“Otak-tak-centre” approach to heritage conservation?


So the Penang government will consult Unesco to come up with a solution to the scandal of the four proposed high-rise buildings in the George Town world heritage core and buffer zones. In the meantime, the developers concerned have been advised to halt their projects temporarily to placate the public and to avoid risking the world heritage status.

Are they trying to persuade Unesco to agree to those four high-rise buildings? It’s not a question of whether Unesco agrees or disagrees. It’s really a question of whether we value our own priceless heritage, which is unique in this region. Look at how other historical cities in Europe have strict guidelines as to what kind of buildings are allowed and what aren’t in their own heritage areas – even without a world heritage listing. Over here, guidelines are just for show (or to secure world heritage status); nobody cares about enforcing them… as long as quick (short-sighted) profits can be made.

Why is the state bending over backwards to please these developers? You tell me. Oh yes, that familiar line again; repeat after me, all together now, “They will claim compensation from the state if we don’t allow them.” That’s pathetic. Let them try and do that, and we shall see if the people of Penang will be amused.

An irate Penang resident and blog reader, Andrew, sends this comment:

Why does this DAP-PKR govt have to consult Unesco for a win-win solution? The only win-win should be for the people of Penang and for heritage conservation.

They are trying to negotiate and get Unesco to agree to the buildings, is it? Just tell the developers to take their projects elsewhere-lah! Like you think we Penangites gonna die without those four dumb high-rises, is it? What we lose from those projects, we shall gain from heritage tourism.

Hopeless punya Pakatan government in Penang. “Otak tak centre” punya approach.

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OM Saigal

Perhaps we should learn more about new & heritage buildings side-by-side, with the new quite similar.. Auckland City has done this. We have to change or re-enforce old buildings to stay upright. I recall S’pore’s New World Hotel suddenly collapsing last century with workers inside!!.


I believe it would be a great boost to LGE government if the discussion and negotiation with UNESCO turns out to be a successful one.


Did anyone bother to ask those who are affected most?




Well said. They are always quick to condemn when something goes wrong, typical Penangites! GRR! How many of you live in the heritage enclave, has contributed to the listing of Georgetown under UNESCO or actively involved in restoring any of those pre war buildings?

Personally, i don’t see anything wrong with our dear CM trying to negotiate a win-win situation. It will be for the benefit of all Penangites. Btw, what makes you ppl think that all Penangites echo your views?!


What is so wrong with discussion with UNESCO. Do you idiots still prefer the present government to bulldoze through every issues like the previous one? How many of you can tell me that Penangites are all for Heritage listing? Have the previous government asked us especially the people who lives in the city and the property owners before they applied and do they have solutions to preserve the city before the application? From what I heard they can’t even seems to agreed on the areas to conserve. From what I know the people who talk most on conservation are the… Read more »


Dear Anil, Agree with all you say…..it must be first the rakyat interest i.e. we must preserve our heritage. However we must cut them some slag. This is already done and if they can salvage the situation, good for us. But in future, all this type of fast track and unconsidered development in the heritage area must stop. In the same breath, I must say that sustainable development must be allowed to continue. Who says that in European countries like Germany, France etc there are no modern building side by side with older heritage ones. Take Berlin and Paris as… Read more »


The smartest thing to do is to sit down and talk this over with UNESCO, with the developers and come up with a solution, yes a win-win-win solution for the good of Penang and her people.
What is so wrong with that?


stupid penang people… no wonder penang still a kampung


I can’t agree with it. Again, I want to see Penang develop like Hong Kong and Singapore. We don’t need that tens of thousands of prewar houses. It is not the same if these houses are all still strong and beautiful. Majority of them are just waiting to fall apart. They are an ugly side in the town, some not all though. So, unless UNESCO force Penang to spend all their funds on restoration effort for the houses…I rather see them disappear than standing there waiting for the natural elements to bring it down. A few rows left should be… Read more »


By the way the moon is smiling gloriously tonight at your ineptness.
All you CM and member go take a long good look. It may never happen again in your lifetime.


The problem with LGE is that he took on some of his colleagues from his party in Penang with baggage and skeletons in the cabinet! These are incompetent administrators… just look at the tennis fiasco. LGE need to get pros to help him manage the state, period.


Penang or George Town Is my birth place. The heritage foundation guide lines are very clear. Nothing more than 8 stories high. What makes Penang so special that you think you can negotiate your way out of this. If they make you an exception they would have to make the same for all others. Don’t waste your time, just stop all the hotels above 8 stories be they approved by Gerakan or PR. It is wiser you negotiate with the developers than going against a brick wall. Sometimes I feel that the present administration is behaving like either novices or… Read more »


Sorry, I am not sure about this but I wonder whether the people of Penang even care about this status when comes March 2009. Right now most of manufacturing concerns have orders right up to this period. Beyond March 2009 is anybody’s guess. It is estimate the manufacturing sector accounts for about 40% of Penang’s GDP. So far, the good news is there will be no increment to the pay and no bonus…err that’s the good news! Will this status be able to provided enough jobs to absorb the layoffs? November just ended, my business associates at shopping complexes are… Read more »

Dalbinder Singh Gill

well ,wat to do, the government i believe is more interested in dinners like Malam Kemenangan Rakyat rather than this important issues, hope u all knoe what i mean, but i heard Mr. Lim Guan Eng is trying his very best, dunno how far its true, and i heard his comrades r the cause of his failures as they r not working smart nor hard, just like badawi advisors i guess, more of hearsay, hope someone with evidence can come forward to say something, i do have some evidence n truth actually about DAP assemblymens, hope i dun go missing… Read more »


I agree with hoyohoyo, the government is right in striking a win-win solution for the UNESCO heritage status. If at the same time, we can keep the heritage status, and prevent from compensating millions from our taxpayers money, is indeed the best solution. why do we have to be so obsessed with the heritage status? heritage tourism no doubt is profitable, but it is also a long-term investment and those hotels can provide job opportunities which are vital if tourism sector is to be our next main economy. And, I don’t think Mr. CM should get all the blame for… Read more »


A heritage is a heritage!!! where on earth can one find a heritage site with high rise building on it? how to negotiate with unesco? will the unesco accept the 4 new buildings & forgo their own guidelines or kowtow to the state whim & fancy? mind u don’t expect other to be eunuch as well & have to kow tow to certain people. btw, it’s ridiculous to claim that the present state govt’s approach is right, when in the 1st place they should not have approved the projects. It’s blatant disregard to guidelines set by the world body. maybe… Read more »


Huh? Now the government is looking for ways to strike a win-win situation… and yet kena hantam? I don’t see anything wrong even if the government wants to persuade UNESCO… Conflicts resolving is all about compromising… remember the issues are due to misunderstandings… No one wants to lose the status, and no one wants to fork out huge sum of money… On one hand the government kena hantam by losing heritage status, on the other hand the government also kena hantam by going bankrupt due to the fines imposed by legal suit… I don’t know, I studied marine conservation… and… Read more »


Dear friend,

when our beloved Mr CM claimed that he didn’t aware about the guidelines, it make me puke.

I am wondering what’d happened to people like chow kon yeow & those dap fello? aren’t they too protested during koh su koon’s time & attended most of the protests held by SOS penang on the very same issue?

if Mr CM frm Melaka didn’t aware abt the guideline then the dap fellos should raise it up before they approve the projects. Right???

I am wondering again if these fello hv become real eunuch & hvn’t the gut to speak up.


I agree to have discussion with Unesco, we may find a better solution. We should not doing this blindly , meet with Unesco and learn from there. Cancelling is an option, but it may resulted paying millions of compensation to the developers , if the discussion can get a final conculsion without payint the compensation , i think we should discuss, try it first .. Using the millions for the thousand poor folks , saving life , and used it for education will definately worth than having the Unesco status .. and also used the millions to grow more trees… Read more »


Seem like LGE is doing what he like, behaving like Penang belong to him. Who approve the Penang Hill clearing that caused the first ever flood at Penang Hill ? Who has been joining NGOs on protest over approval of high rise building within Georgetown heritage enclave before March 8, 2008? Who give approval now? Who has been joining NGOs on protest over Penang Hill Cable Car project before March 8, 2008? Who give approval now? Who has been joining NGOs on protest over hill slope development before March 8, 2008? Who give approval now? Let me make a prediction,… Read more »


Refer to the project papers; who actually approved the projects in contravention of the heritage rules? It is no longer enough to say this was approved by the previous BN government, LGE has to actively engage and find a solution. Losing the UNESCO recognition is not an option.

This has gone too far; the state government had better find its voice and its way through this mess. If heads should roll so be it.


I thought LGE did say that if the project is canceled, millions have to be paid to the developers as compensation? Now, what’s wrong with talking to UNESCO for a win-win solution? Or Andrew prefer to have a state government that do whatever they like without considering the impact and consequences?