DAP man attacks Penang Forum, Lim for Unesco letter

PETALING JAYA: A Penang city councillor has launched an attack on another councillor, prominent activist Dr Michael Lim Mah Hui, by questioning Lim’s motives for a letter to Unesco headquarters about the impact of the state’s development policies on George Town’s heritage.

The councillor, Chris Lee, a DAP appointee, echoed the remarks made yesterday by Ang Ming Chee, the general manager of the state-owned corporation George Town World Heritage Incorporated.

The letter had been sent by Penang Forum, a coalition of 40 civil society organisations in Penang, to Unesco’s world heritage headquarters in Paris, which certifies sites worthy of preservation for their contribution to the world’s cultural heritage.

Malacca and George Town were jointly listed as Unesco world heritage sites in 2008, after years of lobbying by the previous state government, for their unique culture as historic cities of the Straits of Malacca.

In a statement today,  Lee reiterated Ang’s attack on Lim’s academic credentials by quoting her remark that the letter was signed by Lim “but he failed to cite proper references and sources of his claims”. (Lim, an economist, is a former international banker and has also taught politics at several universities.)

Lee also repeated Ang’s complaint that the letter had been sent to Unesco and not to the local and regional authorities first. “This makes the whole motivation and intention of the letter questionable,” he claimed and said Lim owed the people of Penang an explanation.

Lee also accused Lim and Penang Forum of having endangered George Town’s heritage listing by writing to Unesco, repeating a claim made by Ang on Friday.

The Penang Forum letter has sounded a warning that a major public transport project in Penang was a threat to the outstanding universal value of the George Town world heritage site. It said the state government’s Penang Transport Master Plan posed a “serious and specific danger” to the heritage site.

The state government and Penang Forum have been at odds over the state government’s plans for a cross-channel tunnel, Light Rail Transit and monorail, and major highway projects to be paid for through land reclamation rights for property development.

The Penang Forum have proposed a tram system, which the chief minister has claimed would be too costly.