GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is baffled why certain non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are upset over remarks he made on the Sia Boey (Prangin Canal) archaeological site recently.
He said he had merely reprimanded Penang Development Corporation(PDC) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), who were managing and excavating the site for relics, for going against protocol.
It was previously reported that he was angry with PDC for holding an “unauthorised” public briefing to a select group of people on extraordinary new archaeological discoveries at the site, when the state government itself was not briefed.
Lim’s contention was that the full carbon dating process, which determines the age of a relic, was not yet ready.
He went on to accuse an English daily of “provoking” the NGOs although he had not dragged them into the issue. He did not specify which NGOs he was referring to.
“I hope The Star does not ‘cucuk’ (provoke) and play up this issue when there is none.
“I said (I was upset with) USM and PDC, I did not say NGO. Why you want to ‘lagakan saya’ (pit me against them)?
“No point having sessions when you do not have verifiable and authoritative information.
“We want the Sia Boey site to be controlled and managed effectively. It is the lack of competency, especially on those who manage, especially PDC or USM.
“I see there are few weak points in taking care of the site,” Lim said at a press conference today.
This morning, The Star quoted representatives from Penang-based conservation NGOs George Town Heritage Action and Penang Heritage Trust as saying that they were baffled by the chief minister’s “anger”.
Sia Boey stands along the margin of the Unesco-listed George Town World Heritage Site. It is also earmarked for development into a transport hub, with a LRT and monorail interchange, under the state’s multi-billion ringgit Penang Transport Master Plan, which has been criticised by civil society groups.
The excavations have revealed various artifacts from the 1800s that point to a thriving commercial settlement existing there under the British colonial administration. The remnants include an old British-made canal and the foundation of a building made of red bricks.
Also found were remnants of an old police barracks, ceramics, old coins, some wooden artefacts and metal objects. All have been sent for analysis.
Meanwhile, at the same press conference, PDC General Manager Rosli Jaafar apologised for any problems caused.
He added that a full report on the site would be ready by November.
Last September, the Penang Government announced that it would turn Sia Boey into a RM100 million Heritage Arts District. The site was to feature museums, art galleries, eateries and other tourist attractions.
However, Lim later announced in June that the project would be shifted to Macallum St Ghaut, to make way for a transport hub connecting two rail lines.