List Pulau Jerejak and Sungai Buloh Leprosarium as Unesco heritage sites, says group

A view of Pulau Jerejak, May 18, 2016. — Picture by KE Ooi
A view of Pulau Jerejak, May 18, 2016. — Picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, June 21 — Pulau Jerejak should be jointly listed as a Unesco World Heritage site together with the Sungai Buloh Leprosarium, Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) said today.

The heritage watchdog said putting the island together with the Sungai Buloh settlement in an application for the listing should take precedence.

“If the heritage of Pulau Jerejak is not preserved, it is a disservice to Malaysians as Sungai Buloh’s chances for World Heritage listing might be adversely affected,” the group said in a statement issued today.

It said the proposed joint listing of the Pulau Jerejak and Sungai Buloh Leprosarium will be unique as these were leprosarium colonies that had managed to support the livelihood of lepers while preventing an epidemic outbreak of leprosy in 19th century Malaya.

It pointed out that Pulau Jerejak’s history in leprosy precedes Sungai Buloh’s and it is important that this narrative is preserved both locally and globally.

”The changes that occurred in Pulau Jerejak, including into a quarantine camp, tuberculosis sanatorium and a detention centre, further shows that it is a part of Penang’s history that is worth preserving,” they said.

It added that Pulau Jerejak also has more than 5,000 graves of mixed faiths including Muslims, Christians and Buddhist.

It noted that developments were planned for the island that included luxurious condominiums, resorts, commercial centre and a bridge linking the Pulau Jerejak and Penang Island.

“However, these developments will potentially come in conflict with the proposed listing of Pulau Jerejak as most of the leprosarium camps and heritage artifacts are located on similar land earmarked for development,” it said.

It reminded the state government that George Town’s listing is a good example of how development and revitalisation in an area can be done with respect to its heritage.

It said a well-balanced development can be planned for the island that incorporated its heritage and natural treasure, instead of hasty developments that will wipe out the history of Pulau Jerejak forever.

The watchdog expressed its disappointment with Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, who said the state did not have any plans to be part of Sungai Buloh Leprosarium’s submission for Unesco’s listing.

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