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during this festival of lights.
Have a very
We care about our Past.
Important things were said by the panel of three guest speakers. This blog is a summary of the sequential presentations from the panel and the Q&A session during the PHS Heritage Forum held on 16 Oct 2010. En Syahruddin from the Jabatan Kementerian Pelancongan Malaysia , Negeri Perak chaired the panel.
Encik Mohd. Syahrin bin Abdullah, Jabatan Warisan Negara (JWN)
The title of En Mohd. Syahrin’s topic, “The National Heritage Act 2005” came into effect on 1 Mac 2006 to preserve and conserve heritage, both tangible and intangible. He said it was important to conserve our heritage because heritage can generate income for the country’s economy, give a sense of pride to the people and enhance research into our past. For Perakians, some good news is awaiting: the gazette for TT5, the only functioning dredge in Malaysia , will be completed soon. To encourage conservation efforts, the Department is in the midst of negotiating with some banks for soft loans to facilitate conservation projects.
Mr Clement Liang, Honorary Secretary, Penang Heritage Trust
Mr Clement Liang shared the tears and jubilations of the Trust through “Making the City of George Town A World Heritage Site ”. Slides on PHT’s restoration projects were shown. In Penang , besides built heritage, there is living heritage, the men and women who were the revered skilled tradesmen, artists and craftsmen.
Clement gave an insight into the roles played by PHT, founded in1986, to drive home the message that when heritage is lost, the people would lose their roots and identity.
The PHT has uncovered numerous cases where conservation guidelines were flouted, such as super high-rises dwarfing old buildings in the old neighbourhood. Developers who demolish old buildings have been slapped with only a minor penalty. That is no justice to the damage done.
The PHT conduct programmes to educate and encourage the younger generation to preserve George Town – “do it for the love of heritage”. That works at grassroot level, from “bottom up”, for it is up to the people to push their government for heritage conservation.
The PHT works with UNESCO Asia-Pacific by having joint conferences and restoration projects. For heritage tourism, heritage trails are mapped, where school children are involved. To educate and raise heritage consciousness for students, talks and workshops have been held in schools and “heritage walkabouts” conducted on the street.
The PHT also advises property owners on renovation of shophouses based on conservation guidelines.
Clement gave quite a detail account of what PHT has done. There is much to be learned.
Professor Amran Hamzah, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia , Sekudai
Prof. Amran changed his topic to “Nomination of Ipoh/Kinta Valley into UNESCO’s World Heritage List – Issues and Prospects”. This is timely, for the state government is preparing its dossier for UNESCO World Heritage Site Listing.
Prof. Amran gave a frank assessment on what it would take to get into the World Heritage List; it is no child’s play. Numerous questions were posted in his stimulating talk. I wish I could quote him but that will run into pages. So here is the gist of what he said.
A major impact from the listing would be a tourism boom, as evident in Melaka, but we need to look at ourselves and answer some pertinent questions prior to seeking the listing. We need branding. Do we have that?
We need to consider the outstanding universal value of Kinta Valley to humanity. Do we talk about it being the world’s largest tin producer? What about the towns that tin built such as Gopeng, Kampar, Papan, etc? What about the tangible and intangible aspects of this heritage? Whose heritage is it, anyway?
The Ipoh/Kinta Valley story should not only be about buildings, it should encompass the many layers of history.
We need a management plan in order to meet conditions of integrity and authenticity. We need to identify the attributes and assess how intact the tangible and intangible aspects of the natural and cultural heritage are. But how do we measure them?
Most importantly, we must love and respect our heritage before we can showcase them to the world. How about keeping our environment rubbish-free?
“To apply for listing is not a one-man show!” The process should be driven by the government. It must have strong support from the civil society, NGOs, individuals, academia, media, historians, writers and so forth. A task force and a base are required. Right from the start, information gathered should be shared with the world. The story does not end with being listed. The commitment thereafter is of utmost importance. Is the MBI capable of handling it?
It took Melaka and George Town twenty years of preparation before it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So if we thought Ipoh/Kinta Valley really stood a chance, we would have to start cracking to get into the World Heritage Site Tentative List. There is no shortcut to the process; it is a long one but it will be a fulfilling and enriching journey. His advice was to share this aspiration with the public, keep them informed and involved, and learn from Melaka and George Town .
There was no lack of enthusiasm when it came to Question and Answer time. There were two good questions:
1) Could the same results be achieved if things worked from the top down?
To that, Clement replied that it could work either way but it would work better approached from both ends concurrently. Procedures could be simplified with the help of the government.
2) How to turn around the lack of enthusiasm of local residents towards heritage?
Clement replied that in Penang , the PHT strategically stir up issues and create awareness through the press. Wherever possible, before news report hit the press, they would pre-empt by “alerting the public and government” to “nip issues at the bud”. Prof. Amran added that it would work well to have a common platform. We ought to start with a taskforce and get everyone involved.
At one point Puan Khoo Salma commented that for the Listing, tin may not be our only option. We could consider our cultural landscape. She stressed the need to document our social history, reminding us not to forget about the human element, that is, the stories of how men exploited tin.
Participants have expressed concern over various heritage issues especially regarding the responsibility of heritage management. Several options came up. A special entity could be set up, supported by the government to serve the purpose. The JWN could create a National Heritage Council or as PHS suggested, an Advisory Council for State Heritage.
To overcome rampant demolitions of heritage buildings it would be necessary to gazette all such buildings as National Heritage. This could be done within a much shorter time frame compared to being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
All levels of the society such as NGOs, media, civil society and ethnic groups need to work together to increase a love for local heritage. In addition, the local authority should be quick to act through legislation and enforcement in preserving and safeguarding our heritage.
Five months later, on Saturday, 16 Oct 2010, the much-anticipated forum finally came. It is an extension of the PHS Enthusiastic Programme held in May.
As early as 8 am, the Committee and volunteers had assembled at the Syuen Hotel to put in the finishing touches.
In the foyer, a display on the proposed revitalization of Kampung Kepayang Sg. Raia was set up. This was the effort of lecturers and students from the Engineering Faculty of the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Kampar.
Authors Khoo Salma Nasution and Abdur-Razzaq Lubis came up with a pre-launch sale of their latest book, Perak Postcards 1890s-1940s. Apart from the special discount price for the occasion, the lucky ones had their books autographed by the authors.
Another book on sale was Pemuliharaan Bangunan Bersejarah by Siti Norlizaiha Harun et al, published this year by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM). Written in Bahasa Malaysia, it deals with restoration of historical buildings.
Guests started streaming in at 8.30 am. As the crowd grew, it was time for socializing and catching up with friends. Some took in the display in earnest while others enjoyed browsing the new postcard book; sale was brisk.
All eyes turned to Dato’ Hamidah Osman, Perak State Tourism Committee Chairman when she arrived. She showed great interest in the UTAR display and requested a special session to discuss with the team which worked on it. This must be a great boost to the morale of the students and their lecturers.
Once Dato’ Hamidah was seated, our Hon Sec Sundra, who turned emcee for the day, began the proceedings with words of welcome.
Then, our President, Mohd Taib gave a rousing speech to a near capacity crowd of 80 participants from governmental agencies, local authorities, heritage NGOs, universities and colleges and the press, as well as individuals with an interest in Perak Heritage.
Mohd Taib told the audience about our survey of the 165 heritage buildings listed in the book, Landmarks of Perak by Raja Nazrin Shah. He lamented that some were demolished or were found in deplorable condition. So much for our heritage pride!
On ownership, he informed that many heritage properties owners were individuals and community bodies; as such, incentives should be given by the state authority to drive their passion for conservation. It was during the 2011 Budget Dialogue held on 25 Sept 2010 that PHS had proposed the setting up of a fund for heritage conservation. PHS had also asked for a special fund for research, to be managed by the proposed Heritage Council.
Mohd Taib informed that the Jabatan Warisan Negara (National Heritage Department) had gazetted 13 heritage buildings in Perak; currently it is preparing the dossier for the listing of Lenggong Valley as an UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Site. UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He further explained that the Forum was organized in support of the Perak Tourism Action Plan introduced by Institut Darul Ridzuan, a think-tank for Perak. The focus on “History and Nature” is witnessed by our rich heritage. It is also the objective of the Forum to create awareness to complement the forthcoming workshop on “Heritage and Dangerous Buildings”, to be organized by the local government Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh (MBI).
When the Guest of Honour, Dato’ Hamidah took to the rostrum, she told us that much of our heritage is lost and it is time to stop the destruction. She pressed home the point that besides appreciation we and the local authorities have to LOVE our heritage, and heritage buildings are made more interesting by the stories behind them. To safeguard our heritage, echoing Mohd Taib, teachers, NGOs and local authorities must play a role in creating awareness. We are blessed with nature, culture and heritage, it is now left to be seen how best to map the heritage of Perak and in particular, Ipoh our capital city.
A mock cheque of RM50,000 was presented by Dato’ Hamidah to the Centre for Knowledge and Understanding of Tropical Architecture and Interior (KUTAI) of UiTM Perak, for the documentation of Perak folklore.
While we had tea break before the Forum proper, the press crowded around Dato’ Hamidah for further comments. Most of the crowd stayed on for the Forum proper. After the Forum, a splendid lunch treat awaited inspired minds. Between mouthfuls, stories were shared. The feedback was very positive.
We must mention that participation at the Forum is free of charge, as the Forum is supported by the State Government.
For the forum proper, read our next blog: Words of Wisdom