Friday, December 31, 2010

NST : Sentenced to oblivion


By Noel

Convicts hand painting the walls of Pudu Jail.

KUALA LUMPUR: The people want a part of Pudu Jail be preserved for future generations.

The 115-year-old Pudu Jail is being demolished in stages to make way for a mixed development project.

The demolition, which started two days ago, included the tearing down of its 300m mural wall to enable the widening of the road and construction of the Jalan Pudu underpass. The demolition work is expected to be completed early this morning.

Despite the start of the demolition on Monday, many are asking that a part of the prison be preserved.

They are asking that the arch and entrance leading to the prison gates, which is located in Jalan Hang Tuah, remain as a historical site.

The developer, UDA Holdings Bhd, is expected to build a mixed development project, which will accommodate a transit centre, service apartments, office towers, recreation centres and a hotel at the Pudu Jail site.

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman of the Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said that he was disappointed with the demolition of Pudu Jail.

“I have many vivid memories of Pudu Prison when I was a member of parliament for Bukit Bintang.

“I can still recall the time when I used to pass by Pudu Prison and see the prisoners busy painting the mural outside the prison wall. I also remember making many official and non-official visits on behalf of my constituents to check on the welfare of the prisoners there. It’s sad to lose a piece of history,” he said.

Lee, a former Bukit Bintang member of parliament who had served four terms as an elected representative, said it was not right to obliterate history.

“I understand that the land on which Pudu Jail sits is prime real estate in the city. Although there are plans to develop the area it is not right to demolish the entire structure of the prison. Part of the facade should be preserved for future generations,” he said.

Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun said that he was disappointed that the government didn’t take into account the heritage value of Pudu Prison.

“Buildings that are more than 100 years old in the city should be preserved. In other countries the people are preserving the outlook of their historical buildings, I don’t see why we can’t do it here,” he said.

Fong said now that a part of history is gone, he hoped that those responsible will at least maintain the arch and the entrance of the prison.

Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng echoing Fong sentiments said that the gate should be preserved as a historical site.

“The developer should at least preserve part of it for tourists and our future generations,” he said.

Eurasian Association president Herman Anthony noted that Pudu Prison was once in the Guinness World Book of Records for having the largest mural in world. “I don’t see why part of it can’t be preserved,” he said.

Berjaya Hotel marketing and communications director Abel Nelson Nang, who is from Sarawak, said many foreign and local guests he meets are in awe of the hand-painted mural on the Pudu Jail walls.

“Many enjoy seeing the hand painted mural on the Pudu Prison walls. It’s a shame that now it is being torn down to make way for development,” he said.

Quantity surveyor Azmi Azimialifah Abdul Hamid, 37, who was armed with a viewcam, said he was documenting history before it vanished.

“When I heard that work had begun to demolish Pudu Jail, I rushed from the office to capture what was left of Pudu Jail before it was completely demolished. This piece of history is for my children, grand children and their children,” he said.

In a statement, Heritage of Malaysia Trust said the organisation had for the past several years been advocating against the demolition of Pudu Jail (see letter below).

It was reported that Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin had said the prison would not be turned into a heritage site.

“Firstly, it’s because it is the government’s view that Pudu Jail is not something to be proud of, and secondly, it is not suitable to be turned into a heritage site despite its age,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat sitting on Monday.

Awang Adek also said a museum would not be built at the prison site and the government would proceed with the development.

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