debate sparked in early September about the validity of the demolition of the eastern portion of the leprosarium to make way for Universiti Teknologi Mara's new medical and dental faculties.

Teoh said the leprosy settlement could be turned into a tourist attraction, showcasing its well-executed urban planning system and architectural appeal.

"We have had foreign students from Taiwan who came here to conduct architectural workshops.

"Many are not aware that in the 1920s, when an urban plan for Kuala Lumpur could not be implemented after a trial period of four years, this leprosy settlement became the first location to have a successful urban plan.

"As such, there is a lot to be learnt from this historical site."

Teoh said the settlement also had the potential to become a prominent horticulture hub.

Sungai Buloh Leprosy Settlement Council acting president Lee Chor Seng, 70, said that flowers and plants cultivated in the settlement by former patients were distributed throughout the country and in Singapore and Indonesia.

However, business had slowed down over the last two months following news of the demolition of the settlement's buildings.

"We have seen a 30 per cent drop in visitors. Many think that we have closed shop, but we are still here. This is our main source of income."

The leprosy centre had 2,800 patients in 1956 but the number has dwindled to just 300 residents now, half of whom are living there due to old age.

The youngest resident at the settlement is 60 years old while the oldest is 88.

For details on the carnival, contact 012-7355025 (Chua) or 019-3503563 (Choong).

No comments: