Heritage buildings: Lim wants less criticism, more action


GEORGE TOWN: Stop criticising and play a more active role in restoring heritage buildings in Penang, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has told heritage critics today.

He said “these people” should instead use their contacts to raise money to restore heritage buildings in the state.

Although he did not identify who specifically he was targeting, Lim was evidently referring to activists who have taken the state government to task for not doing enough to protect heritage buildings and the World Heritage Site (WHS) status given to George Town by Unesco.

Recently, a heritage group criticised massive renovation works that began three weeks ago on the Ng Fook Thong Cantonese Districts Association Temple at Chulia Street here.

It is believed old murals on the wall had been whitewashed and the floors hacked.

The temple was built in 1898 and any such renovation in the WHS zone requires the green light from the state heritage authorities.

Asked about the damage to the heritage property, Lim said the temple committee had good intentions in fixing the place, which was said to be in major disrepair.

According to a fact sheet presented by his office, the damaged roof tiles caused rainwater to seep into the building, destroying the timber structure and lime plaster walls.

Termites have also attacked the timber structure, altar and other wooden carvings.

Lim said “certain people” who criticised the temple’s attempt at repairing the building should realise that the temple committee was sincere in doing so, without having any “evil intentions”.

“They are willing to admit they have made mistakes and (have) tried to correct them,” he said.

“But we are not here today to fight with these people. If they want to fight, let them fight among themselves. We are trying to (focus on) completing the restoration work.”

He added that the critics who were so interested in helping with the restoration should donate some money to its conservation fund.

“Don’t just talk or criticise, but take concrete action,” Lim said when visiting the temple today.

Earlier, he announced a RM200,000 allocation to the temple which is to undergo corrective restoration to reverse the damage done.

The three-phase project to restore the building will be monitored by state heritage agency George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI).

GTWHI will first undo the “inaccurate existing repair works” to the walls and roof, followed by reinforcement of the building structure.

The temple would also see repairs to its electrical wiring and replacement of the altars.

Earlier, association chairman Wong Woon Khuan explained to Lim and his delegation that they had limited resources to carry on restoration work. They said they wanted to ensure that the building did not crumble.

“We are happy that the state government has taken an interest in our association and this building and we are very grateful for the help given,” Wong said.

GTWHI issued a stop-work order to the temple on July 3. Its general manager Ang Ming Chee reportedly said the restoration was estimated to cost “around RM2.5 million.”