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In The News

Date: Saturday, September 1, 2001

Old BBGS should not be torn down


Dear BBGS girls and friends
For the record
This is an update on our efforts to save the two oldest blocks of the BBGS school buildings. Please e-mail this to everyone who is interested. Also print hard copies and send or fax to those who do not use electronic media. Spread the word!

Fare thee well, BBGS
We had a very successful, albeit fairly emotional gathering on Sun 6 May at the old school premises. There was a turnout of about 2,000 people - a definite miracle considering that we only got the official go-ahead to hold it in the school grounds at about lunchtime on Sat 28 April 2001! We were very concerned that we would not be able to inform enough girls in time, so we tried to postpone the gathering to the next weekend or even later, but the site owners said that "it had to be done on May 6 or not at all!" However, with lots of prayer and help from wonderful news editors who put announcement/articles in > the national news sections of all the main English and Malay papers, plus radio announcements on 4 ASTRO radio channels, WOWfm and Radio 4, we managed to get a huge number of people to come. Many could not attend .Still, many BBGS girls were very sad at being unable to join us. A number of ex-BBGS girls now living outside KL called up to wish us well and to tell us that they would be with us in spirit. BBGS girls now studying, working or living abroad communicated their feelings of powerlessness and frustration at not being able to participate in the Farewell event and to stop the unnecessary demolition. We were told that some girls in London planned to meet on the same day as the Farewell to have their own commemoration of the event. Chew Mei Lee, President of the OGA, received many calls from distressed old girls and even families of current and past BBGS students, many of whom cried over the telephone. Miss Moey Yoke Lai, ex-BBGS Head Girl, recounted how someone called her from America and bawled buckets over the phone over the sad end of BBGS. Animah Fuad Kosai reported that her Launch of petition On that day, besides the farewell ceremony (see attached Programme for BBGS Farewell.doc), we updated our database of old and current girls, collected written tributes to the school in specially prepared books and on manila cards mounted on the walls, and sold commemorative centenary souvenirs. More importantly, we launched a petition (see BBGS Petition.doc) to save the two oldest blocks of > the school. These blocks facing Jalan Bukit Bintang comprise the main office block with a porch (built in 1930) and the extension (built in 1941) all the way down to the hall. They have been recognised as fine heritage buildings by Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia (Malaysian Institute of Architects) and Badan Warisan Malaysia (Malaysian Heritage Trust), and as such have been recommended for conservation and adaptive re-use. Besides, the existing front lawn could be used as an open plaza for all.

The Louis Vuitton Party
About twelve days prior to our gathering, Louis Vuitton held an exclusive party on 24 April for more than 2,000 guests at the BBGS premises as part of the launch of their 8th global flagship store at the upmarket Starhill Shopping Centre across the road. The event boasted an international guest list which included local royalty, the movers and shakers of the Malaysian economy, Hong Kong movie stars, stuntmen from Hollywood, Parisien and New York street performers, and other glitterati flown in at LV expense to add glamour to the occasion). This was certainly a stroke of good luck for us. Up till then, we had not been able t o persuade the owners to allow us onto the school premises which had been designated a demolition site. With the LV party, the new owners could not then deny us the permission to use the premises for our farewell to the school - after all, we were the form

Letters to the Editor
Lim Take Bane, a local architect and conservationist who attended the Louis Vuitton party, was so taken with what he experienced there that he wrote to the press in the same week as when we were planning for the gathering. He was fortunate to have his letter printed in the New Straits Times on 1 May (edited in part), in to in the Sun on 1 May and in the Star on 3 May. (See attached Lim Take Bane's Letter to the Star.html). This letter triggered a strong response from the readership, especially in the face of current demolition threats to existing heritage buildings such as Bok House (better known as the now half-demolished Le Coq D'or in Jalan Ampang Kuala Lumpur) and many mission schools such as St Nicholas' Convent in Alor Star, Kedah.
A large number of girls were moved to call and write to the press. The New Straits Times responded with a big illustrated article on Wednesday 2 May 2001, headlined Heritage school awaits demolition - Former BBGS pupils pour out feelings about their alma mater in graffiti (see attached BBGS -nstp Article.htm). This was about how "Old and new students had been visiting the school over the past month and pouring out their feelings in graffiti on the walls and blackboards. Some of the eye-catching phrases were "BBGS I love you forever", " BBGS we will always love > and cherish you", and "Spirit bless you". One heart-rending > message was:
To Our Beloved BBGS
I can't bear to even graffiti your skin you held together so long!
and watch the disrespect carved onto & into your soul...
However, only spirits of many who fill your frame,
memories will linger on and resonate deep,
Walls maybe forced to crumble, not our soul!!
Karen Lam Yee Kheng

30 April 2001, 11 am "
Many BBGS girls were reduced to tears upon reading the article. All this raised awareness and built up the momentum for the Farewell on Sunday 6 May 2001 (see attached BBGS-Bernama article.htm).

Who are the present owners? The owners of the lot are something of a mystery. Who are they? Nobody knows for certain. What we do know is that at present, the new owners are bent on knocking down the whole school and building an upmarket shopping centre in its place. In fact, we were told by the site agents that they were going to knock it down this week! That is why there is a rush for the petition to be signed by as many people as possible (not necessarily just BBGS girls) and returned to the Old Girls' Association (OGA) immediately. Please e-mail the petition to as many people as possible. Remember:if they are Malaysian, they must include their IC numbers when they sign. What the petition asks for .Please understand that we want to save these buildings totally, and not in part or just the facades. We are not anti-development. We are saying, "Please build by all means, but conserve these front blocks; adapt them by re-modelling the former classrooms to suit new uses. Build sensitively behind and adjacent to them, and stack the development upwards, if necessary, to make up for the space occupied by the existing buildings." In this way, we have a win-win situation for everyone with the proposed new development enhanced by the > heritage value of the fine architecture. (See attached BBGS > Petition.doc)

IT-savvy BBGS girls respond, please!
We also plan to put up a website very soon, to register as many old girls as possible for our database, and to get as many people as we possibly can to sign our petition. So all you IT-savvy girls out there, please respond - if only to give suggestions or advice or recommendations as to who can and should put up the website and what the website capabilities should be.
Chew Mei Lee []
Animah Fuad Kosai []
Sandra Sodhy []

What you can do to help
1. Write to the press (either e-mail or snail mail) and tell them that you want the two front buildings to be saved in toto, because of their fine architecture, their historical value (they are about 70 years old) and because of the BBGS contribution to nation building and the BBGS heritage (inculcating good values, good behaviour, model citizens, etc.) (see attached BBGS Petition.doc for more details). The letter should be short and to the point. Remember, we are saying, "Please re-develop but retain the front two buildings in toto and integrate them sympathetically into the new development bybuilding adjacent to and behind them."
Conservation is commercially viable. In fact, many proven examples testify to the fact that it is immensely profitable! Just look at the Clarke Quay and Chijmes projects in Singapore, IGB's Victoria Hotel in Sydney, Covent Garden in London, Pier 41 in San Francisco and our very own Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.
2. Better still, get non-BBGS girls (i.e. any concerned individual) to write and say that these landmark buildings are part of their heritage and history. Many people have grown up seeing those same school buildings there everyday - they have stood there for 70 years! - and must stand up and say that they will miss them if they are gone. Tell the developers to please retain the front two buildings totally and then build whatever they want behind or next to them. Angry, reproachful letters frothing at the mouth seldom get printed. Remember, the old school property is now in private hands. We have to persuade them to re-think their development strategy. This will not be achieved by shouting and name-calling! Letters carbon-copied (ie Cc) to all the press will also be ignored, because editors do not like to repeat what the others have printed. The best way then would be to address the same letter separately to each paper/ media/forum to increase your chances of it being published/feastured. Some useful e-mail addresses of the Malaysian press:-
1. The Editor []
2. []
3. []
4. The Malay Mail Hotline
3. Sign the petition and collect signatures for the OGA. Send the petition to as many people you know who are interested, and remind them to return the filled copies to us c/o the address at the bottom on the back as soon as possible. Please download and print petitions for those who do not have internet access! Not everyone has a computer or is IT-savvy!
4. Lobby your Member of Parliament - this is a national issue, don't forget!
5. Speak to people with political clout. Many of them have consciences! They are elected representatives of the people. Use their good offices to save the oldest school buildings.
6. Try any avenue which is legal and rational, and pray a lot! Nisi Dominus Frustra!
In essence, we are increasing public awareness and concern, and stirring up public debate on our common heritage. In this way, we hope to persuade the powers-that-be (ie the owners and developers of the BBGS site) that it is in everyone's interest (ie theirs, ours and the public's) to retain the oldest BBGS buildings and incorporate them sympathetically into their redevelopment plans. Besides, they stand to gain financially as well as obtain a good public relations profile by saving old heritage buildings with fine architecture and history, such as the two BBGS blocks that we are fighting to conserve. The fight is far from over. Do not despair. Do not give up hope. Never stop praying that the school buildings will be saved. It is never too late to stand up and fight for what you hold dear. So, write those letters, sign those petition forms and write to your MPs. BBGS will remain standing through all our collective efforts! God bless us all!
That's all folks, for the time being. Till the next newsletter, keep the BBGS spirit alive!
BBGS, we pledge to thee
Our love and toil in the years to be
When we are grown and take our place
As loyal women with our race.

Sandra Sodhy
BBGS (1973)

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