Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Proposal to open Yangon City Hall to the public in limbo

A proposal to open the downtown headquarters of Yangon City Development Committee to the public have been on hold for almost a year, according to an official.

A child plays in Mahabandoola Park outside Yangon City Hall, the headquarters of Yangon City Development Committee and one of the city’s most iconic heritage buildings. Photo: EPAA child plays in Mahabandoola Park outside Yangon City Hall, the headquarters of Yangon City Development Committee and one of the city’s most iconic heritage buildings. Photo: EPA

Yangon City Hall was the first building in Yangon to be awarded a blue plaque by Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT), as part of a campaign that will see more than 100 buildings awarded with such signs, to signal their historical importance.

In January, a plan to allow members of the public to visit the offices was submitted to the YCDC committee, said U Khin Hlaing, No 9 committee member.

“The typical Myanmar architecture of the City Hall and its library are of historical importance,” he said. “Moreover, we want members of the public to become more familiar with YCDC staff.”

However, no decision has yet been made, he added.

In the meantime, people can visit the City Hall if they show their ID cards and need to visit one of YCDC’s departments on business or other matters, he said.

Architect Sithu U Tin was responsible for the building’s design, which is a mix of Myanmar traditional and European architecture. Building began in 1925 and was completed in 1940, according to the Yangon Heritage Trust website.

YHT adds that the building is the site of many significant historical events. These include the Rangoon War Criminal Trial after the defeat of the Japanese in 1945, and General Aung San’s last public speech, which was held on the balcony, six days before he was assassinated.

“Since the 1930s, City Hall has been a focal point for major political demonstrations. During the 1950s, City Hall was the largest auditorium in the city, and a popular venue for hosting weddings, concerts and other ceremonies. In the 1970s, the National Library was housed on the second floor,” it says.

Overseas, many historical buildings are preserved with contributions from the government or charitible organisations.

In Yangon many are used as offices by government departments or private companies, and are only maintained through the efforts of those who inhabit them, said U Kyan Dyne Aung, a planning officer at Yangon Heritage Trust.

“We have suggested to local authorities that they open Yangon’s heritage buildings to the public,” he said.

Translation by Thiri Min Htun