GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow can heave a big sigh of relief as the Public Works Department is expected to give the green light for him to occupy his official residence by end of this month.
Extensive repairs have been carried out at a cost of RM1.05 million on Seri Teratai, the 100-year-old double-storey mansion at Macalister Road opposite St George’s School. The building sits on a 115,000 sq ft (nearly 3 acre) property, and comes with a lawn almost as big as a football field and quarters for aide-de-camp and domestic workers.
When taking office as the fifth CM last year, Chow had said he planned to move into the bungalow, since his daily commute from his private residence in Balik Pulau was too taxing for his busy schedule.
The journey from George Town to Balik Pulau can take about an hour, even longer if the commute was from Butterworth or Batu Kawan.
Today, state Public Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari brought the press for a tour of the property.
The repairs included eradication of a long-standing termite infestation problem. PWD engineers detected two termite colonies with two termite queens straddling close to the flagpole on the lawn next to the driveway.
Zairil said engineers had devised three-layered security measures against termites in the form of “moats around the house”. He said a small tunnel had been dug at the front portion of the porch and filled with chemicals to turn away termites. The second layer was through the injection of anti-termite chemical on the base of the bungalow and the third, on the roof trusses of the building.
Zairil said besides pest control, the entire plumbing and wiring system has been replaced, including ironmongery and wood work on the pre-war building.
“We decided to repair it as quickly as possible so as to not let it fall into further disrepair, as this is a beautiful heritage building. We expect repairs to be completed by July 15 and the CM can move in by the month’s end,” he said.
Zairil clarified that the repair costs were to repair just the main bungalow building, without touching the ancillary buildings around the bungalow.
In a tour of the bungalow, granite stairs of the bungalow led to a large hallway with a wooden stairs immediately appearing on the right. Many fitments were yet to be installed. The parquet flooring and wooden stairs has been restored and shellacked.
The CM’s bedroom upstairs is a 625 sq ft suite. A PWD engineer said a plaster ceiling had been removed to give the room an airy feeling. Above the porch is a large room which can seat 30 people.
There are two other smaller rooms behind the bedroom, with a narrow stairwell leading to the kitchen.
The property has a built-up area of 8,000 sq ft, and includes a garage, outdoor dining extension, and workers’ quarters at the rear.
Seri Teratai, formerly called Rumah Tetamu or the State Guest House, was first occupied by the first CM, Wong Pow Nee from 1957 to 1969. His successor, Dr Lim Chong Eu, lived at Seri Teratai for 10 years and later preferred to live at his private residence in Tanjung Bungah, said former chief minister Koh Tsu Koon.
However, he hosted garden parties for major celebrations such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali there.
Koh, who was Penang’s third CM, also opted to live at his private residence after taking office in 1990. The building was unoccupied until 2008, when Lim Guan Eng became CM. However, he moved out to a rented bungalow in Pinhorn Road in July 2009 after discovering a termite infestation and “forest fire ants”. (He later bought the bungalow.)
Lim said at the time repairs to the official residence would cost too much.
According to a book on Straits architecture, the bungalow was originally built for Macalister & Co. in 1919, and was designed by David McLeod Craik.