George Town to lose heritage site status?

Unesco-PenangGEORGE TOWN: A unilateral move by an NGO to send a letter to Unesco may cost George Town its World Heritage Site status, a state heritage agency said today.

George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) General Manager Dr. Ang Ming Chee said the Penang Forum had sent a letter to Unesco’s offices in Paris claiming there was “danger” to the heritage site.

It is learnt that the Penang Forum had sent the letter over fears that the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan might endanger heritage areas.

Ang said it was regrettable that the Forum did not contact her agency before going to Unesco.

“I wish to emphasise that GTWHI recognises that various parties might have differences in views, but we believe all stakeholders can contribute to the betterment of Penang.

“I also respect the rights of individuals or NGOs submitting their views to Unesco.

“However, I feel there are alternatives in managing differences,” she said at a press conference Friday.

At the time of writing, the Penang Forum steering committee members were not available for comment.

Meanwhile, Ang said as a result of the letter, National Heritage Department representatives met her in Penang to discuss the matter.

“We were caught off guard by the news. Dr Lim Mah Hui of the Penang Forum, who also attended the meeting, agreed to share the letter sent to Paris with us,” Ang said.

Ang said if George Town were to be delisted, it would not be a straightforward process.

She said it would first be listed in the “endangered heritage sites list” then subsequently removed from the list altogether. She added only two sites had voluntarily opted-out — the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman and the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany.

Ang said GTWHI would cooperate with the National Heritage Department to respond to the letter from the Penang Forum.