ALOR SETAR: It was 1955. Malaya was all set for Independence in two years. The Communists terrorising the nation had been driven deep into the jungle and were losing the war.
Led by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the Malayans sat down with the Communist to discuss the possibility of peace, which culminated in a day-long negotiation on Dec 28,1955, that eventually spilled over to two days.
Known as the Baling Talks, the meeting took place at the then Baling English School, now known as SK Tunku Putera.
Sadly, the site where this historic event took place in Baling, Kedah, is falling into oblivion.
The special gallery in the school where this historical event took place is nearly destroyed by time and weather.
Kedah Army Veterans Association committee member Rahim Ismail, 66, said the gallery was actually the building where Chin Peng and his delegation safely spent the night during the Baling Talks.
“The actual place of the meeting was one of the classrooms in the school, ” Rahim said, adding that after a storm ravaged the building last April, a section of the roof broke off.
Rain damaged photographs, artefacts and furniture such as the beds which were used by Chin Peng and his men.
Rahim said something must be done to preserve the building as it was important for the future generation.
“The Baling Talks is a vital piece of our history. It was the catalyst event that led our forefathers to gaining our Independence, ” he said.
In a video posted on the National Heritage Department’s Facebook page on Jan 8, its director-general and heritage commissioner Mesran Mohd Yusop said there was a misunderstanding about who was responsible for that building.
“The school building was gazetted as a national heritage on Dec 28,2016, under the National Heritage Act.
“When a building is gazetted under this Act, Section 42 (1) of the Act requires the owner of the building to be fully responsible for ensuring that the place is kept in its original state, ” he said.
In this case, the historical building is not owned by the National Heritage Department, but by the state Education Department.
He said his department had the responsibility to advise the owner of the building in terms of conservation.
Mesran said his department welcomed any party willing to help in any conservation work of heritage buildings.
“We know the cost of conservation is not cheap and a lot of funds are needed for it. So if there is anybody who wants to help, we will welcome them, ” he said.
He said he was informed that the Kedah Education Department had applied for funds to restore the gallery from the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry last month.
Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan president Brig-Jen (Rtd) Datuk Mohd Arshad Mohd Raji, however, called on the National Heritage Department to take more proactive steps.
“It is not fair to expect the school or Education Department to get involved in heritage conservation.
“You gazetted it, so you must take part in caring for it. If not, (you) might as well not declare it a heritage building in the first place, ” he said, expressing hope that the National Heritage Department would use its network to raise funds for the conservation of the gallery.
“That is the trouble with many Malaysians. They don’t care about our history.
“We have a department that cares for national heritage, so it must take responsibility. It is as simple as that, ” he added.
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