“Why the obsession with colonial rather than ancient heritage sites?”

WHILE DAP is bending over backwards to appease UMNO, the latter has no regard for the former.

DAP might be tight-lipped when it comes to the grant of discharge not amounting to acquittal in favour of UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the halving of the sentence of the former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak by the Pardons Board.

But UMNO lacking crucial Malay support, is determined not to give in or even to reciprocate the friendly overtures of the DAP.

The proposal by the Local Government and Housing Minister Nga Kor Ming, to designate Chinese New Villages in Selangor was not well received by the Malay nationalists in UMNO and their opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN).

While it is understandable on the part of the PN to oppose the move saying that it might dilute the historical contents of heritage sites based on the Malays pre-eminent position in the country as Bumiputeras.

UMNO’s argument was the same that the party, as the champion of Malays, their history and heritage, would not allow Nga’s proposal to be implemented to rob the country of its Malay-ness.

It is nothing wrong for Nga to make the suggestion of rendering the Chinese New Villages in Selangor as UNESCO heritage sites.

I agree that such a suggestion should not be turned into a racial issue.

UMNO is low on political sustenance and as such, it would turn any issue into a racial one.

The DAP leaders know this, but yet they have opportunistically entered into a political pact with UMNO, once its formidable political foe.

My concern is simple: why are politicians and others merely concerned with rendering post-colonial historical sites under the umbrella of UNESCO or some other heritage bodies?

There are five World Heritage Sites under UNESCO heritage in the country—Gunung Kinabalu (Sabah), Mulu National Park (Sarawak), coastal cities of Melaka, Georgetown, Pulau Pinang and the Archaeological Heritage Valley Lenggong Valley in Perak.

It is not that recent historical sites are not important, but the priority should be placed on rendering long-existing pre-colonial structures as World Heritage Sites under UNESCO.

Moreover, I don’t understand why there is a preoccupation with sites of limited historical value.

Apart from the physical and archaeological sites of time immemorial, no significant steps have been taken by the government or the department or ministry concerned to identify pre-colonial sites.

For example, despite the calls to turn the Bujang Valley, Merbok, Kedah, both Kedah and the federal government have not taken any initiative to turn the valley into a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In fact, there are many archaeological sites in the country that attest to the richness and glory of the country’s past history and that remain to be declared as historical heritage.

It is not merely the question of identifying historical sites and declaring them as heritage under UNESCO. But most importantly, the process of identification sets in motion a powerful force to add richness and glory to the past or ancient history of the country.

If the Bujang Valley is declared a World Heritage Site under UNESCO, it provides an opportunity to understand the history of the Malay Peninsula more than 3000 years ago and beyond.

It is really unnecessary to drag racial politics into the realm of heritage history in the country.

Maybe the DAP and Umno can get their heads together for a more nobler purpose rather than arguing about what features of colonial history can come under a UNESCO Heritage Site.

I am sure UNESCO would not like to play politics in national settings, as it has its own criteria for what constitutes heritage or not.

Maybe UMNO’s questioning of the DAP’s proposal should be reciprocated by the latter’s leaders.

Perhaps the time has arrived for the DAP to question the partial pardon meted out to Najib. This is what the DAP should be doing, rather than diverting interest in colonial or post-colonial heritage sites. – Feb 11, 2024


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main photo credit: MyCEB

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