Neglected buildings are an embarrassment, says tourist guide

  • Metro News
  • Tuesday, 24 Sep 2019

Jane feels embarrassed when tourists point out cracks and shrubs growing on the buildings.

SAD and embarrassing.

These are the words used by Jane Rai to describe the current condition of the iconic heritage buildings along Jalan Raja in Kuala Lumpur.

Jane, the former chief heritage guide for Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau, said she was embarrassed each time tourists pointed out the bad conditions of the buildings in the area during her walks.

“Over the years, whenever I conduct walking tours to iconic and historical buildings, I will explain the architectural layout, the style and the aspiration behind the buildings,’’ she said.

“But there are always photographers and architects in my group, and when they zoom in to capture the designs, they will say ‘hey Miss Jane, there is a tree growing up there,’ and I can only reply, ‘yeah I am aware of it’.

“It is embarrassing having to constantly explain to people about it.”

The plaque that shows the heritage status of the Sultan Abdul Samad building in Jalan Raja, Kuala Lumpur.The plaque that shows the heritage status of the Sultan Abdul Samad building in Jalan Raja, Kuala Lumpur.

Tourists, she said, also kept telling her to get the authorities to address it.

“I always give them a positive answer by telling that I am in communication with the authorities, and I believe the time will come when they will fix it.’’

The historical buildings around Jalan Raja are falling apart. Mould and water leaks are slowly eating up the buildings.

Cracks have appeared in many of the structures that are looking shabby while some are already in a dilapidated state.

Some effort has been put into maintaining the exterior of the buildings.

Jane, however, said the situation was getting worse at the heritage stretch where most of the colonial buildings were located.

“I also get comments that the paint is peeling and the building is looking dull.

“There are cracks, mould and water ponding, but I keep assuring the tourists that the authorities will be doing something to fix the problems,’’ said the guide with more than 30 years’ experience.

Most of the buildings in Jalan Raja have been cordoned off from public due to safety reasons.

“When I used to conduct the now-defunct Dataran Merdeka Walk, we used to be able to access the verandah area but that has been blocked off.

“It is always nice to take tourists along the verandah through the marble path and into the buildings and explain to tourists the history and the idea behind it; this is the kind of experience we want our visitors to enjoy,” said Jane.Apart from fixing up the place, she said the Government must engage a management company that had a clear understanding and the right vision to develop the area.

“The authorities need to identify who is going to manage the place and it has to be someone who appreciates the history, culture and people with a good financial backing as this restoration and conservation work is going to be a very expensive affair,’’ she added.

Badan Warisan president Elizabeth Cardosa said the authorities needed to come to a compromise in deciding what was best for this heritage area.

“A lot of money has been spent here, also with the River of Life development where space has been opened up.

“There is a serious lack of maintenance problem happening here that needs to be addressed, or everything is going to rot.

“Why are we as a nation not concerned about upkeep and let beloved buildings waste away, then spend millions repairing?” she asked.

“We need to start seeing buildings like Sultan Abdul Samad as a national pride and a legacy to be left for the future generation, rather than just a selfie backdrop,” Cardosa added.

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