KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — Pieces of the 138-year-old tombstone belonging to Foo Teng Nyong, the third wife of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Qwee, were allegedly found at a dumpsite in Jelutong, Penang, despite calls for its preservation.
Photos of the tombstone rubble found at the dump site were posted on Facebook by Khoo Salma, a Penang-based environmental and heritage conservationist who described the destruction as "vandalism of the highest order" and criticised the DAP-led Penang government's handling of what is considered among the state's most cherished historical artefacts.
"Vandalism of the highest order! The tomb described as 'Penang's Taj Mahal' ended up as rubble in the Jelutong dump site," she wrote to caption photos of the alleged dumping.
"As custodian of a World Heritage Site, is this how Penang with its UNESCO sites treats its heritage? The remains of Madam Foo deposited at Batu Gantang, the carved stones of her grave in Jelutong dumpsite and, whither her precious jewellery?"
Malay Mail reported last month that Foo's body had been exhumed and demolished despite appeals by her descendant for the tomb to be preserved.
Foo was not only the wife but also the mother to another Kapitan Cina, Chung Thye Phin.
The two men hold significant importance in the history of Penang and Perak. One of the Chungs was said to be the founder of Taiping, a tin-mining settlement that is now a bustling town in Perak.
Foo and Chung’s great-grandson, Jeffery Seow, previously said no one informed him about the exhumation and that he did not know who would gave the landowner permission to exhume the tomb.
Seow had sounded the alarm and appealed to the Penang Heritage Council and Penang heritage commissioner Rosli Nor to protect the site from demolition due to its historical significance.
On May 23, Rosli was said to have given his reassurance through an email that there had been no progress regarding the proposed exhumation and demolition of the tomb to make way for development.
In the email, the commissioner claimed the developer would put the project on hold while considering the Penang heritage council’s proposal to retain the grave in situ as part of the green reserve of the project.
He had optimistically written that the developer would give a fresh proposal.