Build on our collective past for progress

EVERY time the National Heritage Register gets a new entry, we ought to be delighted. It means another important piece of the Malaysian mosaic has come under the protection of the National Heritage Act.

Hopefully, it will not be long before the Vivekananda Ashram in Brickfields is listed in the register as well.

The Government wants the 110-year-old building to be declared a heritage site and the process has already begun with the dispatch of notices to the ashram’s management committee and the local authority.

According to Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, who announced the decision in Dewan Rakyat on Monday, the ashram can be gazetted as a heritage site as early as March next year if there are no objections. Otherwise, there will have to be hearings and the minister will decide on the matter in October.

We will have to see if the management committee or others will resist the government’s move.

Several years ago, the National Heritage Department had taken the first steps towards declaring the ashram a national heritage site, but could not go far because the owners had not consented.

The ashram is on a piece of land that is slated for a property development project that includes a 23-storey residential tower and an eight-storey car park. This has led to a groundswell of protests, despite the ashram’s board of trustees assuring that the building will not be torn down.

Clearly, to many people, the ashram is more than just an old structure. An online petition against the property project describes the ashram as an “iconic spiritual and historical landmark”.

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