Demolition of 150-year-old building done without permit

JOHOR BARU - The Wong Ah Fook mansion landowner faces legal action for demolishing the 150-year old historical building without a valid permit from the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB).

Johor state secretary Datuk Ismail Karim said the owner would be sued under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 for tearing down the building illegally.

"If convicted, the landowner could be fined up to RM500,000 (S$192,000), but that is up to the court to decide," he said at the launch of the MBJB Open Day @ Johorfest 2014 yesterday.

Ismail said the state government could not do anything to stop the demolition as it was done in the middle of the night on Wednesday, and "by the time we knew about it, the whole structure had been knocked down".

"We could have issued a court order to stop the demolishing work if it was carried out in the morning.

"Now it is up to the court to decide on the matter," he added.

Earlier at a press conference, state opposition leaders voiced disappointment over what they see as lack of initiative to conserve the mansion.

Skudai assemblyman Dr Boo Cheng Hau said the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 gave MBJB the right to issue a stop-work order for any other development at the site.

"We urge the state government to order all development work at the site to be put on hold, salvage the ruins and reconstruct the mansion as well as to take action against the mayor for failure to stop the demolition," he said.

Dr Boo recalled that the Penang Municipal Council issued a stop-work and rebuild order after a developer demolished a colonial era double-storey bungalow in Pykett Avenue.

"Johor should take a similar step so that other developers won't carry out illegal demolition of valuable heritage structures," he said.