Sunday, March 22, 2015

The fight for Vivekananda Ashram to be preserved as a heritage site shall continue

Press Statement by M Kula Segaran, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat in Ipoh on March 21, 2015

The fight for Vivekananda Ashram to be preserved as a heritage site shall continue

It is most shocking and sad that the board of trustees of Vivekananda Ashram have rejected the government’s proposal to designate the Ashram as a heritage site under Section 27(2) of the National Heritage Act.

Yesterday’s Star has reported that without the board’s approval, the government cannot automatically gazette the old building a heritage site.

Why must the board be so adamant and fight against the wishes of the local community to have the building preserved? 

Upon learning of the proposed development of the Ashram to a multi story condominium, the local community and leaders carried out signature campaigns and the like with open demonstrations against the proposed redevelopment of the Ashram. I took the matter further and raised it in Parliament. The Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Nazri agreed to visit the site which he did with me and community leaders. The Minister showed exemplary leadership by later announcing in Parliament of the notice to be issued for the Trustees to agree voluntarily for the site to be preserved as a heritage ground.

I had said the Ashram is ideally located as it is in the little India locality where the early Indians had settled in Kuala Lumpur. The Ashram is an icon for the local vicinity and houses business and other incidentals in relation to the Indian community.

The Trustees’ decision to object the Heritage status can and should be questioned vigorously, among others:-

1) Why need to turn the whole area into a commercial area when this is very opposite of what Vivekananda would have wanted?

2)He had said " Character has to be established through a thousand stumbles" thus an icon like the Ashram built over 110 years is irreplaceable

3) why the Trustees who are custodian of public property failed to consult local community and  leaders on the proposed development?

4) Who will financially benefit from this proposed development?

5) The trustees failed to explain why they need to raise monies from the redevelopment of the Ashram area.

Let me tell the Trustees that the fight for Vivekananda Ashram to be preserved as a heritage site shall continue.

I will at the soonest possible avenues raise the issue of the proposed redevelopment in Parliament. I will continue to articulate for the Heritage status to be declared. In this respect I will work closely with Datuk Nazri and others committed to the cause.

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