COMMITTEE FOR THE PROTECTION & PRESERVATION OF HERITAGE BUILDINGS
C/O HINDRAF No.50, Taman Sri Labu, 70200 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.
H/P: +6013-7070352 Tel : +606-7671707 / 7672707 Fax : +606-7673707
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com Website: www.hindraf.co
Ms Irina Bokova
7, place de Fontenoy
07 SP France
5th November 2014
Re: Appeal for urgent intervention on proposed development on the Swami Vivekananda Ashram’s site in Brickfields pursuant to the Local authorities (DBKLs)
Public Notice dated 27th October 2014
We refer to the above matter and urge your urgent intervention on this serious issue of a possible eventual destruction of a heritage building in the name of development.
Firstly we would like to highlight the historical fact that the Vivekananda Ashram building/ site has been in existence since 1904 built in memory and with the intention in pursuing the ideology of Swami Vivekananda who had visited Malaya in 1893.
A body of trustees were nominated and entrusted to ensure that the site retain its objective and its surrounding in maintaining the historic importance in the Malaysian history, its social and cultural association, its richness in exhibiting diversity and evolvement of the multicultural social fabric of the Malaysian community.
The trustees in two previous occasions had tried to sell the heritage site but at both instances it was strongly objected by the public and such plans by the trustees were aborted.
The Commissioner of Heritage from the National Heritage Department of Malaysia had in two previous occasions on 9th October 2008 and 29th December, 2009 designated the site as a heritage site and gazetted the Notice of Intention under the Malaysian laws but nothing had been forthcoming since then.
Currently upon the notice to development being issued, we had written to the National Heritage Department in Malaysia urging them to intervene based on Malaysian domestic laws that protect destruction or mutilation of such heritage sites. We attach herewith copy of the said letter. However to date the National Heritage Department has been silent in issuing any statement in relation to the said demolition.
As you are well aware, Malaysia sits in the World Heritage Committee. As a Committee member amongst their main function is to identify, examine and decide on the Heritage List and further define the procedures and determine and seek ways to increase World Heritage Fund to sustain such buildings.
Their strategic objectives involve strengthening the credibility of the Heritage buildings, ensuring effective conservation, advice to promote and develop effective local laws in ensuring the preservation of heritage building in State parties.
In essence, work with member states to sustain heritage sites of outstanding universal value in an increasingly challenging mission in today’s complex world, where sites are vulnerable to the effects of uncontrolled urban development, unsustainable tourism practices, neglect, natural calamities, pollution, political instability, and conflict.
The Swami Vivekananda Ashram which has been sitting in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur over 114 years depicts the type of heritage building that fits the basic tenets that are necessary to fulfil a world heritage site such as exhibiting an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world as well as being an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
There are well established UNESCO Convention as well as International Charter such as the Venice Charter and assisted by guidelines issues by UNESCO, ICOMOS and ICCROM for implementation.
The Venice Charter practice in particular is essential especially in such sites as the Swami Vivekananda Ashram in guiding conservation & restoration of historical structures.
Besides the structural heritage, the Swami Vivekananda Ashram also exhibits the Cultural significance of heritage as defined by the widely accepted standard guidelines stated in the BURRA Charter as “ aesthetic, historic, social or spiritual value for past, present and future generations” which is embodied itself, its setting, use, association, meaning, records, related places and related objects.
The World heritage convention states its objective and sets out the duties of the State parties in identifying potential sites and their role in protecting and preserving them.
By signing the Convention, each country pledges to conserve not only the World Heritage sites situated on its territory, but also to protect its national heritage.
Currently the Swami Vivekananda Ashram site endangered and face possible elimination based on the proposed development which would naturally affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the heritage site. As such we urge the member states of UNESCO to come together to urge the Malaysian government more so being a Committee member of the World Heritage to put a halt to any development plan on the site before any irreversible commitments are made by them.
We thank you for your assistance in this matter and look forward to a favourable response
P. Waytha Moorthy
Chairman Hindraf Malaysia signing on behalf of
Committee for the Protection and Preservation of heritage buildings
(an ad hoc committee formed to protect Vivekananda Ashram Malaysia)
Source: WHN Media Network