KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 ― A historian has criticised the Penang local authority for approving the demolition of Runnymede, the last surviving house of Sir Stamford Raffles in the region.
Marcus Langdon said it was disappointing to know that the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) allowed landowners to demolish the historical bungalow of the former Penang governor Philip Dundas’s assistant secretary.
“It was the last example of Raffles’ home in Asia and had great importance to the people of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia,” he was quoted saying by local daily New Straits Times (NST), adding that many around the globe are following this incident.
“The sad fact is the demolition is legal.
“The question remains, when the demolition order was given, what was being considered by the council?” asked the author of a book on Penang’s history ― Penang: The Fourth Presidency of India 1803-1830.
Langdon rebutted MBPP Heritage Department’s assertion that it had no records on Raffles’s bungalow, The Runnymede, by saying that they could have looked it up on the Internet.
He said a few heritage activists including himself had previously asked the developers for permission to enter the building to record it before it was demolished, as well as trying unsuccessfully to convince the landowners of the Runnymede area against demolishing the colonial-era building.
According to NST, The Runnymede that had belonged to Raffles ― who later founded Singapore ― was built in 1808 and rebuilt after a 1901 fire.
It was one of seven heritage buildings demolished earlier this week during the Chinese New Year holidays, while the three-storey Runnymede Hotel built in 1930 was left alone by the landowners.
Penang Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the demolition of the buildings is part of the planning approval granted in 1999 to the land’s developer, with the condition that the main building Runnymede Hotel be preserved.
According to NST, a building for the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) on the site has been constructed, while three new buildings ― a 12-storey office building, 61-storey apartment, 31-storey hotel ― will be built there.