PETALING JAYA: The Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) has called on the state government to conduct an inventory of traditional settlements and cultural landscapes in the state to enable these assets to be evaluated and gazetted as heritage preservation areas.
“As we are losing more traditional villages in the name of development, we propose for the inventory to be conducted immediately on Penang island and Seberang Perai mainland,” PHT president Lim Gaik Siang said in a statement.
She made this call following a court decision last month to allow developer Five Star Heritage Sdn Bhd to evict some 50 residents of Kampung Siam in Pulau Tikus, Penang, to pave the way for a mega hotel project.
She said PHT was severely disheartened upon hearing the Court of Appeal ruling last month in favour of the developer, bringing an end to a two-year battle to preserve Kampung Siam.
As families and businesses were preparing to evict Kampung Siam, she said PHT hoped to preserve the legacy and heritage of the traditional village before it was redeveloped in the name of modernisation.
“It’s goodbye to Kampung Siam. But we must capture the final days of Kampung Siam before it makes way for development.
“This eviction will not only affect the Siamese residents in the area, but also the Pulau Tikus community as a whole.
“A part that makes PulauTikus such an interesting and exciting area will be gone forever.
“While we may not be able to preserve the buildings of Kampung Siam, all efforts to capture and document its history, people, culture and way of life should be conducted thoroughly,” said Lim.
Kampung Siam is a traditional settlement established on land awarded by the British to joint trustees of the Burmese and Siamese communities in 1845.
In the original grant, it was stated that the land was only to be used for religious and community activities.
However, the land was subdivided in 1994, giving Siamese trustees the land on which the Thai Buddhist temple Wat Chayamangkalaram sits on, while Burmese trustees received another portion that included Kampung Siam.
Out of the original 14 families and 10 businesses in the area, only three families and six businesses remained.
Wan Dee Aroonratana, the last Menora dancer and recipient of the Penang Heritage Trust’s Living Heritage Treasure Awards, is one of the five Siamese families affected by the eviction.
Lim claimed that PHT had been actively championing the case of Kampung Siam since development plans were submitted to the local council to redevelop the area in 2014.
The application includes the demolition of seven shops and ten houses for the building of a five-storey hotel and three shops.
Two court cases were filed, with one challenging the eviction while the other challenged the legitimacy of the land transfer deal among the trustees.
The Court of Appeal however upheld an earlier ruling by the lower court with regard to the eviction, while the other case was dropped due to mounting legal fees.