Opinions

Statement by Badan Warisan Malaysia on the Revocation of Heritage Site status of MaTIC by Jabatan Warisan Malaysia

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The notification in the NST on 28 December 2016 from Jabatan Warisan Negara (JWN) to revoke the designation of the “Old Building of Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTIC)” as a heritage site raises many concerns and issues.

Law does not Provide for Revocation of Heritage Site Status

First, the section 31 (2) of the National Heritage Act 2005 (Act 645) which was cited in the Notice describes the process for designation of a heritage site. It does not deal with revocation of a gazetted site. And we understand that this site which comprises Lots 45 and 139 (Section 58) and part of Lot 158 (Section 57) was gazetted (Gazette Number P.U. (B) 290) as “Warisan” on the National Heritage Register on 16 June 2016. The criteria for listing specified in documents from JWN refers to its historical importance as well as its architectural and aesthetic character.

The National Heritage Act (NHA) does not have any provision for revocation of gazettal of a heritage site. Therefore, it would appear that unless the NHA is amended to allow for this, it is questionable if the Commissioner has the power to revoke a site which has already been gazetted; i.e. is this revocation ultra vires the Act?

Significance of the Heritage Site

So what can we find on Lots 45, 139 and the part of 158 which is identified in the Notice as MaTIC?

Lot 45 is used as a car park which services the tourism centre.

There is a modern five storey building housing the KL Tourism Office on the part of Lot 158 which has been gazetted.

Lot 139 is by far the largest lot. There are several other buildings on this lot, including the house of wealthy business tycoon Eu Tong Sen and the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman. In keeping with the social standing of the owner Eu, many social activities were held in this house from the time it was built (1935) until the start of World War II. During WWII, it was used by the British, and then the Japanese army as a war office. In 1956, it was acquired and renovated by the government of Malaya, and in 1957, the installation of the first Agong was held there. In 1958 a conference hall, the first air conditioned hall in Kuala Lumpur, was added at the rear of the building.

In 1959, the first meeting of Parliament of the independent Malaya was held there. Following the building of the new Parliament House, by the early 1970s the original house and hall were converted to house the National Art Gallery for the next decade or so. In the 1980s and 1990s several new blocks were added; these include Saloma Bistro and retail stores serving visitors and tourists. In the mid 1980s, the conference hall was converted into a theatre. This ensemble of buildings that has served as the Tourist Information Centre for over 20 years is now known as MaTIC.

NHA and New Development Initiatives on a Heritage Site

Then there is the issue of new development on a heritage site. It is important to note that there is nothing in the NHA which precludes new development. As in the case of all applications for planning permission, owners will have to comply with guidelines and conditions imposed by the local authority – in this instance it will be Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL). When it comes to gazetted heritage sites however, there will be additional guidelines and conditions imposed by JWN in line with provisions found in paragraphs 40, 41 and 42 of the NHA, all of which could potentially affect the scale and nature of the proposed development. This would include the provision of a 200 meter “buffer” from the site boundaries for any new development to mitigate against any (negative) impact on the heritage values of the gazetted building and/or site.

One could speculate that this revocation is to redress the fact there are no heritage buildings on Lots 45 and 158, and therefore the gazettal should not have covered these two lots, only Lot 139 which has heritage properties.  If this were the case, it would also beg the question why the Gazette in June 1026 included all three lots.

One would definitely expect a high level of rigour as well as resources in all endeavours to undertake the gazettal of any heritage site. The NHA provides for the process to include notification to the owner/s, an objection period, hearing and eventually, the decision to, or not to, designate a heritage site; and all along the way, there are clear steps to ensure the public are notified of these decisions in the printed press.  This process takes time, and it has been our past experience that JWN does not take this responsibility lightly.

Badan Warisan Malaysia believes it is critical to understand the implications and legal ramifications of this Notice to revoke the designation as heritage of MaTIC.

Due process of the law has to be followed for the future protection of heritage sites in Malaysia.

Elizabeth Cardosa

President

Badan Warisan Malaysia

30 December 2016

WORLD HERITAGE DAY #HERITAGE OF SPORTS

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It’s World Heritage Day! And this year’s theme is THE HERITAGE OF SPORT.

“Sport is part of every man and woman’s heritage and its absence can never be compensated for” – Pierre de Coubertin

Not only has sports united the country and the world towards a common goal, it has also brought in various forms of development such as the different installations and facilities respective to their practice, the development of art, architecture and techniques.

To celebrate World Heritage Day, Badan Warisan’s Council Member- Mr. Ishak Ariffin has written a piece on the Eton Fives Court- the only existing court of its kind here in Malaysia. 

1-Original etonfives court at Eton Chapel
Original Eton Fives Court at Eton Chapel

Eton Fives is a handball game played as doubles in a three-walled court. It is little known outside the circle of public schools in the England and elite universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, as it has been primarily the preserve of their students and alumni. The origin of the word ‘fives’ is uncertain. It probably refers to the fingers, as in ‘a bunch of fives’.

 

The name has been used since the 17th century. There have been variations of handball games. Some form of fives was played by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Irish, Americans and Basques have their own versions of fives. The English fives also has its variations, such as Warminster (or Wessex) Fives, Rugby Fives, Winchester Fives, Clifton Fives, St John’s Fives and Gissop’s Fives. A form of fives had also been played at Harrow in 1760s. It is a game that “anyone can play”. All you need is a ball and a pair of gloves to protect your hands.

Eton Fives originated from Eton College where it was first played against the chapel wall at the college. The first purposely-built Eton Fives court are the block of four Eton Fives courts along the Eton Wick Road, constructed in 1840 by the headmaster of Eton, Dr Hawtrey. The design of the courts was based on, but was not an exact replica of, the chapel court.

A.C. Ainger and some of his friends develop and published the ‘Rules of the Game of Fives as played at Eton’ in 1877. The object of the game is to force the other team to fail to hit the ball ‘up’ off the front wall before it bounce twice. The ball can bounce unpredictably as the three-walled Eton Fives court has ledges along it, a buttress on the left side and a step down towards the back. The first match between schools was on February 12, 1885, when Eton challenged Harrow. The first Oxford-Cambridge Varsity match took place in 1928. There are presently 55 sets of courts in England and Wales, totalling more than 1,700 courts.  Eton Fives has spread to Europe, built at Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz in Switzerland the 1920s and also Geneva, Zurich, Austria, Germany and France. Further afield, courts were built at Geelong Grammar School in Australia, at St Paul’s School, Darjeeling in India, and at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), Perak. There is a court in Buenos Aires, Argentina and the game is also flourishing in northern Nigeria and New Zealand.

Eton Fives in MCKK was introduced by its fourth Headmaster, C. Bazell. Bazell was an Oxford graduate (and possibly also an Eton alumnus?). Bazell joined MCKK in 1922 from Raffles Institution, Singapore and was appointed the Headmaster in 1923. The Eton Fives courts were built in 1928. Bazell also built the first swimming pool in MCKK in 1926 and the squash courts in 1938 (the second oldest in Malaysia).

6-MCKK team at Eton Fives Chapel court
MCKK Team at Eton’s Chapel Court

 

The two Eton Fives courts at MCKK may not be the first fives courts to be built in Malaya (now Malaysia) but they are the only Eton Fives courts found in this region. The Straits Times reported on 30 April 1920 that when the Nighthawk scout plane was being assembled at the Padang Polo in Penang, not far from the Penang Hospital, “the fives courts are being converted into a hangar”. The former fives courts are now said to have been converted into a storeroom.

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Eton Fives revival game in 2014 at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar
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Eton Fives Court at MCKK before revival

Eton Fives was a very popular game in MCKK, along with rugby, cricket and football, until 1938 when squash was introduced. But the game was still regularly played until late 1960s. A few students continued playing the game sporadically through to the 1970s.Two representatives from Eton Fives Association (EFA), United Kingdom, visited in MCKK in 1994. The EFA Annual Report of 1994-95 recorded their visit. The visit came about after some old boys of MCKK initiated talks on reviving the game which culminated in an Eton Fives Revival ceremony on August 24th, 2014. Two EFA representatives were present to conduct a two-week coaching session for the boys and teachers of MCKK. The District Education Department also sent out invitation to other schools in Kuala Kangsar district to generate further interest in the game.

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Eton Fives Court after revival in 2014

In March 2015, MCKK entered two pairs of Eton Fives teams in the UK National Eton Fives Schools Championship in Eton College. Ironically, the MCKK senior pair was drawn against a pair of Eton College boys in their first game and won. Out of 51 pairs in the Under-15, the MCKK pair reached the Quarter Finals of the Cup, and among the 48 pairs in the Under-17, the senior MCKK pair went as far as the Plate Quarter Finals.

Eton Fives is experiencing a revival in the UK. The MCKK Eton Fives team’s performance in their maiden championship, after only six months being introduced to the game, sets the scene for a revival of the game in MCKK and Kuala Kangsar, if not in Malaysia. The 88 years old Eton Fives courts, the only one in Malaysia (and East Asia), is set to see a new life for many years to come after lying dormant for much of the last half century.

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Eton Fives Plaque at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar

This guest post is written by Ishak Ariffin. Ishak was trained in Town Planning at Cardiff University in Wales, UK. He is a registered Town Planner, Corporate member of the Malaysian Institute of Planners and the Royal Town Planning Institute, UK, as well as a registered EIA Subject Specialist. Ishak Ariffin is a long time member of Badan Warisan Malaysia and currently serves as the Honorary Treasurer for the trust. Ak mugshot-web

BWM PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT ON THE DISCOVERY OF THE GRAVESTONE PIQUES AT MASJID JAMEK

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The discovery of these old batu nisan in the vicinity of Masjid Jamek is incredibly exciting as it is clear, tangible and unarguable evidence of the historical timeline of the development of this city and its early Muslim settlement at the trading post which is now this modern metropolis. The fact that several other type of artefacts such as ceramic bowls, glass and other items have also been found makes it even more imperative that a proper and systematic methodology for detailed mapping of the ground below in the whole area surrounding the mosque be undertaken immediately, before the area is disturbed further. Publicly sharing all such recording and documentation by historians and archaeologists will provide a rich picture of the social and cultural lifestyle of these early settlers and ultimately help create a better understanding and appreciation of the many different people and communities which were the backbone on which this city was founded.

Whether the batu nisan were found is within or outside of the boundary of the gazetted National Heritage Site of Masjid Jamek, should not be an impediment because the National Heritage Act 2005 gives the Heritage Commissioner the authority to stop work if it is deemed that items of national heritage significance will lost or negatively affected by this work. The area where the batu nisan have been found is definitely within the larger historic enclave where the majority buildings have been gazetted on the National Heritage Register.

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Image taken from The Star

While completing a new water fountain feature within the River of Life project is clearly important to the aspirations of the city’s authorities, a comprehensive multi-disciplinary study of this site is even more important to the city and its citizens. In many parts of the world, showcasing historical and archaeological investigations at such urban sites provide a “crowd-pulling” platform for locals and visitors alike. Cordoning off this area will more than anything likely enhance the attraction of the site and its surrounds.

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Image of Gravestones Piques (Taken from The Star)

Badan Warisan Malaysia hopes that the National Heritage Department will step up to the mark and lead in this research to ensure that the heritage value of this site is given its due recognition.

KUL STORIES: THE HERITAGE BATTLE

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THIS KUL CITY is back and this time, its a BATTLE! 

Come watch Victorian Chacko Vadaketh and Johanian Zahim Albakri make their case for their alma mater!

If you are a Johanian or a Victorian, come show your support!

#SJIvsVI #heritagebattle #thiskulcity 

TKC_Kwala Lumpur

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#GETYOURFACTSRIGHT- WALKING THE TALK ON A ROOF

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The roof repair works at no.58 Rope Walk or Jalan Pintal Tali in Penang is in plain sight for all to see. And I am rather proud of the end result because of how it will contribute to the critical discussion on appropriate conservation approaches, choices and forms of interpretation being offered to shophouse owners in Penang.

When I decided to repair the roof of my grandfather’s shophouse, I applied the principles of replacing like for like in respect of the heritage fabric and of maintaining the layers of history as found. What you see today is exactly the way it was when the Control of Rent Act was promulgated after World War II. There have been no material changes since then as the implementation of rent control literally discouraged all owners of tenanted buildings from spending money on maintaining their properties.

The contractor who installed the roof chose to create two cemented strips as permanent hard bases in the direction of the roof slope. A worker needing to replace a broken tile or adjust a displaced tile could lay a timber plank transversely across the roof on top of the cement strips and use it as a working platform without endangering the tiles. For all I know, it could have been my grandfather’s suggestion for he was an innovative and yet practical man who had come to Malaya from China as a young boy and who eventually developed the town of Lunas in Kedah.

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And I also recall very vividly, when I was growing up, witnessing my father’s contractors securing the end tiles at the fascia of shophouses with cement, as was the case with many shophouses in town. Lime was otherwise freely used in other works like plastering of walls and mortar for brickwork.

The simple exercise of repairing a roof has thrown up several positives. One, it has allowed me to step back in time to “converse” with my grandfather and to personalize the architectural and social history of the place. And for me this is one of the most meaningful reasons for conservation because there is a story to tell, of making the past come alive in the present.

Two, it invites us to question whether our city fathers should continue to promote the purist, prescriptive, Eurocentric conservation approach or whether we should be leaning more towards what is being offered by the Hoi An Protocols 2005, a UNESCO document which I contributed to. The Protocols contain the following points:-

  1. In Asia, the structuralist analytical approach towards assessing significance and maintaining authenticity that is characteristic of Western conservation practice needs to be nuanced by the metaphysical concepts which prefigure the construction of space throughout the Asia region. It should also be tempered by the region’s time-honoured traditions of practice.
  2. Conservation practitioners should not over-emphasize the authenticity of the materials or physical substance of a resource to the extent that they overlook other equally or even more important dimensions of authenticity.

In terms of authenticity, the Nara Document on Authenticity 1994, Clause 11, states:-

All judgements about values attributed to cultural properties as well as the credibility of related information sources may differ from culture to culture, and even within the same culture. It is thus not possible to base judgements of values and authenticity within fixed criteria. On the contrary, the respect due to all cultures requires that heritage properties must be considered and judged within the cultural contexts to which they belong.

As a corollary to the ideals and principles stated in the Document, Herb Stovel (deceased), one of its authors, suggested that respect for cultural and heritage diversity requires conscious efforts to avoid imposing mechanistic formulae or standardized procedures in attempting to define or determine the authenticity of particular monuments and sites.

Last but not least, I am reminded of earlier efforts by Badan Warisan to formulate conservation principles that reflect Malaysian values based on the premises mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. It appears timely for us to revisit the material in our archives and to embark on a project to deliver what we once called the Stonor Principles, named after the location of our present heritage centre. China has its China Principles. Australia created the Burra Charter. The conservation of Malaysian heritage should be guided by local observations, experiences, traditions and wisdom.

Laurence Loh, Badan Warisan Malaysia


Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers. I love them, such great tools. It’s become so easy to become an authority on any subject nowadays; anyone can be an expert on anything. With Melaka and George Town’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it’s like, suddenly, everyone is a conservation architect/expert. I have found, in my limited experience of being involved in a handful of international award winning restoration projects, that when the project team endeavours to consider a range of conservation approaches which are based not only on the multitude of documents outlining principles and standards which we should aspire towards, but also on collective experiences and practices, that the outcome is “right” and stands up to the test of time.

Let’s consider the debate of lime vs cement. Experts will loudly chant the mantra “lime good, cement bad”. Nothing wrong with that in many instances, but then, not always right. Add in another mantra – “replace like for like”. Then what happens when the heritage fabric is not  lime? Do we replace with lime and then we can easily put a tick against the “right” box? Or should we instead acknowledge that conservation is possibly more complex and there are probably several other issues which affect the authenticity of the place? I will desist from going on….Just to say thought that I liken this to walking a tightrope between what is the more accepted standard – a somewhat prescriptive “Western” conservation approach – and our (Asia’s) longer traditions of cultural practice and context.

So, next time, before jumping on whichever band wagon catches your fancy, guns blazing, shooting off your “expert” opinion, you may want to #getyourfactsright. It could save you a little embarrassment. 

Elizabeth Cardosa, Badan Warisan Malaysia