By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, Feb 21: Aspiring candidates for seats in Kuching come the next state election must be bold in fighting for policies that can improve the city, even if they are not popular among the constituents.
Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, in giving this advice, cited the development of the Old Kuching Heritage area as an example.
He said the state government and Kuching North City Hall (DBKU) often faced resistance and disapproval from certain quarters when it comes to bringing change to the area, like turning the area into a vibrant district that can match the popularity of Jonker Street in Melaka or heritage sites in Penang and Singapore.
Areas surrounding India Street, Carpenter Street and Gambier Street have the potential to become a popular tourist hotspot if developed accordingly, he added.
“We must be bold to bring change. If we have good intentions, and if we are doing it wholeheartedly without any self-interest to beautify and build up the place, at the end of the day, the people will appreciate our effort.
“If you are focussed enough, this place can become one of the most beautiful areas in the city.
“Don’t submit to the naysayers because there will always be those who opposed everything that the government wants to implement,” Abdul Karim said at the Chap Goh Mei Festival 2019 at India Street Pedestrian Mall here on Wednesday evening.
He believed a lot needs to be done to transform India Street and its surroundings into a vibrant tourism area. He called on all stakeholders to discuss among themselves on how to improve the area.
He suggested visits to Singapore, Melaka and Penang to see how these cities transform their heritage sites into thriving tourism attractions.
“This whole stretch (Old Kuching Heritage) must be alive every night or every weekend, at the least. You can start with weekend programmes such as the night market.
“We cannot keep on spending money to build infrastructure in the area yet fail to attract visitors. Cooperation from stakeholders is needed.”
Abdul Karim suggested stakeholders employ architects to redesign and renovate their shophouses to be equipped with modern infrastructure while maintaining their heritage outlook.
He also suggested that the India Street Pedestrian Mall concept to be expanded to other surrounding areas to create boulevards in the city centre.
“In fact, we can build a boulevard that stretches from India Street all the way to Carpenter Street towards the temples (Hiang Thiang Siang Ti Temple and Hong San Si Temple at Wayang Street).
“Turning the streets into a pedestrian mall will be attractive to visitors, promote walking for better health, as well as reduce traffic congestion.”
However, he admitted that acceptance of such ideas would need a change in mindsets as such development requires the consensus of all affected parties. — DayakDaily