It seems like some people are jumping up and down after the archaeological discoveries at Sia Boey received tremendous coverage in the media, scuttling the plan to build a massive transport hub there.
The widespread media publicity given to this area has brought to public attention the historical significance of the area, designated just last year as a heritage and arts district.
In my book, the PDC team and the USM archaeologists have acted with tremendous professionalism and competence in enriching our understanding of the area. I was impressed with their dedication. It is insulting to say they lack competence.
The Chinese-language press coverage generated much public interest. At first many were pleased that the state government was being so open to the public about the findings. But that was then.
Now the place is being sealed, and Sia Boey is to be transferred to the tightly run ship of George Town World Heritage Inc – though it won’t be easy to effect this transfer legally especially if the contractor has site possession, in which case PDC can’t just hand the area over to anyone else. Anyway, what experience and expertise does GTWHI have in such project management?
Then there is the silly and childish witch-hunt: the state government wants a “full report” as “whoever in PDC or USM organised this had done it without authorisation”. But my understanding is that the public briefing was part of the mandate given to the PDC or USM for this project. So they were indeed authorised to carry out the public briefing. If that’s the case, why should the media be barred if the intention is to brief the public?
The veil of secrecy that is now being drawn over Sia Boey is unbecoming of an administration that wants to uphold competence, accountability and transparency. All because the state government is adamant about putting up a massive transport hub at Sia Boey even though there is a “better, cheaper, faster” alternative available: a simple tram station using the cast-iron frame of the old Sia Boey market.
It reminds me of how the 20 volumes of the RM46bn SRS proposal for transport infrastructure is being kept secret to this day. This makes a mockery of the state’s Freedom of Information Enactment.
Sia Boey is now a “secure” area. But this is akin to latching the barn doors after the horses have bolted. It is too late. The discoveries are already out in the open. Unesco and Jabatan Warisan Negara will be watching closely. Even Tanjung MP Ng Wei Aik believes Sia Boey should not be disturbed.
Save Sia Boey from the bulldozers and wrecking balls of $$$-minded developers and contractors.