SPEECH BY CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
AT THE OPENING CEREMONY FOR GEORGE TOWN HERITAGE CELEBRATIONS 2017
ON 07.07.2017 (FRIDAY), 5:00 PM
THE MAJESTIC THEATRE, GEORGE TOWN
A very good evening to all of you, and welcome to the Opening Ceremony for George Town Heritage Celebrations 2017.
Endorsed and supported by the State Government of Penang, organised by George Town World Heritage Incorporated in collaboration with the City Council of Penang Island, Penang Global Tourism, Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO office in Jakarta and Penang Green Council as well as 13 various communities, the George Town Heritage Celebrations held annually in July to commemorate the anniversary of “Melaka and George Town–Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca” inscription as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This celebration is now entering its 9th year!
Every year on 7th of July, we, the people of Penang, celebrate our Outstanding Universal Values and showcase to the world our exceptional example as a living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia. We are also proud to have live in the city with unique architectures and townscapes without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.
I would also like to thank our 16 partners from the local communities for committing their time and resources towards the planning and manifestation of this year’s programmes.
They are: the Badan Warisan Masjid Melayu Lebuh Acheh Pulau Pinang, Gujarati Samaj Pulau Pinang, Masjid Kapitan Keling Qaryah Committee & Indian Muslim Community Organisation, Muslim League Penang, Nattukottai Nagarathar Heritage Society, North Malaysia Malayali Samajam, Penang Hainan Association, Penang Hindu Association, Penang Teochew Association, State Chinese Penang Association, Telugu Association of Malaysia Penang Branch, Wadda Gurdwara Sahib Penang, Kong Hock Keong Kuan Im Teng, Sri Mahamariamman Temple Penang and last but not least, Penang Siamese Association.
These communities are the living heritage of George Town. Their congregation in this occasion is a compelling testimony to the strength of cultural and heritage diversity in George Town and Penang. Unlike many heritage cities where long-term residents were not given sufficient attention to sustain their living within the World Heritage Site, the State Government of Penang has invested substantial resources to accommodate the needs of our people.
Just last month, we broke ground for the restoration of six local council’s shophouses at Kimberley Street to rehabilitate traditional trades in George Town and to offer a new lease of life for the traders to continue their traditional crafts and hopefully find successor to continue their disappearing trades.
We take inspiration from creative economies which allow a network of artisans, designers and retailers to create new dimensions and opportunities for locally made products to flourish and perhaps, be made available to the rest of the world. Infusing sustainability into these traditional trades has always been a matter of utmost priority – first and foremost because they are part of our intangible cultural heritage.
The recent archaeological discovery of the “Penang Woman” at Guar Kepah – estimated to be 5,710 years old – adds another feather to our cap. It has helped us to back the theory that Neolithic prehistoric man once roamed the lands of Peninsular Malaysia, especially near Penang.
With that in mind, I am happy to announce that we will do all we can to apply for Guar Kepah to become Penang’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site. It will be the first in Malaysia for a state to have two World Heritage Sites. An archaeological gallery is also on the cards so that the people of Penang and Malaysia will have the chance to witness a piece of prehistory.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As of late we have witnessed extremism and repression of rights in different parts of the world–our confidence on humanity is shaken and pessimism gets the better of us. It is during these turbulent times that we need to display a stronger front of unity. What better way forward that can reconnect with the community around us than to remind us all that despite our differences, we all belong to one race that is the human race. These heritage works serve a timely reminder of our common humanity.
The theme for this year’s Celebration is “Walk the Talk: Oral Traditions and Expressions”. It fits well into the present needs for us to safeguard our traditions, culture and heritage that have transcended time, and their interpretation a unique bond that binds us together in history. It is also important for us to highlight the need to “walk the talk” – that is to transmute our spoken words into actions and to ensure that we achieve what we set to accomplish from the start.
As I have always reiterated, we need to understand our past so that we can be better connected to the present so as to face the challenges of the future successfully together. It has been 9 years since our momentous inscription, but there are so much more that we can do towards our vision of an intelligent and sustainable heritage city that belongs to Penang, Malaysia and all humanity.
Year 2018 will be the 10th anniversary of our city’s inscription, and we will shape a celebration unlike any you have ever experienced before this. Penang is rich with festival and celebrations to celebrate our diversity – something we in Penang will always be very proud to share with the rest.
On behalf of the State Government of Penang, I would like to take this opportunity to also thank our many partners, from Penang, Malaysia and abroad for extending their support in various ways that have contributed towards the success of this occasion.
Let me invite you to experience the sights, sounds and words of our heritage together, and may we discover a new side to our legacy that has been long veiled in the shadow of modernity.
I hereby announce the opening of the 2017 George Town Heritage Celebrations.