Joy as Malacca, George Town Become Cultural World Heritage Sites
Tuesday July 8, 2008 MYT 7:34:30 PM –The Star
MALACCA: Elation and relief were the reaction of people in the historic city and in George Town following the cities' joint inscription as Malaysia’s first cultural World Heritage Site.
Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, who is in Quebec, Canada for the 32nd World Heritage Committee session, described the success as "global recognition of the country’s ability to protect our unique heritage."
“I wish to thank the people of Malacca and all who have worked hard to achieve this. The inscription today bears the fruit of 8 years of planning and preparations,” he said in his SMS reply when asked to comment on the decision.
Besides being better able to preserve the state’s rich heritage, he said UNESCO recognition would also bring in economic benefit for the people through the tourism and service industries following expected increase in tourist arrivals.
Besides the recognition of Malacca and George Town, the Kinabalu National Park in Sabah and the Mulu National Parkin Sarawak were also inscribed as natural sites in the World Heritage List.
Malacca City Mayor Yusof Jantan, who is also in Quebec, said that the recognition would bring benefit for the state in terms of funding for conservation and preservation work including gaining foreign expert assistance in joint exchange programs.
As the secretariat for the state’s World Heritage Site effort, he said a permanent conservation and preservation unit would be immediately set up by the city council to oversee the implementation of UNESCO’s guidelines.
Malacca Heritage Trusts president Debbie Lee said that the inscription marked the beginning of a new phase in conservation and preservation work.
“The authorities must now ensure that the city’s intrinsic cultural heritage and monuments are protected and preserved through implementation and enforcement of proper policies and guidelines,” she added.
The 17th Century Cheng Hoon Teng Temple trustee member Josephine Chua said the state must now take steps to create greater awareness amongst the public on the importance of preserving the city’s rich cultural heritage.
“The continued recognition as a World Heritage Site is also dependent on the recipients ability to implement and enforce regulations. The tile can also be taken away if we jeopardise our heritage,” she added.
In GEORGE TOWN, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said a state-level heritage committee would be formed to formulate an integrated heritage policy.
Lim, who would head the committee, said it would hold discussions on fulfilling and complying with the parameters of a living heritage and cultural site.
“Penang needs not only an integrated policy, but one that has concrete short, medium and long-term aims.
“The state government will work closely with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Federal Government and other stakeholders towards creating a plan that include mechanisms to implement the heritage policy and to focus on conservation efforts within the heritage zone,” he said.
He said the world heritage listing was often followed by an increase in heritage and historical tourism.
"Tourism is Penang’s second income earner. Therefore, we will oversee a coordinated effort to upgrade Penang’s heritage tourism products," he said.
Lim said the state government recorded its appreciation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) for listing George Town and Malacca as World Heritage Sites
Lim also expressed his gratitude to the previous Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister, NGOs, the previous state government and government officials from the state agencies who had helped George Town achieve the listing.
George Town, he said, has been recognised for its largest concentration of pre-World War II buildings in South East Asia and multi-ethnic living heritage.
“Malays, Indians, Chinese, Eurasians, Armenians, Japanese, British, Jewish, Filipinos and other small nationalities have contributed to the development of George Town,” he said.
State Local Government, Traffic Management and Environment Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the state government has great responsibility to protect and maintain the World Heritage Site status.
“Failing which, the Unesco will degrade us and strip us off the heritage city status,” he said.
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