IN just three short months after Penang Hill was listed as a Unesco biosphere reserve, the state received an award of merit at the 2021 Unesco Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
The international jury of experts picked Penang out of 39 entries from 12 countries across Asia-Pacific. Penang is the only state from Malaysia that was honoured with the award this year.
This is the second time Penang received this prestigious award, first winning in 2008.
Earlier this year, George Town has also picked up the Jean Paul L’allier Prize For Heritage award from the Organisation of World Heritage Cities.
Heritage conservation efforts in Penang are among the most renowned in the region.
Besides the local council, the Penang government has established a specialist agency, George Town World Heritage Incorporated, to oversee the conservation and development work.
Therefore, it is puzzling to read the piece Decaying state of George Town’s Unesco World Heritage Site by Mohd Hazmi Mohd Rusli (New Straits Times, November 30, 2021).
The author criticised Penang’s conservation efforts compared to those of Malacca. However, it is evident that he showed no familiarity what is going on in Penang.
Within George Town’s core heritage zone alone, there are a number of significant projects in progress, such as the strengthening of sea wall and place-making at the Esplanade, the restoration of Fort Cornwallis and the 140-year-old Penang Town Hall, and the Penang Bay urban regeneration development, the latter recently receiving RM41 million funding from the World Bank.
Other past efforts within the heritage zone include Sia Boey Urban Archaeological Park, back lane revitalisation, and the preservation of the Clan Jetties.
Religious sites in Penang are also recognised for their heritage conservation work, such as Masjid Kapitan Keling, which won an award from the Malaysian Institute of Architects.
Outside of the George Town heritage zone, the Guar Kepah Archaeological Gallery in Kepala Batas is being constructed to house local archaeological findings, including the one and only Neolithic skeleton found in the country, which is 5,000 years old.
The author’s pot shots at the reclamation in Gurney Drive and the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) at Teluk Kumbar are misdirected.
Gurney Wharf is developed to create new recreational space for the public, while the southern reclamation project at Teluk Kumbar is Penang’s long-term climate adaptation plan for socioeconomic growth.
The author’s complete silence over the reclamation project in Malacca, which is more than twice the size of that in Penang, betrays his prejudice and one-sided evaluation. – December 5, 2021.
* Joshua Woo is a former councillor in Penang.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.