Carcosa Seri Negara is undoubtedly one of Kuala Lumpur’s most historic colonial buildings, with its construction dating back to 1896. This mansion also holds a lot of historical significance for Malaysia, because it was here where the nation’s independence agreement was signed.
The structure is actually two separate colonial mansions. Carcosa was built first in 1896, while Seri Negara (formerly known as King’s House) was built in 1913. It was an official guest house for visiting VVIPs and royalty.
Malaysians were also recently stoked to see this historic building make an appearance in Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, ‘Crazy Rich Asians‘, and it looked as majestic as ever!
However, it appears that Carcosa Seri Negara was not properly maintained for quite a while, according to Free Malaysia Today. KK Tan of the Asian Heritage Museum (AHM), who took over as the building’s manager last year, shared that he was shocked when he first came across the state of the building. He told the daily,
“How could the (former) government leave this place in such a horrible condition? How could they do that?”
Carcosa Seri Negara was closed to the public in January 2016 for refurbishment, but works did not begin for more than a year and the building started showing signs of disrepair and poor maintenance. Although there is an abundance of local talent from non-governmental organisations and specialist groups who could have helped with conserving this historic building, it appears that they were not fully utilised by the relevant authorities at the time.
On top of that, the National Heritage Department, which had reportedly received RM30 million for repairing buildings in 2006, had almost exhausted their funds by July 2017, according to Nikkei Asian Review. The Ministry of Tourism had requested additional funds but did not receive anything yet at the time.
Tan added that when he and AHM chairman Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin Tuanku Muhriz first saw the poorly maintained state of the building, both of them wanted to cry. He was quoted by the Malay Mail as saying,
“How can someone leave this building in such a state of total disrespect? We were so angry at it…it was as if they had committed treason by desecrating this historical place.”
“It is baffling that the previous tenant failed to understand the significance of this place at all. Nothing comes close to this heritage site.”
However, when Carcosa Seri Negara was used to film Crazy Rich Asians in 2017, Tan said that Hollywood did them a huge favour by repairing and cleaning some of the areas, reducing their workload.
As for how he intends to revamp the building, Tan says that the area would be converted into a regional peace museum and cultural centre.
“Our aim is to turn Carcosa into an Asian peace museum to fight extremism and cultural terrorism, while Seri Negara will be transformed into an arts, culture and nature centre.”
“We cannot fight for peace without fighting extremism manifested in cultural terrorism and our ultimate goal is to transform Kuala Lumpur into the Geneva of Asia.”
Currently, Carcosa Seri Negara is currently home to the ‘Jalan Merdeka‘ exhibition, which was launched in 2017 and got extended by popular demand. The exhibition showcases 500 historical artefacts and archive materials related to our country’s journey to independence. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is expected to visit this exhibition in the near future.
“We want to teach people about patriotism, cultivate patriotism and the importance of national unity by showing how all the races in Malaya fought for our liberation,” Tan added.
Well, we’re glad that this historic structure will be given a new lease of life! Have you checked out the Jalan Merdeka exhibition before? Let us know in the comments below!
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