Speech during The signing of MoU between Think City Sdn Bhd (Think City) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

Since July 2008, the Penang State Government has been actively supporting steps to protect and conserve the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site through a competent, accountable and transparent manner. Amongst the committed actions are, firstly, the State Government set up a company named George Town World Heritage Incorporated under the direct purview of me ( Penang Chief Minister ), as the site manager tasked with responsibilities to plan, manage and promote this living cultural heritage city of George Town.

Secondly, the Penang State Assembly Meeting in December 2011 has already approved the State Heritage Enactment.

Thirdly, the State Government since year 2010 has been working closely with federal ministry department, state agency and local authority in formulating a comprehensive Conservation Management Plan and Special Area Plan for George Town World Heritage Site. These documents serve as an important guide to regulate and manage physical developments in George Town World Heritage Site with the aim of safeguarding and preserving the authentic Outstanding Universal Values of George Town. These documents have been presented to and well accepted by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee during its 37th World Heritage Conference in Cambodia last June 2013. Currently , these documents are prepare for gazette process and we anticipate official adoption in early year 2014.

Fourthly, in line with the vision of George Town World Heritage Site for convergence as an intelligent and sustainable heritage city that belongs not only to Penang, Malaysia but also to the world, the State Government has duly committed and embarked on annual celebration of George Town Festival since year 2010 to commemorate the successful inscription of George Town as UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 1 month long festival celebration funded mainly by the State Government has set an ideal platform for multi cross cultural performances and art programs to further promote the colourful cultural heritage city of George Town.

Lastly, I would like to emphasize that the State Government is not working in ‘silo’ in safeguarding our UNESCO world heritage site, instead close collaboration and partnership approach in various forms have been established with relevant government agencies; other organizations such as Think City to further enhance and strengthen our OUV of George Town World Heritage Site.

As the manager of the George Town Grants Programme, Think City was able to catalyze more than 200 urban regeneration projects in George Town World Heritage Site. Some of these worth mentioning projects are restoration of Masjid Kapitan Keling dome; conservation of Seven Terraces; upgrading of Cheah Kongsi; tree-planting scheme at Carnarvon Street; development of Little India and upgrading of urban market area. We feel of course that Think City can do much more and are willing to request the Federal government to top up the RM 20 million allocation as there as only RM1-2 million left. Of course the state government is in dire need for funds to carry out heritage conservation. Despite not receiving any funding as promised by the Federal government. The state government has successfully established the George Town World Heritage Incorporated, which is now the foremost state government agency on heritage conservation in Malaysia.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Aga Khan Trust for Culture to Penang and in partnering with Think City. AKTC, is a renowned international organization which has shown remarkable good track records in revitalizing the world historic cities. With the signing of this MoU, we hope that both Think City and AKTC will be able to assist Penang improve its capacity for planning, conservation, developing strategic action plans and further enhancing the distinctive Outstanding Universal Values of George Town. This partnership, which has the full support of the State and local Governments, will also be focusing on possible inward investments to development projects that are compatible with this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Information about the AKTC
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is recognized as one of the foremost organisations involved in matters of architecture, conservation and urban planning. Its Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, which will be the main collaborating partner under the agreement, promotes planning, conservation and urban revitalisation in historic cities. It also undertakes the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures and public spaces in ways that can spur social, economic and cultural development.

Individual project briefs go beyond mere technical restoration to address the questions of the social and environmental context, adaptive re-use, institutional sustainability and training. Its projects include major parks in Cairo and Delhi and urban revitalisation projects on sites as diverse as Zanzibar and Kabul. As a part of the Aga Khan Development Network, the Trust undertakes cultural projects in a of broad continuum of development activities that usually encompasses economic, social and cultural initiatives.

Information about Think City

Think City Sdn Bhd is a special project vehicle established by Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the investment holding arm of the Government of Malaysia. Think City, which is a 100% owned subsidiary of Khazanah, is tasked with implementing and managing the George Town Grants Programme (GTGP). Launched in 2009, Think City continues to support non-governmental organisations and local communities having committed a total of RM 16.6 million (USD 5.2 million ) including 205 projects involving building conservation, community-led shared spaces and cultural mapping projects; as well as technical assistance & capacity building programmes.

Think City provides a working platform bringing different and oftentimes competing stakeholders to the table by way of innovative ideas. Think City continues to work closely with federal, state and local governmental agencies whilst supporting public private partnerships including the George Town Business Improvement District Scheme (BIDS), the Little India Joint Action Committee, Yayasan Islam Pulau Pinang and outreach & educational programmes by the George Town World Heritage Incorporated.