The government has decided not to go ahead with the controversial project by its predecessor to redevelop the old courthouse in Nam Van into the city’s new central library, the Portuguese-language channel of government broadcaster TDM reported on Wednesday.
According to the unsourced report by Rádio Macau, it is not known what the future use of the old courthouse, which has been vacant for nearly two decades, will be, nor where it now plans to build the new central library.
The project has been under fire by various segments of civil society since it was launched over 15 years ago. An initial design tender was cancelled for suspected illegalities and there have been constant criticisms about the project’s hefty price tag – about MOP 900 million – and location in one of the city’s busiest traffic areas, Avenida da Praia Grande. In 2018, there was a ruckus about alleged plagiarism involving its design by Carlos Marreiros, one of Macao’s best-known architects. Marreiros strenuously denied that his design was a copy of a building in Spain.
Community leaders have also pointed out that the pavement in front of the old courthouse is perilously narrow.
Legislators and civic leaders have urged the government for years to construct a purpose-build edifice for the new central library in one of the city’s new land reclamation zones instead.
However, the previous government’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng, who now heads Macao’s representative office in Lisbon, and the then director of the Macao Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC), artist Guilherme Ung Vai Meng, insisted on converting the old courthouse into the city’s new central library, the report pointed out.
The central library is currently housed in a listed building in Praça do Tap Seac.
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U hinted in June that the old courthouse project could be reassessed in line with Macao’s urban master plan, which will be submitted to a public consultation process from next Friday.
Old courthouse ‘ideal’ to house top court
Meanwhile, sources of Macao’s legal fraternity asked about the matter told the Macau Post Daily last night that the old courthouse was an “ideal” place to house the city’s top court, the Court of Final Appeal (TUI). “The building [old courthouse] has the dignity that one should expect for Macao’s highest court which now has to share its premises with the Court of Second Instance (TSI) in a rather nondescript building [near the legislature in Nam Van],” a seasoned lawyer commented, asking not to be named.
Rádio Macau also reported on Wednesday that the government has dumped its predecessor’s project to build a seven-building judicial complex on reclaimed land (Zone B) in front of the MGM casino-hotel in Nape.
Instead, according to the report, the government has decided to further extend the facilities of the Court of First Instance (TJB) near Sai Van Lake instead and to construct the other buildings elsewhere, such as the new headquarters of the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) in Zape and the headquarters of the Unitary Police Service (SPU) and Macao Customs Service in Pac On.
Rádio Macau is known to be well informed about government matters.