Don’t let Singapore monopolise recognition of ‘hawker culture’, says Penang lawmaker

A man fries noodles in George Town May 2, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A man fries noodles in George Town May 2, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, May 2 — The Penang government must be more aggressive and apply for Unesco recognition of local hawker culture, Machang Bubuk assemblyman Lee Khai Loon said in the state legislative assembly today.

The PKR state lawmaker said Penang must not lose out to Singapore in this regard.

“I hope our exco will monitor and follow up on this because I don’t want us to be too late till Singapore gets the recognition before us,” he said when interrupting state exco Yeoh Soon Hin’s (DAP - Paya Terubong) winding-up speech.

He had initially questioned why Penang planned to apply for a joint nomination with Singapore under “Hawker Culture in Singapore and Malaysia” instead of naming Penang specifically.

“Why shouldn’t the nomination use ‘Hawker Culture in Singapore and Penang’ because putting Malaysia is too vague and does not specify Penang or pinpoint Penang’s unique feature as a food heaven,” he asked.

Yeoh replied that the state should seek the opinion of the National Heritage Department on this issue.

“It is understood any such nominations submitted to Unesco must be on a national level so this is why it was Singapore and Malaysia instead of Penang,” he said.

People eat assam laksa in George Town May 2, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
People eat assam laksa in George Town May 2, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Ong said the state should continue to promote the state as a food paradise to make it more well-known globally.

Earlier, during his winding-up speech, Yeoh said the state plans to nominate its hawker culture as an intangible cultural heritage under the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

He said the state will still need approval from the National Heritage Department.

“As hawker culture in Penang is more unique than the hawker culture in Singapore, as we still have hawkers by the roadside and in food courts, we have sent an official letter to the National Heritage Department and the deputy tourism minister to propose a joint nomination with Singapore under the title Hawker Culture in Singapore and Malaysia,” he said.

He said such nominations must be submitted by the federal government so the state will need the national heritage department to consider the proposed nomination before submitting it.

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