Sultan’s call to preserve heritage buildings resonates with the rakyat

Iconic landmark: A general view of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

KLANG: The call by the Sultan of Selangor to protect and preserve heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur, especially those that are linked to Selangor, has been welcomed by many people.

Selangor Council of Justice of Peace president Datuk Loke Fay said the call by Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (pic) was timely.

“There is a need to preserve and save these iconic buildings as they have historical and architectural value, ’’ he said yesterday.

Loke said it was also important to preserve these buildings for the younger generation as many were not aware that Kuala Lumpur was part of Selangor prior to being designated a Federal Territory (in 1974).

He also urged Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to allocate resources to preserve these buildings.

Sultan Sharafuddin had in conjunction with Federal Territory Day called for Kuala Lumpur’s heritage buildings to be conserved.

In the statement issued by Istana Alam Shah here, the Ruler said he wanted historical buildings such as Carcosa Seri Negara, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Masjid Jamek, St Mary’s Cathedral, the Kuala Lumpur railway station, the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd headquarters, the old Istana Negara and Stadium Merdeka to be protected.

He added that many of these buildings, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, had strong links with the state when Kuala Lumpur was Selangor’s administrative capital before 1974.

The building also holds a lot of memories for senior lawyers given the courts were located there until the mid-1990s.

Shearn Delamore & Co partner and consultant S. Radhakrishnan, 80, said Sultan Sharafuddin’s call to preserve the buildings was very appropriate as they hold a lot of history.

“The High Courts, Supreme Court and later the Appeals Court were located in this block of buildings.

“Many landmark legal decisions were made here, ’’ said Radhakrishnan who has retired from legal practice.

“Another building I vividly remember is the Central Market when it was a wet market.

“I used to see the late Toh Puan Bunny Suffian, who was the wife of the then Lord President Tun Suffian’s (Tun Mohamed Suffian Mohamed Hashim), buying poultry and fish there by herself, ” he added.

Malaysian football icon Datuk Soh Chin Aun said he was happy that Sultan Sharafuddin mentioned Stadium Merdeka in the list.

“We had played so many Merdeka tournaments there as well as against many foreign visiting teams. Football legend Diego Maradona had also played in Stadium Merdeka, ’’ said Soh, 71.

He said if Stadium Merdeka was not preserved, part of the nation’s sporting history would also vanish together with the iconic venue.

Veteran designer Datuk Johan Ariff, who is in his 80s, said that many of the iconic buildings had fallen into disrepair.

“It is indeed timely for Tuanku to have made the call, ’’ said Johan, who has designed many of the well-known buildings around Kuala Lumpur.

Heritage expert Datuk Hajeedar Abdul Majid said that there was still time for the authorities to act in conserving the nation’s tangible heritage sites.

He said that unless urgent action was taken to sustain and preserve these buildings, they could be gone.

“It was heartening to hear about the Sultan’s concern about these iconic heritage buildings and I hope it would prompt immediate conservation efforts, ” he added.

Hajeedar, who is past president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites Malaysia, added that the buildings were in a sorry state and quickly deteriorating.

“If left abandoned for too long, as some of the buildings have been, rot would set in and this could cause exponential deterioration.

“We need to find new uses for old buildings, but also in keeping with its history as it signifies the progress of the country, ” he added.

Hajeedar said that the sites were gazetted as national heritage under the National Heritage Act 2005, as such, the owners were obligated to conserve and maintain the buildings.

Kuala Lumpur Tourist Guides Association chairman Edmond Chan urged authorities to not only conserve iconic heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur, but also old villages and historical sites.

“There are still a lot of places in the capital city that have significant history and values in the formation of Kuala Lumpur into what it is now.

“This includes old villages in Kampung Baru and Brickfields as well as Chinese new villages in Kuala Lumpur.

“Some tourists would go for the history and cultures of the city, which can be seen in these historical areas, ” he said.

While Chan applauded some owners along Jalan Sultan for restoring pre-war buildings into more modern, touristy landmarks, the authorities should channel more efforts into conserving stretches of historical buildings and turn them into cultural villages.

“For example, most of the houses in Kampung Baru are privately-owned, but there are no specific buildings there to educate visitors on its history and the formation of the Malay enclave.

“The government should also allocate more funds to the conservation of historical buildings and sites, ” he added.

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