Sabah assembly passes new heritage enactment

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Kamarlin Ombi.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah state legislative assembly passed a law this evening allowing it to set up the State Heritage Fund under the new State Heritage Bill 2017.

The fund will consist of sums from the State Consolidated Fund, grants from the federal government, all money received through donations or contributions, all money derived from levies imposed under the enactment, and all other money payable to the director regarding any matter incidental to his functions, powers or duties.

The fund will be operated in accordance with the Financial Procedure Act 1957 and any subsidiary legislative made under the act.

It will be used to pay for the purchase of heritage items in accordance with the enactment, for maintenance, conservation and preservation and restoration of any heritage, whether owned by the government or otherwise.

It will also go towards funding campaigns, research, studies or publication of materials for the protection of heritage and to maintain, conserve and preserve any heritage item and activities incidental to it.

The State Heritage Enactment 2017 will provide funds for the conservation and preservation of state heritage, sites and objects, tangible and intangible cultural heritage and other related matters.

The enactment will repeal the Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1997 (No.2 of 1997), which was considered not comprehensive enough to cover all matters related to heritage in the state.

Clause 7 of the enactment provides for the establishment of a State Heritage Council which will advise the director, formulate policies on heritage and monitor and propose any improvements to the guidelines and conservation management plan for heritage items.

When proposing the enactment, Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Kamarlin Ombi said under the new enactment, the minister may, in consultation with the council, by order published in the gazette, declare any heritage site, heritage object or any living person as a state heritage.

“Any state heritage which is owned or possessed by a person other than the government may remain in the possession of its owner, custodian or trustee,” he added.

In order to conserve and preserve a state heritage, Kamarlin said the minister had the authority to approve any financial assistance for the owner, custodian or trustee.

“The government will compensate those who find or provide information on any object of important cultural heritage to be gazetted as a heritage object in order to encourage the public to appreciate such items,” he said.

The bill also provides for hefty fines of up to RM500,000 as well as imprisonment of up to five years for any person who commits an offence that disturbs or tampers with the heritage site.

It was one of three new bills and two amendments to existing bills proposed on the last day of the Sabah state legislative assembly sitting.

The other two new bills were the Railways Enactment 2017, which seeks to revise and re-enact a new law relating to railways, and the Sewerage Services Enactment 2017 to provide for and regulate sewerage services and matters connected to them.

The house also amended the Sabah Cultural Board Enactment 2017 and the Sabah Biodiversity Enactment 2000, which was amended to fulfil the International Convention on Biological Diversity or Nagoya Protocol.

All the bills and amendments were approved unanimously.