KOTA KINABALU - The historic Atkinson Clock Tower cannot be removed as it is one of 10 structures protected undere the Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1997, according to former Chief Minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee.

The Sabah Progressive Party President said only the State Legislative Assembly has the authority to amend the protection, in response to alleged plans by City Hall to move the 112 year-old clock tower.

Yong was the Chief Minister under the two-year rotation system when the Atkinson Tower was gazetted for protection under the enactment on April 9, 1997.

"The rationale of having to be approved by the Assembly is that any motions or Bills will have to be made public and scrutinised.

"It is not sufficient that the Cabinet or the Head of State be the approving authority as such authority is not subject to public scrutiny," he said.

Among other structures protected under the law include Tugu Peringatan Private T. Starcevich in Beaufort, Tanjung Periok in Pulau Balambagan in Kudat, the Old Post Office Building along Gaya Road here, the Kinarut Mansion ruins in Papar and others.

Hence, Yong urged the Government to clarify whether the tower would be relocated and warned of public protests and legal action if the project proceeds.

The 15.2m tower was built in 1905 by Briton Mary Edith Atkinson in memory of her son Francis George, who died of malaria while serving in the colonial government.

Yong said this following recent statements by MCA Luyang Assemblyman Hiew King Cheu who said City Hall was thinking of moving the tower to make way for an 18-storey hotel and shopping mall next to it.

The development project was shelved six years ago amid protests by NGOs and court action.

Activists and history buffs also expressed disappointment over reports that the tower may be moved elsewhere.

State Museum Director Sintiong Gelet, when contacted, said relocating the clock tower would render it historically meaningless. "The clock should stay where it was and should not be relocated," he said.

Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) Sabah Chapter reiterated that all heritage sites that have been gazetted in Sabah, including the Atkinson Clock Tower and Padang Merdeka, should be treasured and protected.

The institution also opposed the construction of a proposed multi-storey commercial building on a site sandwiched between the Clock Tower and Padang Merdeka.

"Heritage sites should be preserved and proteted not only for the current generations but also for future generations to cherish."

"PAM Sabah Chapter welcomes investors taking interests to invest and develop Kota Kinabalu City but developments should be sensitive to the environment, and the design should be in context with and respect the immediate surroundings. In view of that, PAM Sabah Chapter felt that appropriate planning and design guidelines for sensitive and heritage sites should be formulated and adopted," its Chairman AR Arnold Kwan said in a statement.

The body was of the view that many people had overlooked the fact that the proposed multi-storey commercial development is also located next to another heritage site in KK city - the Padang Merdeka where Sabah's independence was declared on Sept 16, 1963.

"In fact, the proposed development is sited within a strip of heritage sites which can be classified as a heritage precinct for KK city. The Padang Merdeka, the Atkinson Clock Tower, the Australia Place, Kota Kinabalu Community Centre through to the Sabah Tourism Board building and the burnt old Welfare Building are all worthy to be preserved and protected," Ang said.

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