Researcher Unesco Bid For Chinese New Villages Will Preserve History
The proposal to get Chinese new villages recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site continues to divide opinions as it’s being dragged into becoming a racial issue.
However, Institute of Malay World and Civilisation (Atma) lecturer Faisal Tehrani believes the idea of gazetting the selected Chinese new villages should be supported as it is a move that will preserve the history of these areas for future generations.
To be included in the list, he pointed out that the sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of 10 selection criteria.
Faisal said he believed that these villages meet at least two criteria - to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition and to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions.
The author questioned why certain quarters are claiming that the proposal would negatively affect bumiputera rights.
“In what way is this move threatening the right of bumiputera? I believe this is because of the status of the leasehold.
“After almost 80 years, I think the land status needs to be recognised as part of Chinese history, heritage and culture,” he told Malaysiakini.
Citing Kampung Morten in Malacca as an example, Faisal said the gazetting would give the site significant cultural status that brings in tourists, researchers and historians.
Do more for Malay villages
Faisal urged Umno leaders to take a page from Housing and Local Government Minister Nga Kor Ming, whose ministry is handling the proposal, and attempt to preserve Malay villages.
This comes after the party took the position that there is no necessity to make Chinese new villages Unesco heritage sites.
He said Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan can do so with a few villages such as Kampung Lonek in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan while its supreme council member Ahmad Maslan can do the same for villages in Pontian.
“Malay politicians and activists need to sit down and learn from Nga and his ministry on how to get traditional Malay villages to be recognised too.
“Get the Chettiar villages, certain Rumah Panjang in Sarawak, Dusun villages in Sabah, Orang Asli villages and Portuguese or Siamese settlements. Look at it from a cultural perspective please,” he added.
As it is, he said Malay politicians have done little for the Malay traditional villages.
“Nothing has been done to elevate Kampung Baru and Kampung Datuk Keramat in Kuala Lumpur for instance.
“Even worse, they have let go of Kampung Abdullah Hukum and Kampung Kerinchi to the capitalists and developers,” he added.
Kampung Baru in Kuala LumpurOn Feb 1, Nga said that plans were being drawn up to recognise Chinese New Villages for their cultural and historical value.
This was met with objections including from Bersatu's Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal who questioned the proposal.
Umno joined in the criticism with its party secretary-general Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki alleging that the Unesco status would give those who lived in Chinese new villages recognition as "original inhabitants" of the land and therefore touches on the status of the Malays.
Gerakan president Dominic Lau also chided Nga for poor communication on the issue and added that a thorough explanation is needed while respecting the views of stakeholders, particularly the Malays and the Chinese.
Housing and Local Government Minister Nga Kor MingNga in turn brushed off the claim that the Unesco status proposal will challenge the rights of bumiputera and Malay.
Nothing wrong with promoting culture
Meanwhile, researcher and writer WN Khuzairey said promoting a culture does not mean others are being dismissed.
He said in a country known for its diversity and multiculturalism, those with the source and documents have the right to promote their culture.
If anyone has the advantage of having documents or evidence to show their heritage, it is not wrong for it to be promoted, he added.
“Unfortunately, the discourse on heritage is still not widespread in this country. This includes neatly organised notes and documents,” Khuzairey said.
If those from different races who promote their culture are viewed with suspicion, he said the proposal to get Unesco recognition will not have the desired effect of inspiring others.
What’s so special?
Former Penang deputy chief minister P Ramasamy has also questioned the reason behind Nga’s proposal and the historical relevance of the selected Chinese new villages.
Ramasamy said while the proposal might have merit, the ethnically charged atmosphere might kill it off.
He pointed out that many other natural and historical sites need to be looked into for the Unesco heritage listing such as colonial and post-colonial structures as well as national monuments.
P RamasamyHe also took a swipe at the government, saying that it had no clue when it comes to prioritising the sites that Unesco can recognise.
“There are so many natural and historical sites waiting to be identified, but why the prevarication?
“Why is the splendour of the ancient past of this country not given the appreciation that is due?” he asked. - Mkini
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