Questions surrounding the status of the now-demolished iconic Taiping market are expected to be answered when Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming visits the Perak town tomorrow morning.
The first building at the market, constructed in 1884, and the other structure, built a year later, were supposed to have been repaired and restored, but were instead, brought down.
This raised concerns about efforts to gazette the market as a heritage building. The Taiping market is the oldest wet market in Malaysia.
The project was initially expected to be completed in October this year, but will now only be ready next year, in conjunction with the town’s 150th anniversary.
Twentytwo13 visited both sites yesterday and saw several workers carrying out work at the spot that also housed what is famously known by the locals as ‘Siang Malam’.
There were, however, no activities at the other spot located just behind the new clock tower.
Twentytwo13 later visited the Taiping Municipal Council to obtain clarification about the project but was told to wait for Nga to address the matter tomorrow.
In 2020, the local council told this news website that the market will be conserved and not demolished. Then Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamarudin, had in 2019, revealed RM9 million would be allocated to “upgrade and modernise” the building. She also gave assurance the traditional design and wooden structure would remain to preserve its historical value.
A source familiar with the project revealed to Twentytwo13 that the initial plan was to repair and restore the buildings, but upon inspection, the materials on the old structures were either too old, or were infested with termites.
“The ministry and the relevant government agencies, including the Department of National Heritage, were informed, and the contractors received the green light to bring down the structures, to be repaired and restored,” said the source who requested anonymity.
The cost of the initial plan to restore the market is expected to increase, in light of this latest development. This is because conservators will have to search for the similar type of wood and other materials that were used in the past.
Nga is expected to visit several spots, starting with the Aulong market, followed by the ground-breaking ceremony for the Madani homes in Aulong, Maxwell Hill, before visiting Taiping market, and later, the Legend Inn Hotel.
Nga may also want to look into the abandoned Casuarina Inn, and the Taiping Rest House, which is also the nation’s oldest, built in 1894.
The Taiping Rest House and several old shophouses along Jalan Stesen, which form part of the Taiping Heritage Trail, are dilapidated and have been cordoned off for years.
Last year, heritage lovers urged the authorities to quickly restore the historical structures along its heritage trail.
It is understood that the Taiping Municipal Council had, in recent months, obtained ownership of the rest house and Casuarina Inn, that were previously held by the Perak State Development Corporation.
However, the local council is unable to restore the buildings due to a lack of funds. The century-old structures also fall under the heritage status, and thus require special attention.
“It’s a little tricky in Taiping as the buildings are all over 100 years old, and to ensure they are maintained requires more work, which also means more money. Also, the buildings are owned by different government agencies.”
Also in dire need of attention is the road leading to the Maxwell Hill resort. While the local council maintains the buildings – which include a rest house and several bungalows at the mid-point of the hill – the roads, which are maintained by the Public Works Department, have been deemed unsafe for visitors travelling in 4×4 vehicles.
“The rest house has been closed for several years. The council may open it when it starts leasing out the bungalows to hikers, which could be sometime in October. For now, Maxwell Hill will only be open to hikers,” the source added.