Heritage lost: “Welcome tourists, bye-bye tenants”


The world heritage listing of George Town and Malacca appears to be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it has highlighted the importance of preserving our historical inner cities; but on the other, it has led to an overemphasis on the built environment while traditional communities are squeezed out through gentrification. Old shop-houses are sold and converted to boutique hotels, trendy restaurants and galleries. In the process, traditional trades and small businesses, long-time communities and low-income tenants are forced to shut down or make way.

Check out this article: City without a soul? which appeared in Aliran Monthly recently.

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There need Master Plan for Heritage City, did Penang have that? Is the Heritage professional involved? Penang need a State Trust Fund to finance the conservation and management of Heritage City. Heritage buildings can be purchased with the money from the fund Penang need statutory law to protect the transfer and sale of heritage buildings in Heritage Zone. If the seller want to sell any building in the Heritage Zone, it need to obtain approval and right of the state to buy the property,using the trust fund money. Penang need heritage professional to help in conservation and management of Heritage… Read more »


Well, thats the downside of the World Heritage listing, folks… gentrification.

But without the urban renewal, downtown Georgetown will continue its decay, and many buildings will continue to rot & crumble until its unsalvagable.

The families who’ve lived and worked there will be priced out, but in their place… will be professional offices, art galleries, cafes & restaurants, and loft/studio apartments. A more upper class & artsy crowd will be moving in, including ‘refugees’ escaping the Klang Valley’s high cost of living & congestion.


Yes Bow, The present government got to face music too if it doesn’t benefit its citizen. However, lets us not jump into conclusion that we might have to give up the Heritage claim. I am sure that those MSM would be very happy to see it fail so as to kick LGE butt I repeat we must always cover all grounds and all corners. After weighing all the pros and cons, if the conclusion shows that we msut give up. We must give up. Remember Penangites might be very opiniated (as one esteemed scholar might say), they are very practical… Read more »


can’t understand this passion for boutique hotels in buildings where the community is still alive and kicking – isn’t this like buying the farm and killing the golden goose?
NOT good business sense at all.


You can not have it both way, either you keep the title or go full development regardless of the guideline, then destroy whatever golden heritage we cherished so much. When 13th election come, you will have to face the music.


Romerz, This time I got to agree with you on this. Hence, on another account, I disagree the fact that the present government should onyl press ahead with current works without looking all the root cause of all problems created by the previous government. I have always put emphasis that whatever we do. We must cover all grounds and all corners. However, Penang state government must be more tactful dealing the press. Especially they are more biased towards BN. At anytime, the MSM can have LGE for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I hope LGE and the state government knows what… Read more »

Rico Suave

Excellent point. May our governments remember that retaining a heritage is not solely about preserving the built historical infrastructures alone, but also the culture, tradition and way of life associated with it. May politicians on both sides of the fence, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, heed this message. The trend of making money out of the heritage buildings is parasitic: the heritage listing is misused here to just cash in without any respect for the very history and human and cultural aspects that are an integral part of the entire heritage idea. This may reflect the extremely money-minded attitude of… Read more »


Chasing tourists’ dollars The government intends to do Listening to its beautiful songs Ringing in the till Heritage by certificate A mark to sell the state The tourists will come What old buildings to tell? The inner city tenants The small traders and craftsmen All will be disappeared Leaving the inner city Stripping it off her soul The decay in the inner city Change hands the property owners Turning it into tourists’ spots Bringing in the wealth Heritage by certificate The tourists will come in bus loads Believing to see ancient charms Only the facades The inner souls the modern… Read more »


The distortion came from the Rent Control Act which long outlived its time. When the time came to bite the bullet of course it was going to be painful. And the pace with which change took over the island and its tenants was overwhelming. Just like something that would happen to our financial and automotive sectors if the government were to pull the plug on APs tomorrow. this distortion too has been going on for too long. In this sea of change, the good and the bad will be seen form two perspectives; the state government is in the unenviable… Read more »


This is what I have been talking about on the issue of Penang’s heritage city status. It was poorly thought out and encompasses too large an area to be practical. Secondly, the stakeholders ie the residents and property owners were not consulted nor shown a workable plan before application for the status hence their indifference today. You have to understand that maintaining this heritage listing involves thousands of Penangites to succeed and unless you win over their concerns, the heritage thingy for Penang is doomed to failure. How can you win them over if they were not even consulted by… Read more »