WITH so many of Kuala Lumpur’s old and heritage-rich buildings giving way to development, the demolition of a 110-year-old wall in the city sparked fury among conservationists and the public.
A section of the 15m wall, located in front of the AgroBank Malaysia headquarters in Lebuh Pasar Besar, was hacked into by construction workers working on a nearby building.
The wall had been retained for its history as the Federated Malay States Railway and Yard was built there in 1905.
The adjoining building used to house the railway headquarters and is now the National Textile Museum.
The area was known as the North Goods Yard where supplies from all over the country were brought by train and stored at the site before being redistributed into the city and even as far as Kajang and Seremban.
The South Goods Yard in Brickfields is now KL Sentral.
International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) Malaysia chairman and National Heritage Council chairman Datuk Hajeedar Majid had criticised the destruction of the wall.
He had said despite an understanding with Agrobank, which was then Bank Pertanian, to keep the wall, it was sickening that it was summarily destroyed.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) came under fire for the lack of action to address the problem.
Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Mohd Amin Nordin had said the wall had not been gazetted by the National Heritage Department (JWN).
“As far as I know, there is no intention by DBKL or JWN to declare it a heritage site,” he had remarked.
Following the partial-destruction, a stop-work order was issued to the developer pending investigations.
JWN said the developers had failed to comply with several conditions set by it.
After a site visit, a meeting was called between the developers and DBKL with the former ensuring all old bricks had been salvaged for reconstruction.
Heritage commissioner Dr Zainah Ibrahim said even if a structure with heritage value was not listed under the National Heritage Act (NHA) 2005 (Act 645), local authorities could refer to the department to identify best conservation method for it.
“In accordance with the requirements of Act 645 (Section 40), when there is any new development site close to a national heritage structure or structure of heritage value, recommendations should be submitted to JWN.
“JWN will then identify measures which should be taken to ensure the new development will not affect the integrity or legacy of the structure,” said Dr Zainah.
Meanwhile, Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM) executive director Elizabeth Cardosa had called for an urgent inventory of historic resources following the wall’s partial destruction.
“It is ironic that this historic monument has been torn down just when the city has initiated a major face-lift in the immediate vicinity focussing on its cultural and built heritage,” said Cardosa.
Even the Malaysian Institute of Architects Malaysia (PAM) voiced their disappointment that professionals appointed for the project had been insensitive to the historic environment.
PAM Heritage and Conservation Committee chairman Steven Thang Boon Ann was quoted as saying that any development of any scale or design adjacent to or close to a Listed Building, which would have a major adverse impact on the Listed Building, should be strongly discouraged, as provided in the NHA 2005.
“Such destruction without regard to our inheritance exhibits further threat to our built heritage.The wall does not appear to have caused any hindrance to developments in the vicinity and should have been incorporated in all development proposals,” he said.
It remains to be seen what will be done to rectify the damage and if any semblance of history will be maintained.