Taiping pre-war buildings battered

By Loghun Kumaran

TAIPING, May 1 — If the walls of the abondoned buildings in Taiping could talk, they would share tales of life in the quiet and serene town during the pre-war days.

Some 100 old houses, shoplots and even the 132-year-old Perak Railways building located at the juction of Jalan Stesen and Jalan Lim Tee Hooi, have been left abandoned, leaving many clueless of their history.

Many residents and visitors are unhappy and question what steps are being taken to preserve the town’s historical structures.

Although most are privately owned, the architecture of these buildings gives an insight to the art, lifestyle and economy of the town when they were set up. Some of the structures, including the Perak Railways building, are located within the town’s heritage trail.

Taiping Heritage Society president Yeap Thean Eng said there were about 100 abandoned buildings in the historical town.

“They include privately-owned shoplots, and unoccupied government buildings and bungalows previously used as government quarters,” he said.

“These buildings are an eyesore and with this year being Visit Perak Year we are seeing an influx of tourists to the state and town.”

The Perak Railways building, set up in 1885, has been vandalised, Its walls and roof are in bad shape because of the extreme weather over the years.

During its heyday, the building served as a ticketing counter and office for the state’s first railway station. Next to it was a government rest house.

Later, it functioned as the Public Works Department office and temporarily housed the Sessions Court.

Those who visit the building today would find it has turned into a breeding ground for mosquitoes, with pillows and clothes, believed to belong to vagrants, scattered on the floor.

Yeap said the buildings started deteriorating when they were abandoned 30 years ago.

“They can be saved. The authorities should gazette them as heritage buildings as they have unique designs, especially the interior courtyards,” he said.

“If the authorities don’t have funds, they should offer it to the private sector,”

He said there were many other shoplots and bungalows, with rich history, that were demolished in the past.

“These buildings pose a safety hazard to the public. They attract drug addicts and snakes. It’s sad to see them in such condition,” he said.

“Taiping is known for its history. Ideally, they should be restored and preserved, regardless of whether they are located along the heritage trail or not.”

Yeap urged the authorities to implement stricter enforcement and strategies to ensure privately-owned buildings would be spared from ruin.

“The authorities should restore the government buildings and penalise owners who allow them to rot,” he said.