Iconic Rain Tree Felled

“It took more than one hundred years to grow, and now – it is gone, in just a day,” says Ms Lee Pui Mun, lawyer, and ex-student of MGS Ipoh.

This comes after news of the historic rain tree being felled spread rapidly across social media. A meeting with ex-students, Board of Governor representatives and lawyers revealed that the issues behind the felling of the rain tree is two fold: sentimentality and legality.

According to Section 35H of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, it is illegal to fell a tree with more than 0.8-metre girth unless the tree is diseased or dying, facing imminent danger, or if the felling complies with any written laws.

A look at the cross-section of the already chopped branches revealed that the tree was perfectly healthy, and the felling was uncalled for.

Ms Lee recalls that over 300 students could gather under the shade of this beautiful tree, with more than enough room for comfort.

Vice-President of the Old Girls’ of MGS, Linda, added that she was not made aware that the tree was to be chopped off. “I was aware that a new 4-storey building was going to be built, but no one told me that we were chopping down the tree,” she adds.

Three generations of her family have been students at MGS, and her granddaughter is to be enrolled at the school in 2020. “When my mum found out that the tree was being cut, she was really upset,” Linda adds.

Ms Lee said that the felling of the tree was kept under wraps. “Even the teaching staff and principal were not made aware,” she says. She added that Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh (MBI) was not aware that the tree was to be felled.

“When contacted, they told me that the tree was not disclosed in the plan. They did not know that the construction of this building involved the felling of a 100-year-old-tree,” she says.

Linda said she contacted the chairman of the Board of Governors, Dr Ting Chen Sing on Saturday. He said he would “look into it”.

The question then becomes – if the Board thought that the felling of the tree was legal, why was it not included in the proposal?

Linda added that only select members of the Board of Governors knew that the tree was to be felled. She said that in January, the chairman explicitly said that the renovation process would not involve the tree.

Edwin Seibel, lawyer at Gibb & Co., started an online petition to stop the felling of the tree. He said that his daughters are students at the school, and he wanted to raise awareness, as a concerned member of the society.

The petition garnered over 2400 signatures in about 24 hours.

Victor Chew said that there was a suggestion to chop the tree before. It was met by protests from the Old Girls. “It didn’t work the first time, so everything was done in a hurry this time around,” he said.

Ms Liew Meng Wai, also a lawyer, estimated the tree to be at least 60 feet in height.

Victor said the saving grace was when the tree cutter did not have the right equipment to cut the tree, as the diameter was just too big.

The crown of the tree had been chopped off, but Ms Lee told us that the roots were there, and the tree was not dead. “They can design the building around the tree, there is no reason to chop it down like that.”

The Board has not responded.

Ms Lee sent a legal letter to Ipoh City Council, requesting for a stop-work order. An order was duly issued by the Council on Thursday, July 5. A notice is plastered on the tree stump and the area surrounding the chopped tree is now off-limits to all and sundry.

Loshni Nair

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