GEORGE TOWN: Penang may lose its Unesco World Heritage status due to an alleged interference by the Penang Forum over the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan, said George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee.
“The Penang Forum hassubmitted a 15-page letter to Unesco’s World Heritage Centre in Paris highlighting the project which could have a negative impact on the outstanding universal value of the George Town world heritage properties.
“The letter, dated June 23 and signed by a member of the Penang Forum, Dr Lim Mah Hui, contains photographs and maps under the subject ‘Melaka and George Town World Heritage Property: Request for Unesco Advisory Mission and Impact Assessment of Proposed Transport Master Plan in George Town, Penang’,” she said.
But, Dr Ang said the letter was not forwarded to the GTWHI or the National Heritage Department.
“We were caught off guard when the centre contacted the national heritage department for an explanation.
“A meeting was arranged by the national heritage department with Penang Forum and GTWHI on July 29 and Dr Lim agreed to share the letter with us,” she told a press conference at the GTWHI office in Lebuh Acheh yesterday.
Dr Ang said although the letter carried statements, assumptions and suggestions, Dr Lim had failed to cite proper references and sources for his claims.
“If we were alerted earlier about the matter, I would have been able to present the report to the centre during my trip to the Unesco conference in Istanbul, Turkey, recently,” she said.
Dr Ang added that losing the Unesco status would be a long process with numerous meetings and reports on the reasons that could jeopardise its criteria.
“The letter also pointed out that structures and historical relics have been discovered at the Sia Boey (old Prangin market) archaeological site.
“However, it is still premature to make any assumption since reports and work on the transport plan and archaeological site are still ongoing,” she said.
When contacted yesterday, Dr Lim, who is also a city councillor, said he would issue a statement soon on the matter.
The Penang Forum comprises more than a dozen civil societies including the Penang Heritage Trust, Aliran, Sahabat Alam Malaysia and the Consumers Association of Penang.