Thursday, 10 November 2011

Heritage sites vandalised

I get totally pissed off when vandals deface heritage sites for their own selfish or political reasons. 

Recently, I read from the Penang Heritage Trust website that some thugs had vandalised the exterior walls of two heritage sites and a modern office tower in George Town.

Obviously, the irresponsible person or groups of persons who drew these graffiti have no pride in George Town's UNESCO heritage status or respect for the international community for that matter. Least of all, they have shown their disdain for the owners of these buildings.

One of the walls belonged to the Convent Light Street while the other was the wall of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Both buildings are, by the way, located along Farquhar Street and not more than 150 metres to 200 metres apart.

Looking at the photographs of the two walls, anyone can see that the vandalism was perpetrated by the same person or persons. They both proclaimed the same, similar racist message. It doesn't take much to deduce which group of people had carried out this crime against our UNESCO heritage status. No law-abiding Penangite of Chinese or Indian ethnicity would have done this! Never! And neither can this belong to any right-thinking and peace-loving Penang Malay. No, this can only be the work of those vicious Mat Rempit racists in the state who had even dared demonstrate outside the State Assembly building. Full stop! They must be made totally accountable for this outrage to Penang's society.

I reproduce below the statement from the Penang Heritage Trust which they issued on 1 Nov 2011, the same day when the graffiti were discovered:

It is a sad day when see the treasures within the George Town World Heritage Site vandalised by Malaysians to make racial political statements. Bringing gutter politics into the realm of cultural heritage demonstrates a total lack of respect and understanding of what the world community has acknowledged as worthy of conserving for all humanity. 
The Convent Light Street is the oldest girls school in the country founded in 1852, the school has struggled to collect money from its alumni and others to conduct their own restoration within the World Heritage Site. Since the 1990s, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has undergone a rigorous restoration at a time when conservation was virtually unknown in Penang and went against public opinion. It has set benchmark standards and helped conservation consciousness to become mainstream. The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has just been recognised as one of the 10 greatest mansions in the world -  how ironic that it should be defiled so callously. 
The UNESCO World Heritage Listing for George Town is Malaysia's pride and honour, putting us on the same level as historic marvels like Angkor Wat and Rome and the Imperial Palace of Beijing. There would be an international outcry if any of these world monuments were vandalised by ignorant cowards in the middle of the night. The culprits who defiled what we all treasure as part of our shared past should be roundly condemned and brought to account for their actions. 
The graffiti sprayed on the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Convent Light Street and Wisma MWE in the George Town World Heritage Site is an insult not only to the intended, but to all Malaysians and the international community. It is also an illegal act violating the rights of the property owners. What would Malaysians think if heritage buildings around Dataran Merdeka or Jalan Sultan in Kuala Lumpur were spray painted with senseless racist sentiments? A violently-presented racist message that runs deeply contrary to the Malaysian government's promotion of 1Malaysia can only scare off tourists and make Malaysians feel insecure. The Malaysian government can certainly do more to protect heritage properties by sowing awareness and a deep respect for heritage, cultural diversity, and the values of our George Town and Melaka World Heritage Site. 

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