CARCOSA Seri Negara is apparently closing its doors to the public tomorrow.
Its guests have been told that the century-old residence-turned-hotel would be closed for refurbishment. The hotel has declined reservations for 2016 and its online booking engine has been temporarily disabled.
Carcosa Seri Negara is a union of two stately bungalows, Carcosa and Seri Negara.
Its construction began in 1896 and it was to be the official residence of the first Resident-General to the Federated Malay States Sir Frank Swettenham, who moved in 1904.
When Malaysia gained independence in 1957, Carcosa remained the property of the British government until 1987.
Carcosa Seri Negara was opened in 1913 as the official guest house for the Governor of the Straits Settlement and was later referred to as King’s House.
Since 1989 both properties had been leased to Landmark Hotels and Realty Sdn Bhd on a 10-year renewable contract basis. Since 2004 it had been managed by General Hotel Management Ltd (GHM).
The second 10-year lease expired on Dec 31, 2009, after which it was closed for refurbishment.
However, Seri Negara alone commenced operation in January 2010, under the same name – Carcosa Seri Negara.
It was managed by Saujana Hotels & Resorts (SHR), the hospitality flagship of the Malaysian-owned Peremba Group, which also managed two other luxury hotels in Kuala Lumpur – The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur and The Club Saujana Resort Kuala Lumpur – until today.
A source revealed that the lease to Paremba Group would expire on Dec 31, which also marked the fifth anniversary of the closure of the main mansion – Carcosa.
A visit to both mansions recently showed clear signs of the need for refurbishment and be brought back to its former glory.
Despite its opulent British colonial exterior, the interior was fading away with ageing furniture, faded curtains and carpets to name a few. But the garden and its surrounding was well kept.
Between the two mansions, Carcosa was in worse condition as it had been abandoned.
However, a film crew was spotted in the living area of the mansion on the ground floor.
Operations at Seri Negara was as usual but some furniture had been tagged, implying that government officers had conducted an inventory check.
It was also learnt that the staff had been verbally promised to be transferred to work at other properties soon.
Its hotel manager Ignatius Netto when contacted, declined to comment.
National Heritage Department (JWN) director-general Dr Zainah Ibrahim said Carcosa Seri Negara’s heritage building status, declared in 2007, would remain.
“However, the building is managed by the property and land management division of the Prime Minister’s Department (JPM).
“JPM and JWN always cooperate to plan and give suggestions on preserving and conserving the Carcosa and Seri Negara.
“JWN has a Conservation Management Plan, as a detailed guideline in regards to developments on Carcosa and Seri Negara that was applied by the JPM on April 27, 2010.
“The application was with regards to a Request for Proposal to privatise Carcosa and Seri Negara.
“The report on the Preservation Management Plan was divided into three divisions, namely its historical significance, site preservation and development guidelines, and building preservation regulations,” she said.
As a heritage building, Dr Zainah said any development on the site must be in line with the National Heritage Act 2005.
“They must abide by the dos and don’ts as stated in the Conservation Management Plan and site preservation and development guidelines issued by the National Heritage Department.
“However, the development plans for the site have to be referred to the JPM, which was responsible for managing the building,” she said.
JPM could not be reached for a comment on the situation.
Badan Warisan Malaysia executive director Elizabeth Cardosa was puzzled as to why Carcosa Seri Negara’s development was so mysterious.
“There has been speculation on the closure of the hotel for development since the late 2000s. But there has not been any real confirmation of what the fate of the building and site is as far as I know.
“Looming over most heritage buildings, even ones which have such a substantial historical, architectural and cultural significance, and especially the ones which are located within a very large site, has this concern as to whether its future development will be sympathetic to its significance, or if this significance will be overtaken by immediate financial gain.
“Having said that, since we don’t know the plans for Carcosa Seri Negara, it would be irresponsible to speculate on its future. However, all of us must be concerned and vigilant,” she said.