GEORGE TOWN, April 20 — The proposed renaming of St Paul’s Hill to Bukit Melaka will not affect the joint Unesco site listing of Melaka and George Town, said Penang Heritage Commissioner Rosli Nor.

He said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and its advisory body, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), only evaluated physical changes and not names or stories.

“Unesco will not lift the status of Melaka and George Town as heritage sites because these are living cities and the status does not mean the cities have to revert back to ancient times,” he said in an interview with Malay Mail.

He said as living cities, Melaka and George Town could continue to evolve in accordance with their respective Conservation Management Plan.

“This is why development and renovations on buildings are allowed,” he said.

As for the story or background of a site, Rosli said these could also be amended and expanded through continuous research.

“The intangible aspects of a heritage site such as its stories, name and cultural practices is not under the Unesco Cultural site category,” he said.

He said the listing of Melaka and George Town was under tangible heritage.

“So, Unesco and ICOMOS does not take into consideration that residents in Melaka and George Town no longer practice some cultural traditions such as dressing in kebaya nyonya and cheongsam or baju melayu,” he said.

He stressed that both sites are living cities in which their respective stories may change and evolve in accordance with the times.

“What is most important is that we must control physical changes such as height control, building design and building materials for any developments within the site,” he said.

Rosli was responding to claims by former deputy culture, arts and tourism minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik that the name change of St Paul’s Hill might go against the Outstanding Universal Values of the Unesco World Heritage Site (WHS).

Bakthiar reportedly said there is a risk of Melaka being delisted from the world heritage list.

As George Town is jointly listed with Melaka, a delisting would affect both.

The renaming of St Paul’s Hill to Bukit Melaka triggered controversy after it was proposed recently.

Melaka Tourism, Heritage and Culture executive councillor Datuk Muhammad Jailani Khamis told his state’s legislative assembly early last month that name change is expected to come into effect this year.

When contacted, George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) general manager Ang Ming Chee said the world heritage site belongs to all.

“I highly recommend the Melaka Site Manager to consult the local community and the State Party (National Heritage Department) on this matter,” she said.

She stressed that in George Town, the coexistence of a multicultural society is recognised and the diversity of our history is celebrated.

“Such an inclusive approach is more sustainable and can accommodate the differences of all stakeholders,” she said.