This field was a legacy of nutmeg planter David Brown, business partner of James Scott, who in turn was a business crony of Francis Light. It was given to the Penang public as an urban green space. In the past, Penangites would play football, fly kites, jog around this space.
But now, blog visitor tunglang reports:
David Brown ‘donated’ 12 acres of Padang for all to freely walk in and enjoy.
Now it is ‘cosmopolitan-ly’ upgraded and fenced up.
Padang Brown (Padang Dato Keramat) was once an open field with 360° access without any barrier fencing. As a popular venue for Third Division matches, it was a footballer’s dream field in its early days, notwithstanding the flooding after a downpour – which made bola sepak a macho and fun game of kicks, shin tackles and body slides on slippery grass and muddy water.
But today, you see no Third Division battles; neither do you spot any souls strolling around. No cheers of kaki bola-gila bola by the roadside of Jalan Dato Keramat in the late afternoon.
Instead, the field stands forlorn like a Guantanamo Bay detention camp with a perimeter steel fencing, three sliding gates and narrow slit entrances through which a Sumo wrestler can hardly squeeze.
Then there was the the much publicised upgrading work in 2013 which, it was claimed, would solve the flooding problem in the Padang.
But after a heavy downpour last Sunday morning, the field was waterlogged both inside & outside of the fencing.
Q: How come Padang Brown is still waterlogged (after a morning downpour) since it was upgraded with underground pipes (which it was claimed would prevent future flooding after a downpour) and returfed at a cost of RM1 million, putting it out of use for five month (October 2012 – February 2013)?
The Star had reported in January 2013:
The public field, located between Jalan Datuk Keramat and Jalan Anson, was dug up by the council in October to lay underground pipes.
The pipes, which cost almost RM1mil, are to prevent the field from being flooded. The move was initiated following complaints of the field being waterlogged after downpours which hampered sports activities.
And yet, this was the scene recently:
Q: For what earthly purpose do we have such ‘unfriendly’ fencing? Has Penang succumbed to fencing-mania?
Q: Is Padang Brown, a public playing field, the right place for hosting a weekly pasar malam of thousands of human footprints and stalled vehicle tyre tracks which are potentially damaging to both grass and top soil?
Padang Brown is better left alone in its original ‘playing field’ state envisioned by Brown than to make it ‘unwelcoming’ in the name of cosmopolitan upgrading and fencing.
“They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own use, and fence their neighbors away from her, and deface her with their buildings and their refuse.” -Quote by Sitting Bull
Rationale for project?
From what I hear from someone in MBPP, the council put up the fence because it apparently wants to encourage more people to play football at the Dato Keramat padang. (So that the ball won’t fly out?)
Another possible reason: The fence is to prevent vehicles from entering and spoiling the field.
But there are hardly any vehicles around. If they do enter, they can just be issued summonses, can’t they.
From what I hear, the decision to put up the fence was made by a department within MBPP and was not brought to the councillors’ attention.
How much is this fencing contract worth?
Is the MBPP trying to prove that it can go one up on the JKR, which has been putting up metal railings all over the place, including around little neighbourhood parks and greens?
Another dubious project under our contract-driven model of development with little public consultation and participatory decision-making…
Said one activist:
“Penang lacks public open spaces. The structure and local plans have identified the lack of public open spaces and recreational facilities, but there has been no serious attempt to identify the different kinds of parks such as neighbourhood parks, town parks, and urban parks.
“Penang has a serious shortfall even by the modest standards of the structure and local plans, which are much less than the recommendations of the Town and Country Planning Department. Proposals that 30 per cent of all reclamation land be public parks and recreational facilities are not considered seriously.
“The state through PDC is still trying to sell the Jelutong dump site as residential land.”
And the few open spaces we have… why, there are itchy fingers that want to pour concrete on them, put up useless structures or fence them up with railings, steel mesh or walls.
The Big Picture: The Fencing Up of the Commons
What is happening here is nothing less than the literal fencing up of the Commons – the appropriation of public spaces to serve whose interests? Where there is money $$$ to be made, the concept of public amenities and open green spaces is thrown out of the window.
Then there is the difficulty in securing public access to the entire beach front. Now that we have waterfront residential properties opening up into the sea, how is the public to have access to the waterfront? Are such waterfront properties even legal under the National Land Code?
Just look at this area in front of Dewan Sri Pinang, before they put up any metal fencing … lovely public space. In recent times, people even gathered here for various vigils such as the anti-ISA vigils a fews ago.
But we can’t have open spaces like that in Penang, can we? How can we pamper the public like that?
The Dewan Sri decided to fence up much of this area, which was once an open space. And now it is largely off-limits to the public.
What next? Hmm, let’s see… the existing wall along the perimeter of the Esplanade, put up only a few years ago, does not look high enough. How about we call for a tender and award a juicy contract to put up tall steel mesh fencing or better still a Great Wall around the Esplanade. And while we are at it, why not we put barbed wire and electric fencing and cctv cameras on top of the wall …. you know, for public safety and to prevent motor vehicles from entering the field.