Thursday June 3, 2004

Malaysia Hall closes doors at old site

LONDON: The door has finally closed on 50 years of history, when the keys to Malaysia Hall – a wing of the old Malaysian Students Department (MSD) – were handed back to the landlords on Tuesday.
Its last warden, Sakeran Osman, read a short prayer and High Commissioner Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohammed unscrewed the plaque from outside the door to hand it to the last MSD director at Bryanston Square, Datuk Dr Kamarudin Mohd Nor, in a symbolic gesture on its doorstep.
In his speech, Abdul Aziz paid tribute to the old place that had served princes and prime ministers as well as stalwart citizens and ordinary people. He signed the first page of the farewell book, and said it was time to turn over a new page in history.
The MSD’s new building, the former York Hotel at Queensborough Terrace in the Bayswater district of west London and less than 1km from Bryanston Square, was handed over to the department last week in a private ceremony attended by the education top brass from Kuala Lumpur and staff members here.
When part of the old MSD office, in Nos. 44-45, was closed and the lease handed back to the landlords, Portman Estates, in April 2002, Nos. 46 and 47, which housed the accommodation wing and Malaysia Hall proper, still had 11 years to go.
It came as a surprise to some on Tuesday that the lease on that had been surrendered to the landlords in quiet negotiations away from public eye.
Explaining this, Dr Kamarudin said that by this gesture the landlords waived dilapidation costs which would have cost the Government nearly £1mil (RM7mil) on the buildings.
He argued for the purchase of the new freehold buildings, citing the attractiveness of the property appreciation rate of 7% per year here.
“This will make the new Malaysia Hall, bought and refurbished at the cost of about £15mil (RM105mil), a valuable piece of real estate in the years to come,” he said.
Opened to the press yesterday, the new premises looked more like a hotel than a hub for Malaysian students.
Bayswater, a touristy, cosmopolitan, district of shops, ethnic restaurants and low-priced hotels is in sharp contrast to the quiet dignity of the more upmarket Bryanston Square.
The old, much-loved Malaysia Hall was a student-centred place which gave birth to many diverse student-led organisations, including Umno, Kesatuan Melayu United Kingdom, the socialist MASS (Malaysia Singapore Students) Forum and the Malaysian Students Islamic Group.
It is said by some that when Tunku Abdul Rahman came here fresh from negotiations with the British to break news of our independence, they carried the Prime Minister around the building that was once home to him as a student here. – Bernama

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"