The grounds of the Vivekananda Ashram in Brickfields looks much like it did in the 1900s. Sources say that the trustees have agreed for the 110-year-old building to be designated a heritage site but rejected plans to gazette its grounds.
THE fate of the century-old Vivekananda ashram in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, will be revealed in Parliament next week.
It is speculated that the Government will announce its final decision on the future of the building, after it was learnt that the trustees had appealed against the call to gazette the ashram as a heritage asset.
Sources at the Tourism and Culture Ministry told StarMetro that the trustees had agreed to the 110-year-old building being designated as a national heritage site but were not in favour of the surrounding land being gazetted.
“They have appealed against this decision, so now, the ball is in Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz’s court,” said the source.
“It is entirely up to the minister to make the final decision.”
Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran, who submitted a question asking for updates on the ashram in Parliament said, “This is a matter of public interest.
“People are asking me, it has been more than a year since the news broke.
“About 100,000 people have signed the petition opposing the development, asking the Government to protect the site from future projects.
“We had two meetings with Nazri and the Heritage Commissioner at Parliament House but people have the right to know the latest development, and we are hoping to get some answers in Parliament,” added Kulasegaran.
When contacted, Nazri confirmed that the trustees had made an appeal but said he was not able to reveal anything for now.
He said a meeting would be called this week with the Heritage Commission on the matter.
Heritage Commissioner Dr Zainah Ibrahim told StarMetro in July that the department had notified the trustees on the Government’s intention to gazette the building as per Section 31 of the National Heritage Act 2005.
Zainah’s intention on gazetting the site was published in local newspapers.
Under the law, she said the trustees had 30 days to appeal after the notice was published.
If no appeals were received within 30 days, she said they would proceed to file a notice with the Land Office for the ashram to be classified a heritage site.
However, with the trustees’ appeal, the decision now lies solely with Nazri, who has the final say over the matter.
Last year, on Oct 16, StarMetro broke the story on development plans involving the ashram.
The news generated a public outcry and the Government was urged to step in and stop the trustees from going ahead with the project.
Following protests, the Heritage Commission had on Jan 14, notified the trustees of its intention to designate the building.
However, the trustees rejected the government’s proposal and subsequently a hearing was held to hear their appeal.
The trustees had first tried to sell the land about 26 years ago and made another attempt 11 years ago for RM15mil but both were aborted after public protests.
After the most recent plans were revealed, more than 100,000 signatures were collected to oppose the ashram’s redevelopment.