94-year-old Beserah resthouse to be demolished, Icomos Malaysia wants it preserved

It has been patronised by famous individuals including Royal Prof Ungku Abdul Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid and Sir Hugh Clifford, the former British Resident of Pahang.

The Beserah resthouse, located north of Kuantan, Pahang, undoubtedly forms an important part of the history of the fishing village it is built in.

Built in 1927, the Beserah rest house once served as a popular “stopover” for dignitaries, ranging from high-ranked British officials to former state rulers.

“Although it was built by the British later royal family members, many scholars, researchers and even university students stayed here to conduct studies about the fishing community. If the walls of the rest house could talk, they would certainly tell stories on how the village transformed as a popular fishing settlement.

The rest house was built when the British High Commissioner in Malaya (Sir Hugh Clifford) visited the village in 1927 before it was reserved only for British officials who were on duty in the country.

In the late eighties, the wooden building in Kampung Pantai near here emerged as a favourite movie filming location before it ceased operations over a decade ago.

However, recently, the 94-year-old building was earmarked for demolition, something that the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) Malaysia is urging against.

“We were saddened to read in a news report recently that the resthouse is currently earmarked to be demolished, ” said Steven Thang Boon Ann, honorary treasurer of Icomos Malaysia, in a statement.

He said that in recent years, many of the traditional timber houses on stilts in Beserah have been slowly replaced with modern brick houses.

The 94-year-old Beserah resthouse in Pahang, which has significant social, historical and architectural values, has been earmarked for demolition. Photo: Filepic

“Of importance to us is the old resthouse. It has a significant historical background and is believed to have been built around 1926-27.

“Though architecturally simple, the building design and typology is an intact representation of its era, and is a brilliant example of sustainable architecture that is suited to the tropics.

“Usage of pitch roofs, large verandahs and raised floors are hardly evident in contemporary architecture, making buildings like the old resthouse rare and unique.”

The resthouse, he added, has for decades been a landmark for Beserah, one that is “embedded in the cognitive memory of locals and visitors alike”.

“There are multiple layers to its historical, architectural, social and cultural significance, but more importantly, it is significant enough for the local community to want to preserve and pass on to the next generation.

“Demolishing this building and the old timber shophouses in the old town means Beserah will lose its charm and its traditional and historical values.

“Preserving this resthouse as well as the timber shophouses will help strengthen local pride and attract tourism to this little village. A conservation plan needs to be prepared and gazetted to ensure the protection of the traditional values of the village.

“It is with these values that we see it necessary to preserve this building. It is also high time heritage and community-centric approaches be adopted into planning and development.

“Icomos Malaysia is ready to assist the authorities in the conservation plan for the rest house as well as the village of Beserah, ” said Thang.

Meanwhile Beserah assemblyman Andansura Rabu said he, along with the village representatives will propose to the Pahang State Development Corporation (PKNP) to postpone their plans to demolish the structure.

“I understand that PKNP through a tender issued by its subsidiary might have its own plans for the site while at the same time, the villagers want the building to remain.

“We will propose for both parties (PKNP and villagers) to provide their views. I believe a common understanding can be achieved if both parties are willing to listen to each other’s opinions,” he said.

Source : NST / THE STAR

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