The Wong Ah Fook mansion before (above) it was demolished, leaving a pile of rubble (bottom) in Johor Baru.
JOHOR BARU: The owner of the land, where the 150-year-old Wong Ah Fook Mansion once stood, is believed to have demolished the building to make way for a commercial housing development.
Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) chief whip Datuk Yahya Jaafar said the state government had wanted to acquire the 0.44ha land and was in the planning stages to do so.
He claimed that the landowner, a Johorean living in Singapore, might have been worried that the state government would acquire the land at a price lower than the market value and thus hastily demolished the mansion in the middle of the night last Wednesday.
“The land in the Jalan Lumba Kuda area in the city centre where the mansion stood is worth a lot due to the surrounding development under Iskandar Malaysia.
“That could be why the landowner was in such a hurry to tear down the mansion to develop a commercial property in its place,” he said yesterday.
Yahya said the acquisition process would usually take some time and the landowner might have been trying to take advantage of that.
Wong Ah Fook, after whom the city’s main street is named, was the chief government contractor who built some of the most recognisable heritage buildings in Johor, including Istana Besar, Balai Zaharah, the residence of first Mentri Besar Datuk Jaafar Mohamed at Bukit Senyum and the Johor Baru prison in Jalan Ayer Molek.
Wong was born in 1837 and died in 1918 at the age of 81.
Yahya said MBJB was investigating how the contractors tore down the mansion in the middle of the night.
“We did not receive any application from the landowner to demolish the mansion. An application must be submitted to the local council for approval before doing so.
“This is a standard procedure for landowners who wish to expand, renovate or demolish a building or house,” he said.
Yahya said the Johor Baru mayor would issue a summons to the owner of the land for demolishing the mansion under the Local Government, Planning and Development Act soon.