Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Digi Amazing Malaysian


Syed Alattas Mansion prior to restoration works, Armenian Street, Georgetown, Penang, 2004.

When I first saw the contest for Digi's Amazing Malaysian I instantly thought of someone I felt was deserving of such an honour as well as a role model in the conservation and promotion of Malaysian heritage and history. Problem was the nomination needed me to know the details of the said person or at least have some contact with him/her. This I did not have not even a contact number nor does the person know me in the least. Besides I did not feel it was right to nominate the person without her tacit approval of such. So what did I end up doing?

I went to the Penang Heritage Trust website and contacted the current director of the trust and asked for help in bringing me into contact with the nominiee. I swear that I didn't expect a reply more less a positive one but hardly a day has passed and the person I was trying to reach actually sent her reply to me in person. Not only that she reacted positively and was helpful in providing her credentials for filling up the nominaton, to the idea of working with children she was absolutely beaming to begin working with them. After several correspondence we worked out what would be included and as of this morning the nomination has been sent to Digi.

I have always admired her work as well as that of the various organizations she chaired or had dealing with ever since the first time I set foot on Penang Island and entered the Popular in Komtar and got hold of her guide book. I confess that I am a history buff and also view conservation efforts in Malaysia as a pressing matter and not to be taken lightly. People nowadays care little for our history and often it is a neglected subject compared to say making money and obtaining the latest gadgetry. Malaysia is also far behind most nations in preserving our natural treasures and more often old buildings and significant cultural trades and practices are dying out faster than we can preserve it. What is lost is a unique part of our multiracial culture that is mostly lost forever in the sands of time. At worst is the whole scale conversion of historical sites into tacky money collection tourist spot without disregard of their role and conservation.

Penang and Malacca has often facinated me as two of the most significant enclave of Malaysian history for their unique roles as ports, administrative centers and also points where foreign nations held sway for a time in our history, what results is a blend of culture that to me can't be found elsewhere. But why can't both evevn qualify for a listing under the UNESCO World Heritage listing? Conservation laws and heritage protection has always been low priority, buildings can be demolished in the middle of the night and no action is taken, the repeal of the rent control act in Penang quicken the decline of the vibrant Georgetown area and many of the current generations are not interested in continuing much of the tradition and cultures passed on from generation to generation. Many Penangites can attest there is nowhere else but Penang in Malaysia, for better or for worse.

Thus I believe it is imperative to safeguard what is left before its all gone and that is the main reason I nominated the said person. I will keep the name secret for now, though everyone is free to guess. I really hope the organizers consider her for the award as she is truly deserving of the mention and would also further Malaysia's effort in protecting our heritage.


Lucia Lai said...

is it that lady with khoo something... khoo su nin... or khoo salma?

i share your sentiments, kervin. i feel sad when i see old buildings being torn down, giant old trees being chopped down and all that. thank god we have some people who are fighting for heritage preservation.

Kervin said...

lucia lai: I've sent a reply to your guess to youe email, will keep it a secret till Dec 4th. And yes heritage preservation and cultural continuation is an important matter that Malaysians should be concerned of, that is my sentiment as well.