GEORGE TOWN, April 18 — The Penang Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is already protecting the George Town World Heritage Site with various measures including a RM3 million fund to preserve the site’s Unesco status, DAP’s Chow Kon Yeow said.
The caretaker state executive councillor added that these initiatives have long been in place, when pointing out that these were promises found in the Penang Barisan Nasional’s (BN) manifesto.
He then claimed the rival coalition’s pledge to limit the sale of heritage buildings to foreigners will be ineffective in solving rapid changes in the city’s demographics.
“Between 2008 and 2017, foreigners only owned 194 premises or 3.5 per cent of the total 4,100 category II heritage buildings in the heritage site,” he said.
He said the statistics showed demographic changes to the site were not due to the owner’s nationalities, but their attitudes and appreciation towards heritage.
Chow, who is the incumbent Padang Kota assemblyman, said this was why the state started a RM3 million heritage habitat seed fund as a pilot project to encourage heritage property owners to restore their premises.
The fund will provide relief on restoration costs and prevent an increase in rent while maintaining long-term tenancy on-site, he added.
“Qualified owners will be given incentives to restore their premises and they will subsequently charge affordable rent for 10 years,” he said.
As for BN’s pledge to “preserve the status of George Town as a Unesco world heritage site”, Chow said the city has been well maintained since its inscription in 2008.
GTWHI was established as the site manager, the State Heritage Enactment was enacted and the Special Area Plan was gazetted as the main guidelines for the management of the site, he added.
He said they started an ongoing oral history documentation between 2013 and 2018 to document and archive the intangible heritage of George Town along with a video documentation project.
He said overall, the BN’s manifesto pertaining to heritage was just echoing what the current administration had been doing for the past 10 years.