GEORGE TOWN: Menara Umno in Jalan Macalister here -- the building in the centre of last Thursday's freak storm -- was an award-winning building when it was completed in 1998.
State Umno liaison committee chairman Datuk Zainal Abidin Osman said the 21-storey building was the winner of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects' "Intelligent Building" award in November that year.
He said when the building was being built, an Australian "wind consultant" was even hired to determine whether the structure could withstand strong winds.
"This was one of the interesting findings when we went through the list of architects and engineers who had worked on its construction.
"We are lucky that we are still able to find and contact the original professionals who designed and built Menara Umno, even though the building now belongs to its third owner," he said, here, yesterday.
Menara Umno is now the centre of attention after its 15m lightning arrestor collapsed in the storm and killed two people, including hawker Lim Chin Aik, 44.
Zainal Abidin said the architects and engineers, who had been contacted, had returned to look at the building and would conduct technical studies for a report that would be submitted to the state government and local authorities soon.
"They will soon get the technical report ready, so we believe it is best to let them proceed and not politicise this incident further."
He also clarified that Penang Umno was only renting two floors in the building as the original owner was South East Asia Development Corporation Bhd before the building was bought over by Amanah Capital Malaysia Bhd.
"JKP Sdn Bhd, the third and current owner, bought the building from Amanah Capital in 2005," said Zainal Abidin, who was chairman of JKP until he resigned on April 15 to contest in the general election.
On why the building was named Menara Umno when Umno was only a tenant, he said the question should be posed to the state Umno liaison committee chairman at the time.
"When the building was constructed, the state Umno chairman was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. He is the best man to ask why the building was named Menara Umno and whether special approval was given for the project."
Present was JKP chief executive officer Datuk Adzmi Ariffin, who said the company would conduct an internal inquiry on whether there was negligence on its part over the incident.
Meanwhile, with operations to search for Lim called off since Monday morning, work is under way to cover the crater and repair the road, which had been partially closed since Thursday evening.
Yesterday morning, council workers were seen tending to damaged water supply and sewage pipes, and filling the large hole with a mixture of sand, earth and crushed gravel.
A Penang Island Municipal Council engineer said works to repair damaged power supply and communication cables would start soon.
In a related development, Lim's wife, Lee Chai Song, was given a contribution from Penang Umno. The amount was not disclosed.
Zainal Abidin said Penang Umno was saddened by what had happened to Lim and extended its sympathies to his grieving family.