Yes, I have been severely criticised by some enthusiastic heritage buffs. Whether I am being rightly or wrongly criticised for my recent view of the heritage buildings in the city, even to the extent that one of them had stated that one day “you too will be declared an ‘eyesore’ and be torn down and a car park erected in your place”, I am not too concerned because as I was prepared to criticise others I must expect to be criticised.
After all, the aim of “My Say” column is to keep an issue alive and debated by the readers. It is the view of one person, not even Ipoh Echo, and I do not demand that everyone agrees with my views, fully or even partially. After all, one man’s food is another man’s poison.
But, let us express our views and criticisms in a civilized and mature manner no matter how “appalling and misguided” the opposing views are. As a journalist I was expressing not only my view, but also those of the owners of the old buildings, who are in a dilemma because of the call to preserve their buildings.
Just put yourselves in their shoes. Inheriting one of the old buildings in the city can be a financial burden to them. What more if the buildings are to be restored as heritage?
Why are those who feel strongly against the demolishing of the building at the junction of Jalan Sultan Idris Shah and Jalan Raja Musa Aziz only voicing their opposition now? That building, which was destroyed by fire, had been left, in the last two or three years, to deteriorate further to the extent of posing a danger to motorists and passers-by.
In all those years, no one had come up with suggestions that it be preserved. After it was pointed out that it could be a danger to motorists and passers-by, the city council put up the barrier which often collapsed.
Yet, it was not too late to save the building. But did those who are voicing loudly now do anything about saving the building? I believe no one did.
The decision to demolish the building was not mine to make. I had merely pointed out the danger of having such buildings. It was the city council’s decision. Perhaps it was inspected and found to be structurally unsafe, like the way the well-known landmark Yau Tet Shin market which was demolished in 2001.
Wake up heritage enthusiasts; it is not too late yet to save the heritage buildings in the city. Form a strong pressure group or a heritage foundation to get the authorities to expedite the preservation of heritage buildings.
Although the city council had identified 120 old buildings to be gazetted as heritage, I have my doubts that it can be done before the end of the year.
Those who have spoken strongly about heritage have been Europeans, understandably, for in their countries heritage is being given top priority.
When I was a press representative to UK in 1990, I began to appreciate how heritage buildings are being preserved by heritage foundations. Old mansions with their large estates, which are no longer manageable by their owners, are being managed and preserved by heritage organistions and visitors are charged fees for entrance. It was the same with every other site, including tourist attractions such as the Stonehenge.
The British are very far ahead in preserving heritage. But in Malaysia, where financial gains are top priority, heritage is just a much talked about subject, with very little achievement. The authorities are dragging their feet although some enactments are in place.
Take for instance, the century-old mining town of Papan. There has been so much talk about preserving it. Now, even the national heritage department seems to have put aside its proposed plan to preserve the Istana Raja Bilah – home of a chieftain and pioneer Malay tin miner.
At least, I can take pride for bringing to the attention of the authorities various issues in the interest of the members of the public. Whether my views and suggestions are worth two cents or not, I cannot be unduly concerned. My only hope is that some worthy views and suggestions can be taken into consideration for the benefit of the people and Perak.
As a journalist I am committed to my responsibility to the readers without fear or favour. And, I will continue to do so as long as I have the ability and opportunity.