Friday, April 26

And so we’ve left it to rot …


A RECENT report highlighting the sorry state of what was once the pride and joy of Sarawak caught the Eye’s attention.

Since the opening of the new State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Complex in 2009, the old DUN building, affectionately known as ‘kompleks’ among many Kuchingites, has literally been left to rot away.

The old DUN, as it is now known, was officially opened in August 1976. Back then, the building sat majestically in the midst of beautifully landscaped gardens.

The old DUN building holds a special place in the Eye’s heart.

It was several decades ago, at this very building, that the Eye, a greenhorn with the media, experienced for the first time a DUN sitting. It was quite an eye-opener and prepared the Eye for many DUN sittings to come.

It was also to the gardens of this very building that the Eye was brought to play and frolic around in as a child. As a child, the Eye would look up in awe at its golden roof, glinting in the evening sun. The building was a true symbol of this beautiful state we live in.

Sadly the grandeur of the old DUN has been overshadowed by the new building. While it still houses several state agencies, the state of the old DUN is depressing.

Leaks have been left unattended, there is no sign of regular cleaning and maintenance, old furniture is left stacked in random places to gather dust and cobwebs.

Not many have had the privilege of actually being in the chamber during its glory days when bills were tabled, points raised and debated and ordinances passed and amended for more than 30 years.

Do those who had the privilege of sitting in the chamber even remember the beautifully carved wall panels?

To make matters worse, the compound of the old DUN is also left practically unattended. Litter is strewn around the perimeter of the building.

Late in the evenings and during the weekends, the compound, which is poorly lit, becomes a gathering place for those carrying out activities involving cheap liquor, illegally modified motorcycles and well, other questionable dealings.

The occasional police patrol car in the area does not seem to deter this ‘class’ of people from hanging around there.

As far back as August 2007, the Eye had written in this very column, what an eyesore the old DUN building had become – neglected, its compound strewn with rubbish, just because a new building was in the making.

And even before the state legislative moved to the new building on the hill, the Eye had questioned what would become of the old DUN.

Digging through the archives, in June 2008, the Eye also wrote in this column, a suggestion to put the old DUN to good use and retain its dignity. Back then, the Eye saw potential in the building as a centre for artistic expression.

“Imagine, a little theatre, volunteer art classes, volunteer language classes, a mini handicraft studio and a mini painting studio and a gallery filling the grand old building with colour and life” the Eye wrote then.

Again, in 2009, the Eye wrote on having the old DUN put to good use, to house a centre or a school for the arts.

In that particular piece, the Eye wrote: “There is the Dewan Santapan, which can be turned into a hall for performing arts. There is the Sitting Hall, which also could be used as a theatre. There is a resource centre, which could be maintained as a library. There are offices and rooms that could be converted into classrooms and activity rooms. So why not? … And somehow, the old DUN building has that touch and value to it – it is a piece of art and a part of history.”

The sad thing about being Malaysian is that we tend to let monuments and places of historical interest rot away.

We have lost many of our historical landmarks to neglect, and also perceptions that “refurbish means to tear the whole thing down and build something else in its place.”

Instead of making the effort to refurbish and look into ways to maintain our historical landmarks, we have a tendency to let them rot away or tear them down with the excuse that it is not feasible to maintain them, and then build new buildings, which have no resemblance whatsoever to those that have been torn down, in their place.

Sad, but true.