GONE: Locals upset that landmark was torn down despite its heritage value
IPOH: FOR a city so proud of its old-world charm, the recent tearing down of the Majestic Theatre in Jalan Chamberlain was nothing short of sacrilege.
For many locals, the art-deco building which had stood since the 1930s was an iconic landmark in their hometown.
Its facade had evoked fond memories of watching popular Chinese martial arts movies with friends and loved ones, and represented a link to a past that could never be recreated.
"For the developers, the rubble may be simply a heap of stones. But for the community, it is the destruction of another piece of shared history which allowed us to reminisce about the good old days," said Perak Heritage Society vice-president, Law Siak Hong.
Law found it ironic that the developers had chosen to flatten the property for commercial development.
"The building itself would have been worth millions due to its significant heritage value," he said.
"If they had been aware and consulted properly, they would have stood to gain more lucratively from preserving the structure instead of tearing it down."
Law said many building owners in the city failed to recognise and properly assess the value of their heritage property.
"A little-known fact is that Ipoh has the second-highest number of pre-war buildings in the country, after Penang.
"Owners need to understand that they have a public-interest property in their hands."
Law said that the Majestic Theatre building was destroyed despite having been marked for conservation and preservation in view of its heritage significance.
He revealed that it had been listed for protection under the Ipoh City Council (MBI)'s Ipoh Local Draft Plan 2020, along with another 100 buildings.
"It is worrying that the Majestic Theatre was still knocked down despite having been acknowledged for its importance," he said.
"This shows that more stringent laws and punishments are needed to curb future indiscriminate destruction of heritage premises."
Law also called for the MBI to issue a moratorium on demolition works for buildings five years old or more.
"This is to ensure there are no more losses of the city's valuable heritage properties," he said.
State Industry, Investment, Entrepreneur Development, Tourism and Women Affairs Committee chairman, Datuk Hamidah Osman, has echoed Law's call for harsher punishment.
She noted existing laws imposed a mere RM500 fine on developers who failed to apply for an approval permit from the MBI before proceeding with their project proposal.
"The law is obviously not enough of a deterrent. There is a need to increase the fines to RM250,000 and above," she said, adding that she would raise the subject in the following state executive councillors' meeting.
Hamidah pointed out that it was also damaging for the state's tourism industry, as the city's wealth in heritage was a selling point for attracting visitors.
Meanwhile, Ipoh mayor Datuk Roshidi Hashim said a list of the city's protected buildings under the Ipoh Local Draft Plan 2020 would be released to the public soon.
"Some 100 buildings have been identified to be maintained and preserved for their heritage legacy and old-world charm. Although the draft plan is still under review for gazetting by the state government, we will be releasing the full list to the public soon to allow developers in the city to take note."
The 80-year-old Majestic Theatre building was designed by Danish architect Berthel Michael Iversen, who also designed the Ruby Theatre on Anderson Road.
It was closed down in the 1990s.
The tearing down of the Majestic Theatre raised a hue and cry from the general public, especially in Internet forums and blogs.
MBI has since issued a stop-work order against the developers, who had failed to apply for a permit for the demolition work.
It is understood that the developers will also be facing legal action for destroying the landmark.