GEORGE TOWN: From the outside, the 111-year-old Penang High Court building on Light Street is a majestic sight but take a closer look and there’s reason to worry.
The cement layer on some of its walls are flaking off, exposing chipped bricks. Worse still, there are cracks on parts of the concrete ceiling while the plywood roofing looks like it’s about to fall off.
The building has become a safety concern for lawyers, court staff and the public.
Its grand wooden staircase leading to the upper floor has been closed to the public for almost a year now because of the flaking cement layers and chipped bricks.
Those who need to go to the upper floor use the other staircases.
Lawyer R.S.N. Rayer said immediate measures must be taken to ensure the safety of the building.
“About one and a half years ago, I noticed chunks of red bricks that had fallen off,” he claimed.
The iconic building was given a facelift in 2005, with two new court buildings – a three-storey annexe at the former High Court car park in Light Street and a seven-storey complex beside the Dewan Sri Pinang – being built as well.
The three-storey block houses the lower courts handling criminal cases and administration offices.
The complex has a basement carpark and two upper-level carparks, as well as contains the lower courts that handle civil cases and more administration offices.
The Federal Government had allocated RM66mil for the renovation and construction of the buildings, plus other supplementary expenses.
Rayer claimed that access to the carpark for one of the High Court judges has been cordoned off for repair works to be done on the ceiling.
“Also, some fire extinguishers have gone missing. What will happen if a fire breaks out during court proceedings?” he said in a statement yesterday.
Another senior lawyer, who declined to be named, said there were leaks in the building during heavy rain.
“I have seen pails placed on the ground to catch the dripping water,” she said.
Penang Bar Committee chairman Shyama Nair, when contacted, said it was aware of the problems plaguing the century-old building, adding that the person-in-charge of the building also knew about the situation.
State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said he asked the Penang Island City Council to check on the safety aspects, adding that they would also verify whether the building has a certificate of occupation.