No money left for repairing Malaysia's national heritage buildings

IN LIGHT of the urgency, the National Heritage Department (JWN) will repair Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad first as the building is not "looking good."

Under the National Heritage Act 2005, the department has a fund called Tabung Kumpulan Wang Warisan, for which the department received a one-off payment from the Finance Ministry to the tune of RM30mil in 2006.

However, a source in JWN says the fund is depleted.

"We have been tapping into that fund to carry out repair works regularly; now there is only about RM100,000 (S$32,100) left.

"The department has applied for funds from the Treasury to top it up but there is no news yet.

"We submitted applications asking for allocations under the 11th Malaysia Plan to upgrade the historical buildings in the Dataran Merdeka Heritage Zone, but that was turned down," said the source, who spoke to StarMetro on condition of anonymity.

The source added that it was disheartening to see the state of those buildings today as the city's built heritage was a precious commodity and must be cared for regularly.

The department's Conservation Division had conducted a survey and compliled a report on some of the heritage buildings in Jalan Raja as many of them were falling into disrepair.

When asked how much was needed to repair the dilapidated buildings, the source said: "Block C (the Supreme Court) alone will require at least RM50mil."

"These historical buildings and heritage conservation are given little priority. The heritage buildings will deteriorate without funds to repair, restore and maintain them. It is very sad," added the source.

On Tuesday, StarMetro reported that dozens of historical buildings gazetted as national heritage were slowly deteriorating.

Some of these buildings are more than 100 years old and are literally falling to pieces.

At least six heritage structures in Jalan Raja, the city's popular tourist attraction, are showing signs of decay.

Some buildings such as the Supreme Court building and the former Federated Malay States (FMS) Survey Department headquarters are already at critical stage.

StarMetro's attempts to get comments from JWN officials proved futile.

Compounding the problem is the current vacant position at the top of JWN since the transfer of its director-general Dr Zainah Ibrahim, who was also the Heritage Commissioner.

Sources told StarMetro that without a department head, it was difficult to make decisions on important matters such as heritage conservation.

A JWN corporate communications spokesman said there was no replacement for Dr Zainah's position yet.

Attempts to contact deputy director-general Mesran Mohd Yusop was also futile.

In March when StarMetro reported on the deteriorating condition of the 108-year-old FMS Survey building, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the ministry was not able to maintain the century-old building in Jalan Tun Perak due to lack of funds.

Nazri said he had requested for RM150mil from the Treasury and was waiting for the funds.