News & Events
LET’S TALK HERITAGE: A case for consensus-building and conflict-resolution for heritage place management
The recent demolition of a traditional Malay house in Kampung Tanjung Kelab Pantai, Terengganu, which was reported as standing in the way of the RM4.5 billion Kuala Terengganu City Centre project, has raised yet again concerns amongst many heritage professionals over the status of protection of the nation’s heritage.
In this past year, we have been privy to other controversies involving the loss of cultural heritage places – some through demolition such as that of Ampang Park Shopping Complex and the row of houses, commonly known as “Serani Row” in KL; others through development or major changes in the “look” of the place, as in the painting of the staircase leading up to the Batu Caves Temple complex.
So how do we really understand what is heritage?
The ways in which heritage is often framed today is through such regimes as the World Heritage Convention, and our own National Heritage Act 2005. In many countries, Malaysia included, heritage processes are legalistic, using adversarial court systems to determine the heritage significance of a place and to determine what are acceptable and appropriate actions to safeguard heritage.
Conflict arises when there is disagreement between involved parties who are responding to real or perceived threats to their interests, values, identities or rights; fears that one’s heritage is disrespected create highly charged emotions.
This lack of agreement will impede or prevent mutual understanding while ignoring the conflict in the hope it will dissipate over time is also ineffective. Conflicts present major barriers to achieving good heritage outcomes for all parties.
Fundamentally, heritage is a complex concept, engaging feelings and identities of the many different peoples and groups which make up our society. It connects what is culturally important to us – the individual, the family, any specific cultural group, up to the larger social framework we refer to as nation. There can be no one singular view of what is heritage; rather there are multiple perspectives reflecting the multiple values of multiple stakeholders.
These stakeholders each have distinct roles and different interests. They are also likely to have very different concepts of what comprises heritage. This in turn oftentimes results in conflict or differences of opinion.
So how does one determine the heritage significance of a place, and the appropriate action to be taken? Should a place be protected under law, or changes (including demolition), be allowed? How do we seek co-existence of these multiple values?
The heritage professional is one whose expertise places them in a position to present an independent, objective view, advocating for a particular position. But there are occasions when this position is challenged by another “expert” view, resulting in disagreement on the “facts” and adding to an already confused situation.
Those of us working to promote and protect our national heritage should be advocating for a consensus-building methodology, focusing on the core needs and concerns of all parties, centered on fundamental values and identities, and ultimately negotiating for an outcome which adjudicates between economic, social, environmental and political perspectives.
Almost all the time, conflict arises because heritage places are located within contested terrain – e.g. old two-storey shophouses in the city centre where the local development plans allow for much higher plot ratios, a bungalow on a relatively large piece of land which has been identified for high-rise redevelopment, etc. etc.
We have to break this head to head pitting of economic and utilitarian benefits against that of heritage conservation. We have to create a framework based on recognizing difference and one which helps build respect for all values and connections and to seek consensus.
Had there been any attempts for conflict-resolution, which may have prevented, or at the very least mitigated against, the very distressing and wasteful outcome of the demolition of this property in Kuala Terengganu?
We do not have any direct knowledge of the context which led to the traditional timber house being knocked down. We do know from having seen a video of the demolition that in a matter of minutes, all vestiges of a traditional village lifestyle was cancelled out.
Was it that the owner refused to move because he wanted more compensation, with the reported value of RM20,000 not a fitting sum while RM2 million would have made up for the loss of his family’s history and legacy? Was it that the officially (government) recognized owner of the land, felt vindicated because it was their legal right to get vacant possession of the land? The conflict over this contested site is reported to have been going on for at least a year, if not two. Everyone else in the kampong vacated their houses. Was this the last bastion, holding out and fighting for heritage rights?
Following our inaugural Lensa Warisan lecture & discussion of 14 November, Badan Warisan is planning to hold a forum early next year to discuss issues relating to the management of heritage sites and the principles we should be using to guide our heritage practices. More details later.
On a warm mid-October afternoon in Kuala Lumpur, the Arts Hall of WowKL! Restaurant at the iconic MaTiC along busy Jalan Ampang bustled with activity. Distinct Malay background music accompanied the cordial chatter of guests and hosts alike, all orchestrally spilling into MaTiC’s patio where a temporary exhibition of celebrated heritage and cultural items was set up to mark the occasion.
And what occasion was that? The proclamation ceremony for the 5th edition of Malaysia’s National Heritage Register 2018.
Federal Minister and Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, YB Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi and YB Tuan Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, accompanied by Secretary General YBhg Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah and other senior Ministry officials, joined hosts, Commissioner of Heritage YBhg Dato’ Dr. Zainah Ibrahim and her team at the Jabatan Warisan Negara (JWN), to proclaim the addition of 255 entries to the National Heritage Register (Register).
And, as it turned out, MaTiC was not only the event venue but also one of the 22 new buildings added to the Register.
National Heritage Designation
A practice founded in the National Heritage Act 2005 (NHA) and which began in 2007 with an inaugural 50 entries (including 16 classified as tangible architectural heritage) has over the years amassed hundred of entries under several distinct categories including ones covering heritage building or monuments, archaeological sites, natural sites, various tangible and intangible objects, and even, living persons, which was established for the 2012 edition.
The NHA, which became effective on 1 March 2006, was promulgated “… to provide for the conservation and preservation of National Heritage, natural heritage, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, underwater cultural heritage, treasure trove and for related matters”.
The NHA also establishes a 12-person National Heritage Council (NHC) and provides for the appointment of a Commissioner of Heritage empowered “to determine the designation of sites, registration of objects and underwater cultural heritage”, “to establish and maintain the Register and to determine and specify the categories of heritage to be listed in the Register”, and “to promote and regulate that best standards and practices are applied in the conservation and preservation of heritage” among other functions. The JWN supports the Commissioner in carrying out her functions.
Recognition as a National Heritage, and consequently protection for the same, is afforded through a process of gazettal. The Minister for heritage may gazette any heritage site, heritage object, underwater cultural heritage or living person as National Heritage based on a list of 9 criteria stated in s. 67(2) of the NHA. These criteria include “historical importance, association with or relationship to Malaysian history”, “the rarity or uniqueness” of the building, monument, site or object, and “any other matter which is relevant to the determination of cultural heritage significance”.
So, What’s on the National Heritage Register?
Many interesting items (and persons). Like what, you ask?
Well, among the now 72 national heritage buildings and monuments around the country, the earlier and better known entries include Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad, Istana Negara and Tugu Negara in Kuala Lumpur; also the Stadhuys and the St. Paul’s Church in Melaka; as well as a string of heritage buildings in Kuala Kangsar, Taiping and Teluk Intan in Perak.
In the recent 2018 proclamation alone, 22 buildings were declared as National Heritage:
1. Masjid Melayu Leboh Aceh, Pulau Pinang
2. Masjid Kapitan Keling, Pulau Pinang
3. Fort Cornwallis, Pulau Pinang
4. Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, Pulau Pinang
5. Penang High Court Building, Pulau Pinang
6. Penang Free School, Pulau Pinang
7. The Telegraph Building, Taiping, Perak
8. Darul Ridzuan Museum, Perak
9. Bangunan Lama Pusat Pelancongan Malaysia (MaTic) and Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur
10. The Old Building of Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur
11. The Sulaiman Building, Kuala Lumpur
12. Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
13. Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur
14. National Library of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
15. Bangunan Bank Kerapu (World War II Memorial), Kelantan
16. The State Museum, Kelantan
17. Maziah Palace, Terengganu
18. The Kuala Terengganu Grand Mosque / Abidin Mosque, Terengganu
19. Bangunan Sekolah Menengah King George V (Old Block), Negeri Sembilan
20. Pengulu Md. Nattar’s House, Melaka
21. Fort Malawati, Selangor
22. Fort Kuala Kedah, Kedah
On the Register now too are Candi Bukit Batu Pahat (Tapak 8) and Candi Pengkalan Bujang (Tapak 23), both found in Bujang Valley, Kedah, making up the list of 14 archaeology heritage sites in all.
The tally of natural heritage sites remained at 7, inclusive of such gems as Taman Diraja Belum in Grik, Perak, the Mulu Caves National Park in Sarawak, as well as Taman Negara Kinabalu in Sabah.
Please visit the Jabatan Warisan Negara website for the full National Heritage Register.
How should we designate National Heritage?
While we were pleasantly surprised to see the Malay-Chinese-European style architectured Penghulu Md. Nattar’s House in Melaka – the first traditional house added to the Register – we remain concerned by the lack of public awareness to the guiding principles adopted by JWN which facilitate their evaluation of the 9 criteria for National Heritage listing, especially for the “cultural heritage significance” criterion at the national level.
We believe that such awareness is of great importance to help guide the understanding, and consequently, appreciation by members of the public as to the significance of our heritage, and hopefully lead to a greater resolve in calling for the protection, conservation and preservation of the same. To this end, our upcoming Lensa Warisan series lecture on 14 November 2018 will feature our Vice-President Ar. Dr. Helena Aman Hashim on the topic of Understanding the Criteria for Listing of Buildings as Warisan Kebangsaan. Do join us if you can, details are found here.
Council Member of Badan Warisan Malaysia
ABOUT THE TALK
Audrey has written “Memories of a Malaccan” as a tribute to her father, Lim Keng Watt (1909-1996). She has selected images from his vast collection of photographs and postcards and has drawn on his notes, documents and other memorabilia to highlight significant aspects of the socio-political scene of Malaya before, during and after World War II. She will talk about her father’s life and times – as student and teacher, Scout, sportsman, soldier, musician and drama enthusiast. The nostalgic pictures and interesting mementos she shares will fascinate both general readers and history buffs
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Audrey Lim is a Founder-member of Malacca Theatre Group. Has helped the MTG organise inter-school drama competitions. Also acts and helps regularly in its productions. Served as President of the MTG for 3 terms. She wrote a book titled Write with Success originally published by Longmans, now revised and reprinted as Write It Right ; now in its 12th. edition. Recently she wrote 2 short plays for the latest Malacca Theatre Group production Snippets held in November 2016, one of which was a historical but fictionalized play about her aunt who had been jailed by the Japanese during the Occupation, while the other Beauty and the Bard was in the finals of the Short and Sweet drama fest in KL.
ABOUT THE TALK
The importance of intangible cultural heritage is the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. Pua kumbu, a tie and natural dye resist textile in Sarawak, has long been known as sacred traditional cloths woven on backstrap looms by the Iban women weavers. As an aesthetic material culture, the pua kumbu possesses a unique identity that carries the legend, stories and rhymes that are inseparable from the traditional Iban cosmology and belief system. Once a ritualistic cloth, at present day, the pua kumbu has become only the symbol of Iban identity and cultural pride because of transformations in their belief system, way of life and education.
The knowledge and skills in the production of pua kumbu are becoming very scarce amongst the young generation of Iban women, most of whom treat this intangible cultural heritage as the knowledge and skills of their grandmothers. It is becoming a dying art. Collective memory seems to be the only way to restore the fragments of knowledge and skills of pua kumbu production – identification of the name of design, motif, rhyme and story for each design ever produced in the past. The application of memories of pua kumbu narratives as the path to identify each pua kumbu ever produced is guarded by traditional intellectual property rights owned by families who have the recognized ownership of designs; it can give both positive and negative impacts in the work of conservation and restoration of the knowledge.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Dr. Welyne Jeffrey Jehom is currently under the Department Of Anthropology And Sociology in the Faculty Of Arts And Social Sciences of the University of Malaya.
She is of Bidayuh descent, born and raised in Kuching, Sarawak. She is motivated to be in the academic world in an effort to prove the highest of education qualifications is achievable despite having limited resources available and being a woman – one needs is the motivation. Therefore, in Dr. Welyne’s research in recent years, she focuses on problems that hinders development and the progress of the community she is dear to, and research that deals with the development of the community from within
ABOUT THE TALK
Alex Teoh is a paper and book conservator, active in restoration and collection care for rare manuscripts, collectable prints, ephemera, antique maps and antiquarian books. Trained in the UK, he has been working on various heritage centres, libraries and private collection in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Since his first talk/presentation at Badan Warisan in 2012, Alex returns to share further on the conservation and restoration scene in Malaysia and our Nusantara area.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Alex is a member of the International Institute of Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) and the Society of Bookbinders in the UK. Locally he is a member of Badan Warisan Malaysia and Manassa (The Indonesian Association of Nusantara Manuscripts)
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
BROUGHT TO DELIGHT
20th Aug – 8th Sept 2018, 10am – 6pm
Main Lobby, PAM Centre
As part of a collaboration and partnership between Badan Warisan Malaysia, Linea Architect Sdn Bhd with KLAF2018 and Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM), BROUGHT TO DELIGHT is an exhibition featuring the recently conserved Sultan Suleiman Royal Mosque, Klang, curated and produced by Badan Warisan Malaysia.
ABOUT THE MOSQUE
The Sultan Suleiman Royal Mosque was officiated as the Suleiman Jamiur Rahmah Mosque when it was completed in 1933. The building was designed as an octagonal garden pavilion-like structure at the foot of the old Astana Mahkota Puri in Klang. It was the largest concrete structure in Malaya in 1933 – quite an engineering feat at a time when reinforced concrete was relatively new.
An Art Deco edifice, the mosque stands as one of the most unique religious architecture in the country. The ambitious project involved close consultations with the fifth Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Alaeddin Suleiman Shah, who selected the site and vetted through the design and planning details. Design credits go to the architect, Leofric Kesteven (Chairman of the Malayan Institute of Architects from 1931 to 1933); John Thomas Chester, the reinforced concrete specialist attached to United Engineers Ltd; and Rodolfo Nolli, the Singapore based Italian sculptor who worked on the ornaments of the building.
The mosque has stood for over eight decades, but not without transformations to its interior and Ablution Pavilion, affecting its original design intentions. Jabatan Kerja Raya Negeri Selangor, with assistance from the Jabatan Warisan Negara and Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor, had successfully completed the restoration of the mosque in November 2017. The building has been brought back to its original 1933 appearance (as closely as possible), which includes the uncovering of colourful bas-reliefs adorning its upper walls and its original sunken ablution pond.
As consultants to Jabatan Kerja Raya Negeri Selangor, Linea Architect Sdn. Bhd. and Badan Warisan Heritage Services had worked together in recording the original architectural details and the construction process involved in the restoration of the Sultan Suleiman Royal Mosque from 2015 to 2017. These records serve as references to understand Malaya’s architectural scene in the early 1930s and would be displayed at PAM Centre from 20th to 26th August 2018.
The Sultan Suleiman Royal Mosque was placed under the National Heritage list in 2012. A ceremony to mark the completion of its restoration took place on 3 November 2017, officiated by the Sultan of Selangor, HRH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj.