Saturday August 18, 2012
Pre-war building dwellers are afraid of not having a place to move to
By MANJIT KAUR
Photos by SAIFUL BAHRI
FAMILIES living at a row of pre-war houses in Kampung Kepayang were caught unawares when a group of sub-contractors started barricading their building that are expected to be torn down soon for a road expansion project.
They were even asked to move out of their houses immediately, as the workers said the whole structure was going to be demolished soon.
A check at the site saw about four workers placing wooden planks to support especially the dilapidated buildings on one of the row of shophouses located on the left side of the road heading towards Gopeng from Ipoh.
It was then that some of the families started hitting the panic button, as they feared for their safety and wondering where they could go to seek shelter.
Odd-job worker Choong Yoon Hin, 74, who had been renting one of the dilapidated buildings for over 20 years claimed that one of the workers had told him to move out of his house immediately.
Choong, who stays in the house alone, claimed that the workers told him to remove all his belongings from the house when they started barricading the area since Aug 13 to enable them to dismantle the wood and zinc structures.
“I am staying here alone with my three dogs; where am I to go at the eleventh hour.
“I am not aware of the demolition works. No one has told me about it and neither have I received any notice from the authorities,” he said, adding that the owner of the building was staying in Kuala Lumpur.
Wong Sui Fook, 46, a blacksmith said he would have to stay on the streets if the demolition works were to take place soon.
“I have been renting here for over 10 years, and have not been told anything about having to move out.
“On top of that I have seen the workers breaking some of the locks of unoccupied houses and taking away the wood and zinc which are old but had quality and can fetch a good price,” he said at the site recently.
The Star had reported on Nov 11 last year that the Batu Gajah District Council had decided to tear down the buildings, thought to have existed since 1880s, due to their sorry state.
Located 13km south of Ipoh, the shophouses are noted for their architectural designs.
In stark contrast to its heyday, Kampung Kepayang which is a former tin-mining town, has been reduced to a ghost town following the drop in demand for the commodity.
The demolition was to take place to expand the federal route, which runs in between the two rows of shophouses located between Simpang Pulai and Gopeng.
The council president Datuk Jamry Sury had said last year that the buildings were supposed to be torn down in January this year, but later said it had yet again been postponed.
He then said that the demolition was expected to take place by the end of this year although they hoped it could be carried out earlier upon getting the nod from the state government.
Jamry had said that the council had also outlined a proposal scheme for 10 of the 54 owners residing at the shophouses.
Barber R. Gnasegaran, 61, who has been staying there for the past 58-years said the house he was living in belonged to him and he was renting the barber shop located opposite.
“Although no barricades have been placed in front of my house, I fear that the demolition works at the dilapidated buildings will cause an impact to my house.
“For now I was told that only the dilapidated buildings will be brought down,” he said, adding that there were four families residing at the row of shophouses.
Ng Sen Ngow, 63, who makes tablets for tombstones said he had received a notice from the council stating that the buildings would be torn down but was not told when.
“So my wife and I were caught by surprise when we saw the workers placing the planks at the area,” said Ng who has been operating his business there for the past five years.
Another owner of the building at the opposite pre-war shophouses claimed he had not received any notice from the council requesting them to move out.
Balindrar Singh, 51, who is an insurance retail financial service provider, said the only letter he received was asking the owners to repaint their buildings two years ago.
“I was only asked to attend a meeting once by the council, and when I started asking a lot of questions, I did not receive any invitation after that.
“So I am not aware of the plans by the council,” he claimed.
When contacted for comments, Jamry said the demolition works in stages were set to take place in a month or two.
He said there were placing the planks as safety measures, and plans were to demolish the dilapidated structures first.
“All owners of the buildings have been notified about our plans, and they have agreed to it.
“Of course we will provide alternative housing for those who are still staying there. They will be given ample time to move out, so don’t panic,” he said.