Streetscapes: Normally bustling street at a standstill

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 27, 2020 - May 03, 2020.

Above: The EMCO has brought the once-bustling Jalan Masjid India to a standstill

Photo by Mohd Shahrin Yahya/The Edge

Barbed wire fences surround Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion, which are mainly occupied by foreign workers

Photo by Low Yen Yeing/ EdgeProp.my

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An Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) has been imposed on Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion in Jalan Masjid India, a historical street in Kuala Lumpur, since April 7 when the Ministry of Health confirmed 15 positive cases of Covid-19 there.

Some 6,000 residents are barred from leaving the two flats and visitors are prohibited from entering. Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had been quoted as saying that 97% of those living there are foreigners. The EMCO is expected to end on April 28.

Before the EMCO, Jalan Masjid India was a busy street, known for shops that sell textiles and clothing. Famous eateries there include Mansion Tea Stall and Restoran Saravanaa Bhavan. On weekdays, the street would be frequented by white-collar workers from the nearby offices, while on weekends, it was a favoured haunt of migrant workers.

However, the EMCO has brought the once-bustling area to a standstill. If you visit now, all you will see are barbed wire fences around the buildings, and personnel from the police force, Malaysian Armed Forces, Malaysia Civil Defence Force, Kuala Lumpur City Hall and Malaysian Volunteer Corps Department (Rela), among others, deployed there round the clock.

Formerly known as Dickson Street and Jalan Tun Tijah, Jalan Masjid India was named after Masjid India, a mosque located diagonally across from Malayan Mansion. The current structure of the mosque was constructed in 1965.

An 1889 map shows a mosque — Masjid Kampung Melaka — sited around the same location as Masjid India. It was said to be built by Encik Baki, the father-in-law of Haji Abdullah Hukum, in 1859 — making it possibly the earliest mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

The mosque was subsequently known by other names such as Masjid Keling, Masjid Chulia and Masjid India Selatan as more Indian Muslims began frequenting it.

Today, Jalan Masjid India is surrounded by landmarks such as the Masjid Jamek LRT station in Jalan Tun Perak and Jakel Mall in Jalan Munshi Abdullah. Menara City One — a two-minute walk from Jakel Mall — was the first building in downtown Kuala Lumpur to be placed under an EMCO, with 3,200 residents affected.

According to Metro Homes Realty Bhd executive director See Kok Loong, there were seven transactions at Malayan Mansion from 2017 to 2019, involving upper floor units with built-ups of 645 to 879 sq ft. They were sold at RM100,000 to RM275,000 per unit, or RM113.90 to RM425.80 psf.

At Selangor Mansion, the pricing was similar. Between 2017 and 2019, two upper floor units were transacted at RM114 to RM171 psf. In 2018, a 333.6 sq ft ground floor unit was transacted at RM496,875, or RM1,489 psf.

“The buyers were mainly employers with shops around the area and the units were meant to house their foreign workers,” says See. “The pricing of units there is stable and I don’t think it will go up by much because the locals are not interested in staying or renting there due to the large number of foreign workers in the buildings as well as the poor maintenance of the properties.”