GEORGE TOWN: “Shocked” by a protection order offered by the federal heritage authorities on Sia Boey here, the Penang Government said it was capable of taking care of the disused canal and market.
State Town and Country Planning Committee Chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said it was willing to discuss with the National Heritage Department (NHD) in depth on the matter.
He also said the manner the interim protection order was offered was also “extraordinary”.
Jagdeep said in the case of Malacca, which was co-awarded the World Heritage Site status together with George Town in 2008, the NHD did not announce its intention to offer “protection” through the press.
“Before an interim protection order is given, the NHD ought to discuss in depth with the state government, not release a statement in the media.
“It must be reminded that when the same issue was raised in Malacca, the NHD did not release a media statement without informing the state government prior to that.
“Taking into account these matters, the state government has no objection for further discussions with the NHD to further look into the matter in depth,” he said at a press conference with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at Komtar today.
On Thursday, NHD offered to provide an Interim Protection Order, under the 2005 Heritage Act, to secure the old Sia Boey market near Prangin Road.
It is currently hoarded up and being excavated for artefacts by archeologists. They recently found remnants of an old police barracks and ceramics from the early 19th century.
The Penang Government had declared the site off-limits to the public and it is now a secured area.
The site has been a hot topic over the past few weeks as the Penang Government had earmarked the site for a proposed LRT hub.
Influential NGO grouping Penang Forum had written a letter to the Unesco World Heritage office in Paris to air its concerns over the planned transport hub and its effect on the World Heritage Site status for George Town.
Acknowledging that the Sia Boey site is out of the heritage zone, the Forum felt that external factors such as a transport hub might affect the heritage values for which George Town was recognised.
Meanwhile, Jagdeep berated Penang Forum and its member, Dr Lim Mah Hui, for prematurely sending a letter to Unesco as the transport hub project “was not set in stone”.
“We are not going to build anything as of now. It is premature to say anything now.
“What is shocking is that in the letter sent out by Mah Hui, he did not say he was part of the Penang Transport Council. He has a lot to answer to Penangites.
“We are not rejecting the suggestions made. If there’s anyone who wants to protect the heritage site, it is the Penang Government. We can take care of it ourselves,” Jagdeep said.