By CHRISTINA CHIN
THE Tourism Ministry’s plans of seeing the country’s first and only living War Museum in Batu Maung become a major tourist attraction may hit a snag.
The museum owner and the Penang Veterans Association (PVA) are embroiled in a controversy that threatens to derail the ministry’s plans. The dispute is over the return of original war exhibits on loan to the museum by Penang Veterans Associa- tion (PVA) members, who are also concerned over how the ministry’s RM5mil grant will be spent.
Presently, the museum is well patronised. It attracted 100,000 visitors last year and has targeted 700,000 visitors this year.
PVA president Harold V. Speldewinde said the former military fortress held many memories for association members and they would like to play the role of an advisory committee to Penang War Museum Sdn Bhd, the company given a concession to run the museum.
“We are not offering our services for financial gain. We offer to help because we too want what’s best for the museum. Our members have so many stories to tell,” he said.
“A RM5mil grant was approved by the Tourism Ministry last year for the com-pany to run the museum and the public has a right to know how this allocation will be spent.”
Speldewinde said members of the asso- ciation had also loaned original docu- ments, photographs and certificates to the museum which had not been returned after four years.
Museum owner Johari Shafie denied re- ceiving the items from the PVA.
“The late James Tait, who was a com- mittee member of the PVA, did loan us some photographs which I have personally returned to him but it is not true to say that the majority of our exhibits were from the PVA,” he said.
He added that the PVA was not in a posi- tion to advice the museum’s management as they did not have the necessary exper- tise.
“I have written to the Imperial War Museum in London and was informed that none of the PVA members are listed as soldiers in the World War II.”
On the grant, Johari said: ”We did not apply for the RM5mil grant but it was awarded to us as recognition for our efforts in making the War Museum a successful tourism product for the state.”