7 July 2010 is a historic day for Penang in commemorating the inscription of George Town by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The historical and cultural imprint of the traders remains significant in the George Town as evidence in architectural styles, the tangible heritage and cultures or way of life as an intangible heritage. The presence of the tangible and intangible heritage till today form the justification for the serial inscription of Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca, on the World Heritage List in 2008. Melaka and George Town together represent Malaysia’s first cultural heritage site.
To mark the importance the Penang state government has declared 7 July as a public holiday and wishes to record our appreciation to the Education Ministry for recognising this as a holiday. The Penang State Government is committed to protect, preserve and promote the George Town World Heritage Site :
i. Engaging civil society and experts in heritage conservation. Collaboration with the civil society and experts both locally and internationally on heritage conservation which can contribute ideas on heritage management.
ii. Engage all the stakeholders, State and Federal Government, private investors and civil society to manage and implements projects in the heritage site. The model of Public-Private-community Partnership.
iii. Having a State Legislation, that is “Penang State Heritage Enactment” which will empower the State Government to preserve, promote and protect heritage. This include the setting up of a State Heritage Fund which we hope to attract both private and public donors locally and international.
In order to achieve the above commitment, the Penang State Government has set up a George Town World Heritage Incorporated. Its main function is to manage the site by working together with all the stakeholders such as local communities, government agencies, non-government agencies, institutes of higher learning, schools, professional bodies and other relevant agencies. The establishment of George Town World Heritage Incorporated proves the commitment of the Penang State Government to conserve, preserve, enhance and promote our multi-cultural diversity of our heritage. It is very important to acknowledge that the UNESCO George Town World Heritage Site is not only just a source of pride to us but also to the world and humanity.
The Penang state government hopes that the Federal government values the significance of George Town as a World Heritage site by providing funds and not engage in partisan acts of discrimination. The granting of RM 30 million in heritage conservation funds for Melaka and none for Penang is a travesty of justice and a great disservice towards Penang that was promised RM 25 million and got nothing. So far the Federal government has spent for the past three years RM 9,600 annually in George Town. Hopefully, this year the Federal government will see the importance of collaboration with the state government together with civil society and experts both locally and internationally on heritage conservation by increasing funding.
Let us proudly demonstrate that Malaysia and Penang are capable custodians and guardians of this precious heritage that has gained international reputation as a reminder of our country’s rich historical contributions that is worth preserving. Let all Penangites join together in this day of celebration and educate our children to be aware of the importance of heritage conservation.