This is a English translation (I am not sure who translated it) of a statement in Bahasa issued by the National Heritage Department or Jabatan Warisan Negara. JWN was among those that played a critical role in obtaining Unesco world heritage listing for George Town and Malacca.
Feedback on the Sia Boey site, George Town, Penang
The proposed development of the Sia Boey site is very close to the buffer zone of the George Town world heritage site. Based upon preliminary investigation, it is expected that the proposed (transport hub) construction will have a potential impact on the recognition of George Town as a world heritage site.
However at this stage the National Heritage Department cannot provide real comment, feedback or suggestions, as there is no design or development at the site. Moreover, up to now, the National Heritage Department has been told that no black-and-white decision for the transport hub, as part of the proposed Penang transport masterplan, has been made.
Recently certain structures were discovered at the site, which are believed to include a canal. According to preliminary information obtained by the National Heritage Department, the canal was found to be very historical and important because of its potential to contribute to the story-telling of the history of George Town as a trading port. This discovery is also seen to strengthen the recognition of George Town as a world heritage site. In addition, several other structures were found at the site, one of which is believed to be a police station.
A meeting chaired by Dr Zainah Ibrahim, director general and commissioner of heritage, National Heritage, Department, was held on 29 July 2016 (Friday) at 12.15pm, in the main meeting room of George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI). The meeting discussed the results of the Sia Boey site visit, which had been conducted just prior to the meeting. Also discussed was how to respond to the World Heritage Centre (WHC) of Unesco, as a result of a complaint by an NGO.
This matter should be given special attention. It is important that the site is protected. It should also be studied further, involving archaeological excavation to confirm the significance and relationship to the history of George Town.
For this study, the National Heritage Department intends to announce Sia Boey’s protection under the Heritage Act 2005 (Act 645). To ensure that it be protected, the National Heritage Department will issue an interim protection order under Section 33 of the same Act. However, state government approval is needed to enable the interim protection order to be issued.
In addition, when the results of the study are completed, the National Heritage Department will propose to extend the buffer zone of the George Town World Heritage Site to include the Sia Boey area. Capacity will be taken into consideration, depending on the importance of the site and discussions with the relevant parties. This is one way to strengthen and safeguard the George Town world heritage site.
Research and excavation by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) will continue until completed, especially around the canal area, in order for the story-telling to be completed. The National Heritage Department has issued a licence to the USM excavation team until November 2016. In addition, the National Heritage Department will send a team of archaeologists to jointly carry out research on site. Results of the preliminary research indicates that this excavation may take longer than expected, as historical evidence has yet to be found.
The role to be played by all other parties is to report any information, discovery or new evidence on site. All parties should help to provide support for the National Heritage Department to preserve and protect this site.
National Heritage Department
Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia
16 August 2016
Tel: 03-26127611 / 7612/7613