I wish to thank Dr Nigel Taylor of Singapore Botanic Gardens for coming to Penang for this MOU signing ceremony.
This is the first MOU to be signed since the corporatisation bill of Penang Botanic Gardens was passed in the State Assembly on 14 November 2017. I view this as an important event for the state.
Historically Penang Botanic Gardens or the Waterfall Gardens is linked very much with the establishment of Penang itself. With the interest on spices, the British very quickly established a botanic garden to try out plantings of spices in Penang. So, I am very aware that the history of Penang itself is also the history of Penang Botanic Gardens.
Annually, we receive about 1 million visitors to the garden. The vast majority of our visitors are the people of Penang itself. Our main attraction in the garden has been the beautiful natural landscape, the undulating hills and slopes, the stream and the natural forests surrounding the garden. We want Penang Botanic Gardens to be more than a nicely landscaped public park.
We envision the Penang Botanic Gardens to be a proper Botanic Garden with not just a great selection of plants in a nicely landscaped garden but a botanical centre for Malaysia. We hope that the Penang Botanical Gardens will gain a reputation of sound research, professional management, conservation and education programmes.
To make this possible the Penang Botanical Gardens Enactment was passed. With this enactment, it will give us better control over the appointment of professional personnel to manage the garden, retain expertise, to solicit funding for the garden with better accountability towards its administration. Recently we have also appointed Malaysia’s finest botanist Dr Saw Leng Guan as our curator to help spearhead that vision for Penang Botanic Gardens.
A Special Area Plan for Penang Botanic Gardens is now in the final stage. We hope to gazette it by this year. The SAP will chart out the infra-structure development for the garden and defines the garden’s vision, mission and objectives.
Our aspiration towards the future inscription of Penang Botanic Gardens as an UNESCO World Heritage Site may seem overtly optimistic but PBG has the necessary presence historically and possesses a treasure house of flora and fauna for this international recognition. This aspiration also forced positive changes and greater public scrutiny into Penang Botanic Gardens. I know that this will take time, effort, commitment but with the right talent and approach as well as a systematic programme, we can succeed.
Collaboration with more established institutions such as the Singapore Botanic Gardens will certainly help. Singapore Botanic Gardens and Penang Botanic Gardens have shared a common history. Until Malaysia’s independence, Penang Botanic Gardens was managed from Singapore Botanic Gardens. In fact, the curators of PBG with this link included Charles Curtis, W. Fox, R. Derry, T.H. Burkill, F. Fippance, R.E. Holttum, M.R. Henderson, J.W. Ewart, J.C. Nauen, F.S. Banfield and Ritchings. We wish to revive this historical link to connect us to the future.
As stated in the Memorandum of Understanding which we shall sign shortly, this MoU will develop close collaborative links based on mutual trust, goodwill and a shared set of common objectives for both gardens in horticulture, research, conservation, training and public education for environmental protection and sustainable development. It will centre on capacity building, knowledge sharing and training for the mutual benefit of both gardens.
I understand also that funding for projects can be developed jointly between both gardens. Let us look forward towards a collaboration based on our common heritage, shared values and historical ties bonded not only by blood but also driven by our passion for knowledge, Mother Nature, peace and pursuit of excellence.