GEORGE TOWN: The controversy surrounding the development of Sia Boey (old Prangin market) and the Prangin Canal has again sparked anger among heritage activists, this time with allegations that excavation works were being carried out illegally at the site.
George Town Heritage Action Group spokesman Mark Lay claimed that the George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) had mobilised its staff to carry out the works without approval from the National Heritage Department.
He said such excavation works would require a certified archaeologist.
“How can GTWHI expect heritage property owners to follow rules when they are not?” he questioned.
It was reported in March last year that heritage activists were up in arms over the proposed transport hub at Sia Boey Market and the Prangin Canal, which they said was a major heritage site and had to be preserved.
This was following the discovery of an old canal and the foundation of a building, said to be an old police station or barracks, by archaeologists at the site in Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong here.
GTWHI, in a statement yesterday, clarified that they were not carrying out any excavation works in Sia Boey, adding that its management has adhered to the proper procedure and protocol.
“Permission was granted from the Penang Island City Council’s Technical Review Panel for works in Sia Boey.
“GTWHI has also informed the National Heritage Department of this exercise and the inventory of all retrieved objects will be submitted to them upon completion of the project,” the statement read.
GTWHI also said it was retrieving objects from the mud and dirt dug out from the Prangin Canal, which was currently being rehabilitated.
“Penang Development Corporation has engaged a contractor and conservator to clean, repair and rejuvenate the Prangin Canal which was launched in March this year.
“As project manager for the Sia Boey Rejuvenation Project, we hypothesised that the soil dug out from the canal may contain objects of historical and cultural value.
“In the case of the Prangin Canal, the exercise is more of a surface collection, which is the systematic gathering of exposed artefacts. To retrieve the materials left in the mud, the deposits in the canal are removed in 10m sections for sieving, instead of being thrown away by the contractor,” it said.
GTWHI added that the deposits were screened in a wet sieving process to collect the objects, which were then cleaned, dried and catalogued according to archaeological standards.
The Sia Boey archaeology site in Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong is being restored in phases with the RM6mil phase one of the Sia Boey Rejuvenation Project expected to be completed in August.