Words of Wisdom

Text by Lau Sook Mei
Photos by Jay Kana

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.

A token of appreciation was presented to En Syahruddin for chairing the panel.

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.


3 Responses to “Words of Wisdom”

  1. 1 S.Sundralingam November 2, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Sook Mei and Jay, both of u deserve the utmost credit for the fine photos and good write out of the recent heritage forum. Super duper!

  2. 3 Papan Jones November 5, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Khoo Salma pointed out that Kinta Valley is not just tin, but a strong cultural landscape with a fascinating social history yet insufficiently studied. However, Ho Tak Ming’s IPOH: WHEN TIN WAS KING is a significant contribution to this social history.

    The beauty of Kinta Valley is its rich heritage, even though it may not be old when compared to Melaka and Penang.

    Geographically, the Kinta Valley is Nat Geo material all over. Its natural landscape and geology has given us limestone hill outcrops with their unique flora and fauna, as well as the richest deposits of tin ore produced for the world – a world tin mining industrial heritage, in fact. The Orang Asli in the Valley are a living community, ancient and lively, with jungle skills and knowledge, and harmonious inhabitation in our jungles and their fringes are a treasure we cannot afford to lose. The bone fossils in Gua Naga Mas, Gopeng and the rock paintings at Gunung Panjang, Tambun are easily accessible in an urban setting.

    But it is the people who must be documented and studied. They who came to mine, plant, provide goods and services, get rich, inhabit and build the towns of the Kinta Valley, and dot them with significant buildings to govern, trade and progenerate which tell the story of its development. Kinta Valley is the very model of Malaysia’s modern development, and Ipoh a significant mining town which grew to be a major city.
    This is the cultural landscape which is of significance to the world.

    Ipoh had a height restriction because of its airport. Somehow regulations went out the window and tall buildings mushroomed. It’s a pity that Ipoh lost out being the only city without highrises. That would have made us so-ooo special. Instead, highrise of low quality, no arguments about that, block the views of the hills and mountain ranges which shape the Valley.

    To promote Kinta Valley as a place of interest, many people could make light work, but we must all work to the same standard and with the same passion to put Kinta into the eyes of the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Perak Heritage Society

Persatuan Warisan Perak
(Reg. No. 1254) was registered with the Registrar of Societies in August, 2003.

Office and Postal Address:
85C, Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil,
30300 IPOH, Perak, Malaysia.
(opposite the Syuen Hotel)

Fax: 05-253 5507

Website: https://perakheritage.wordpress.com

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 119 other followers

Perak Map



All data and information provided on this blog site is solely for informational purposes.

PHS makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, topicality or validity of any information found here and will not be liable for any error, omission or delay in posting this information, or any loss, injury, or damage arising from its use or display.

All information is provided as-is. We reserve the right to review and reject any comment deemed unsuitable for general public reading.


© 2010 Perak Heritage Society
All articles and images featured are the property of the Perak Heritage Society, except where noted.

Please acknowledge and credit PHS for any material taken from our blog.

For commercial applications: To copy, download or use any text or image file, you will need our permission. Contact us before you take them.


%d bloggers like this: