KUCHING: Sarawak Museum Department claims the felling of trees at the newly-restored Fort Alice in Sri Aman was the result of a “collective decision” made with the Resident Office.
The department said the incident at the 150-year-old heritage site, which attracted widespread condemnation, was for “public safety”.
“There was a branch that fell off one of the big trees. It hit a car,” said Tazudin Mohtar, the museum’s curator in charge of ethnology and management.
“During a meeting in January with the Resident Office, we talked about it. In February, the office expressed concern again. We were preparing for the opening of the fort as a museum. We were worried if branches were to fall again, who will people blame? So we made a collective decision.”
Contacted last week, the Resident Office declined to comment on the matter.
Tazudin could not recall the number of trees that were cut down or trimmed at the site when asked. “I think (it was) a few trees, including the one with the branch (that) fell on the car,” he said.
Locals have confirmed to Sarawak Metro that 11 trees were chopped down at the site. There were 13 trees before and only two were trimmed.
Weirdly, a dead tree at the site, which actually poses a danger, has been left untouched.
Tazudin said he would write to the Sri Aman District Council to replant trees.
Public complaints were first reported by a national Chinese newspaper, with locals saying they did not expect the trees to go at end of the two-year long RM5mil fort-restoration project.
In an interview, conservation architect Mike Boon expressed outraged.
“I am disappointed and disheartened. I don’t understand why the trees, which are part of the heritage consideration, had to be cut down,” he had said.
Criticism also came from the Malaysian Nature Society and Sarawak Heritage Society.
Yesterday, Sri Aman Kapitan Tay Siaw Chuan, 50, told Sarawak Metro he would recommend to the authorities that, if any replanting were to take place, proposals should be made public first.
“The government spent so much money restoring this building. Why cut the trees around it? Just because one branch fell on a car, you cut all the trees down?” Tay said.
“I really feel we have lost something valuable. History is in those trees. They were planted by the Europeans when they built the fort, which led to the founding of the town.
“We love those trees. I grew up with them around. I cannot express how sad I felt one morning last week when I drove by and saw only stumps.”