English World

Save mansion where first PM, Tan Cheng Lock met, Malacca govt told

MALACCA: Conservationists are urged to help stop the demolition of a historic building that once served as a pre-independence meeting place between national icons Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Tan Cheng Lock.

Clearing works have started around the abandoned mansion in Jalan Tay Boon Seng in Klebang here and the local Peranakan Chinese community wants them to stop so that the dilapidated building could be preserved because of its historical value.

Malacca Peranakan Chinese Association (PPCM) president Datuk Phua Jin Hock said efforts should be made to salvage and preserve what was left of the century-old building once owned by prominent Baba and Nyonya community leaders, Loh Kim Swi and Tay Boon Seng.

“I saw the mansion before it became dilapidated. “It was a place where the founders of our country like Tunku and Tan met to discuss efforts towards independence.

“I have seen pictures of these meetings, which identified the room where the late Tunku slept whenever he came here. “I hope the state government will step in and save this building.”

PPCM vice-president Peter Ong said before the building was abandoned two decades ago, it served as a popular Baba and Nyonya restaurant from the 1960s to the 1980s.

“The last time I went there to have a look, the place had already been robbed of its treasures.

“It used to have fine Italian- and British-made tiles, which in those days were called Baba tiles for their uniqueness.”

Ong said the building’s classic window panes, wooden railings and fixtures had been looted. The late Tay’s grandaughter, Fiona Tan, said this was among the reasons why the owners had decided to demolish the building.

“They are demolishing it because the place has been vandalised and filled with overgrown trees and grass. It is hard to maintain because the owners are not here,” said Fiona, 46.

“They have received complaints from surrounding residents. “That’s why they are clearing and demolishing the place. “The house had been left in a bad condition.

“People came in and took everything from its tiles and wooden fixtures to toilets, while vagrants have also been staying there.”

Malacca Museum Corporation (Perzim) general manager Datuk Khamis Abas said the department had not received any notification on plans to demolish the mansion.

“Perzim engages with university students to help draw plans on old heritage buildings in the state for record-keeping in case a building is to be demolished by its owner.

“Any building which is more than 50 years old is considered a heritage building, although the building is outside of the Unesco zone.”

Perzim, he said, would write to the owners of the mansion.

“We hope to measure its size, draw a plan and take pictures before it is demolished for documentation purposes.”

Malacca Historical City Council conservation architect Erni Hamzah said any demolition works to a heritage building should be done upon notification to Perzim, National Heritage Department and the local council.

-New Straits Times

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