George Town, a city past and present

  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 16 Dec 2003

I READ with great interest the letter by Azmi Ahmad of Alor Star, “George Town is the first”, (The Star, Dec 6). 

Historical evidences are aplenty in support of the city status of George Town. 

The state museum still proudly displays the royal charter of Queen Elizabeth II declaring it a city on Jan 1, 1957.  

Thanks to my mother who has a penchant for keeping historical documents, I have in my possession a medical card of the Public Health Department Child Welfare Centre, which carries the words City Council of George Town. 

Many people who had their primary school education during the 1970s surely can recall their geography textbook stating George Town as the second largest city of Malaysia.  

(Alas, I was told it has been displaced by Johor Baru more than a decade ago).  

The international community regards George Town as a city. It was among four cities in the Asia-Pacific region, which was accorded “lead city” status under the United Nations Development Programme in 1999 (the other lead cities are Kathmandu, Suva in Fiji and Dalian in China). 

Ironically, its city status has been a source of contention back home. 

Truly Penang led the nation in many ways in the past, thereby living up to its state motto of “Penang Leads”. (Can someone please confirm if we have dropped this motto since).  

Penang thrived during the entrepot era. It preceded Kuala Lumpur as the key commercial centre.  

Older generations could probably recall the time when people from other states flocked to Penang to do some serious shopping. 

The first department store in Malaysia was opened in George Town in 1967. Penang was then the unrivalled tourist destination of the country.  

It was the most developed state, boasting of its excellent civic amenities and public services.  

It prided itself of a modern city stadium, probably the biggest when it was first built. 

The Penang Water Authority, indisputably the leading water management authority at the national level to this day, also hailed from that era.  

Like any other Penangite, I simply cannot comprehend why the authority concerned refuses to acknowledge the historical fact that George Town is indeed the first city of Malaysia. 




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