Sia Boey site now secured area pending archaeological findings, Guan Eng says

Archaeological excavations are now being carried out at the Sia Boey market site located along the Prangin Canal. — Picture by K.E.Ooi
Archaeological excavations are now being carried out at the Sia Boey market site located along the Prangin Canal. — Picture by K.E.Ooi

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GEORGE TOWN, Aug 8 — The old Sia Boey market site, currently undergoing an archaeological excavation, is now a secured area to prevent disturbances to the site, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.

Irate over a public visit to the site held last weekend, Lim said there was a breach of protocols as the visit was unauthorised.

“There’s been a breach. Who gave the authority for a public site visit when the results of the archaeological findings are not out yet?

“I don’t know who did it because Datuk Rosli is also at a loss, he doesn’t know what’s going on,” he said, referring to Penang Development Corporation (PDC) general manager Datuk Rosli Jaafar.

Following the breach, Lim announced that the site’s management has now been placed fully under George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI), the state’s heritage agency.

“We will hand over to GTWHI to ensure all necessary effective measures are in place,” he said at a press conference today.

Sia Boey, which is also the Prangin canal market site, is state-owned land under PDC and archaeological excavation works have been ongoing on the site since March.

The archaeological digs started after an old canal built by the British was uncovered and in the recent public site visit, it was revealed that remnants of an old police station or barrack, believed to have been built in the early 19th century, were also found.

Other findings include ceramic shards, red bricks of various sizes, old coins, tiles, wooden artefacts and metal objects, all of which have been sent to CGAR’s laboratory for further analysis.

Some of the samples were also sent for carbon dating.

Lim said he visited the site about 10 days ago but did not invite the media as he did not want the site to be disturbed.

“It is not a secret. My visit was put up in Buletin Mutiara, so we are not preventing information from being disclosed,” he said.

He said as the landowner, the state must be informed of the latest findings and not read about in the media from an unauthorised public visit.

He questioned if Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) were the ones behind organising the site visit.

“I don’t know who is behind that visit. I am expecting a full report on this, whoever in PDC or USM organised this had done it without authorisation,” he said.

From now on, any information on the site will be channelled through GTWHI, he added.

“If you have any more questions, ask Dr Ang,” he said, referring to GTWHI general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee.

He stressed that final findings on the site are yet to be out, carbon dating on the relics is yet to be done and the archaeological works are yet to be completed.

“It should not be open to the public when we don’t have full information on it yet,” he said.

As for whether the state will consider protecting the site due to the findings, Lim said they will wait for the excavation works to be completed and a full report on the findings to be released first.

The state had originally planned for Sia Boey to be turned into an art district before shifting the art district to another site.

The old market area, located along the stagnant Prangin Canal, was then earmarked as a site for a planned LRT station.

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