GEORGE TOWN: Temporary structures have been erected in the front courtyard of the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling for phase two of the temple’s restoration project to be carried out.
Kong Hock Keong board of trustees vice-chairman Datuk Seri Khoo Keat Siew said the structures, which were put in place early April, included a roofed structure, site office and fencing for the temple furniture, urns and other prayer paraphernalia to be kept while awaiting restoration works in the temple’s interior to be completed.
He said the trustees of the temple, which is popularly known as Kuan Yin Teng among devotees, also plan to restore the side annexe of the main temple building under the Phase Two.
Khoo said Phase Two of the restoration work involved changing the roof, putting up lime plaster walls, laying terracotta floor tiles and repairing the kitchen and restrooms.
“The building plan for the second phase was approved by the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) on March 28 and restoration work is expected to be completed in two years,” he said, adding that the temporary structures in the front courtyard will remain there until the works were completed.
Khoo said although the structures were an eyesore to visitors, it was necessary to put them up as items from inside the temple had to be moved out.
“It is too dangerous to allow devotees to go inside the temple building to pray as we fear accidents may happen,” said Khoo at the George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) office in Lebuh Acheh yesterday.
Khoo was commenting on talks that the structures, which had caused concern among Penangites, heritage enthusiasts and experts as well as visitors, might end up being a permanent fixture at the temple’s front courtyard.
On the temple’s board of trustees being slapped with three notices for failing to obtain approval for the temporary structures, Khoo said a building plan application for the structures was submitted to the council on May 21.
MPPP Heritage Department architect Fazreen Dharleila Abdul Jalil, who was also present, said the council is currently processing the application.
“The structures will be taken down if the plan is not approved,” she said.
Khoo said if their application is not approved, the board will look for an alternative site to store the items.
Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) president Khoo Salma Nasution who was also present, said the temple is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang, which is more than two centuries old with a history dating back to the year 1800, and therefore, it was important to highlight its outstanding universal value.
“The temple is identified as a Category 1 heritage building and this means that it has to be authentically restored or else the works might devalue the temple’s heritage instead,” she said.
GTWHI general manager Lim Chooi Ping said the first phase of the RM6mil restoration project, which started in the end of 2011, is now 90% complete.