Wednesday, September 5, 2007

News: (NST) Varsity: Demolition done by the book

By : Heidi Foo

Demolition work at the Sungai Buloh Leprosarium came to a halt yesterday.
Demolition work at the Sungai Buloh Leprosarium came to a halt yesterday.

KUALA LUMPUR: The demolition of buildings at the historic Sungai Buloh Leprosarium was halted yesterday. But the question is whether it came too late.

At least four chalets were completely torn down and two-thirds of the wall surrounding the abandoned prison within the leprosarium were destroyed.

The roofing on several buildings in the area had also been removed.

The order to stop the demolition was given to Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) by Heritage Commissioner Datuk Prof Dr Zuraina Majid on Sunday.

About 16ha of the leprosarium land had been alienated to UiTM by the Health Ministry for the construction of its medical faculty two years ago.
The New Straits Times yesterday quoted researcher Lim Yong Long as saying the site had significant historical value because it used a garden-city concept to create a modern community.

It also reported that demolition work had started.

Yesterday, UiTM vice-chancellor Datuk Seri Prof Dr Ibrahim Abu Shah rose to the defence of its action, saying the demolition was done "by the book".

He also said the buildings that were torn down had no historical or heritage value.

Ibrahim said: "According to the law, it is not necessary for us to follow the stop-work order as the commissioner should have given us a 60-day notice.

"They themselves are not complying with the law. The reason we are complying is because we have due respect for both the law and the commissioner," he said yesterday.

He provided documents to show they had acted accordingly.

Ibrahim said the ministry agreed to offer UiTM 16ha of land to build a medical faculty in April two years ago.

"In May last year, the director-general of land and mines gave UiTM approval to enter the area and proceed with destroying the buildings."

However, he said, the department later received a letter from the Health Ministry with instructions to freeze the offer of the land awarded to UiTM.

"We were informed that the decision was made so that the Health Ministry could proceed with its own development on another 47ha of land within the leprosarium area.

"The whole idea was to develop the area."

Ibrahim also said the freeze was later lifted, as stated in a letter signed by Selangor Health Director Datin Dr Ang Kim Teng addressed to Gombak Public Works Department. UiTM then proceeded to demolish the buildings.

"As we were doing this, we received instruction from the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry not to destroy the prison and chalets."

He added that it was agreed that the surau and chapel in the area be maintained and that the 40 residents who would be affected by the development would receive compensation and be housed in 36 chalets nearby.

"I hope the relevant parties will take a look at these buildings. They have been abandoned for a long time."

He urged the government to also consider the first batch of medical students who will be graduating next June.

"One of the requirements to get accreditation is that the programme has facilities.

"The quality and recognition of our medical graduates will be at stake if the delay continues.

Earlier, Deputy Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Wong Kam Hoong, who visited the site, said his ministry had issued an order to UiTM to cease work in the area.

He said according to the National Heritage Act, the ministry had the authority to issue an order of up to 90 days with regard to an area in dispute.

"Meanwhile, the ministry will use this period to get to the bottom of the issue and decide whether the site should be demolished or remain untouched."

Source: NSTonline

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