Unable to pay rent, Penang heritage hotel loses treasure trove valued at nearly $40,000


GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A treasure trove of historical artefacts that adorned a heritage hotel in Penang has been auctioned off after the operators could not pay the rent.

Regarded as the first Chinese heritage hotel in Penang, 1881 Chong Tian was ornately furnished with valuable antiques in a row of 130-year-old shophouses.

But a Sessions Court bailiff and court-appointed auctioneer went to the property in Jalan Pintal Tali on Thursday (Aug 3) and auctioned off 108 artefacts, mostly antiques from China.

They included 34 vases, 18 paintings, 16 lamps, 10 chairs, six wood carvings, six cupboards, three prayer altars, two woven baskets, a table, bed and a set of chinaware.

Even a reception counter and three air coolers were auctioned off.

A dejected Seah Kok Heng, the managing director, stood resignedly and accepted his fate as all the items went under the hammer to one bidder out of seven for RM 125,000 (S$39,679).

"These antiques are priceless. I spent more than 10 years collecting them. It was my dream to build a hotel full of antiques. I felt tourists would love it," said Seah.

He said he bought the antiques from old families throughout Penang and also in other states.

The hotel's top room, the Seah Suite, had a published walk-in room rate of RM2,188 a night, with promo rates of RM800 to RM1,000 a night.

Of the other 10 suites, all given Chinese surnames, the cheapest were the Tan and Chua Suites with a published rate of RM588 a night and promo rates of about RM300.

According to the writ of possession dated June 5, the court bailiff was given the authority by the Sessions Court to hold the auction for plaintiff Khoo Chooi Poh to recover RM126,809.59 that the hotel owed in rent, interests and costs.

The court also ordered Seah to deliver vacant possession of Lots 38 and 40 of the hotel premises. The hotel covered three lots.

After the auction, workers built a wooden partition to separate those two lots from the other Lot 42.

A check with the hotel's receptionist found that a guest from Indonesia was affected.

"My boss will arrange another hotel room for the guest," the receptionist said.

Seah said the Sessions Court delivered a summary judgment on April 13.

"I appealed to the High Court and the hearing was set for Aug 21.

"I applied for a stay of execution pending the hearing but it was dismissed," Seah told a press conference.

He said he was unhappy that the writ of possession was issued without a requisite judgment prescribed under the Rules of Court 2012.

The appointed auctioneer was Salina Hanum Md Ridzuan of Zuan & Son Auctioneer and the auction was witnessed by bailiff Mohd Anuar Mokhtar.

Khoo's representative Ang Poh Guan was present, and said they were only following the court order.