GEORGE TOWN, Dec 11 — The 175-year-old tomb of Dato Koyah that symbolises the early settlement of the Indian Muslim community in Penang will undergo a massive RM1.2 million restoration exercise after years of exposure damage.
Dato Koyah Heritage Association secretary Adam Malik Shahul Hamid, who is in charge of the restoration project, said the local community had tried all they could to preserve the tomb over the years.
“We did minor repairs and paint over the years but this whole building was never fully restored in all these years, so this project will finally restore it to its former glory,” he said.
He said the project started over two years ago, and that his association was glad that it was now officially supported.
The building is a category I heritage building located at the buffer zone of the George Town world heritage site.
Dato Koyah, whose real name was Syed Mustapha Idris, was one of the earliest Indian Muslim settlers in Penang, then known as the Prince of Wales Island.
Syed Mustapha had been highly regarded and known as the leader who fought against injustice, helped the growing Indian Muslim community here and was thought to have mystical powers.
Due to his influence and contributions to the community, he was called “Dato Koyah”, with Koyah meaning master, guru or a respected person. When he passed away, his followers built the tomb, at Transfer Road, sometime in the 1840s.
The site of the tomb was granted by the British government to Dato Koyah due to his contributions at the time and there was even a road named after him, Jalan Dato Koyah.
Over the years, the tomb had become the site for the local Indian Muslims to gather during certain festivals and till today, some of the community continues to visit the tomb every Thursday to ask for blessings.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who visited the tomb this morning, said the state recognises the importance of preserving the heritage site and its significance to the community due to its 175-year-old history before announcing a RM100,000 allocation for the project.
Think City, which is spearheading the restoration efforts together with George Town World Heritage Inc and the association, is providing RM250,000 while a state assemblyman is giving RM30,000.
According to Think City appointed conservation consultant Dr Gwynn Jenkins, the physical restoration of the building costs around RM800,000 while the other RM400,000 are education and other programme costs to manage and maintain the site.