GEORGE TOWN, Aug 15 — The coalition of non-governmental organisations, Penang Forum should cooperate with the George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI) instead of sabotaging the state capital city’s heritage status, Dr Ang Ming Chee said today.
The GTWHI general manager said she hoped Penang Forum will work with them to preserve, protect and promote the George Town world heritage site instead of “turning into an enemy of the people of Penang by jeopardising it”.
“We urge you to withdraw the letter of complaint to Unesco and not allow your personal grievances against the state government to take precedence against the interests of the people of Penang, who do not wish to see the World Heritage status of George Town being sabotaged by the very people who claim to defend it,” she said in a letter issued to Dr Lim Mah Hui of Penang Forum.
Penang Forum is a coalition of more than 12 local NGOs consisting of groups like Penang Heritage Trust, Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch and Penang Consumer Association. Lim is a steering committee member of the coalition.
He signed a letter by Penang Forum that was surreptitiously sent to Unesco in Paris alleging “serious and specific danger” to the heritage site due to the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
Last Friday, Ang claimed the state’s capital city risks losing its heritage status due to the letter by Penang Forum that had alleged PTMP is a threat to the city’s Outstanding Universal Values (OUV) particularly in the proposed LRT station at the Sia Boey site or the Prangin Canal site.
Ang stressed that GTWHI will “defend to the end” the status of George Town as a world heritage site.
She said that Penang Forum’s action is as a form of betrayal and backstabbing.
Ang also reminded Lim that he is an appointed councillor, an appointed director of Penang Institute and also an appointed member of the Penang Transport Council.
“These positions were appointed by the Penang state government and we regret that you did not have the decency to inform us nor reveal the open, transparent and accountable manner that the state government is conducting the public feedback for the Penang Transport Master Plan,” she said.
She expressed her disappointment with Penang Forum’s statement in response to the issue over the weekend.
Yesterday, the Penang Forum steering committee issued a statement denying that the NGO had intended to seek Unesco’s help to take proactive steps to protect the site, not delist it, before it is too late.
The statement insisted that it was the proposed LRT and monorail projects on the border of the heritage zone that may cause George Town to lose its status.
They claimed that “despite many months of NGOs highlighting the potential risks” to the heritage site posed by the proposed transport hub at Sia Boey, no action was taken while their concerns were dismissed.
“Since GTWHI had not contacted the Unesco, Penang Forum felt duty-bound to do so. The objective of this action, far from risking Penang’s heritage status being taken away, was in fact to avoid the possibility of such an action,” they said in their statement.
They claimed that their letter was to request Unesco to send an advisery mission to Penang to conduct an inspection of the George Town inscribed property boundary and also to help organise an independent impact assessment of the proposed PTMP and how it might affect Penang’s outstanding universal value.
Ang expressed her disappointment with Penang Forum’s statement and called on the NGO to disclose the full version of its letter to the Unesco World Heritage Centre dated June 23.
“Let the people read your claimed act of protecting George Town world heritage site and let the people of Penang judge who is the party that has alerted Unesco and put at risk the George Town world heritage site status,” she said.
She denied Penang Forum’s claims that it had highlighted potential risks to the site to GTWHI, pointing out that no NGOs had approached her formally on the issue of the proposed PTMP.
“Please provide concrete evidence in supporting such accusation,” she said, while vowing to resign from all her official position in the state government if they could show such proof.
She stressed that GTWHI has done a lot to safeguard, conserve and preserve the valuable heritage of George Town.