George Town, 31 January 2024
Dato’ Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Executive Director
A Social Movement Is Needed To Preserve Penang’s History
(George Town, Penang) – On January 27, 2024, Datuk Seri Lim Chong Keat spoke at Penang Institute in a delightful, light-hearted and much-appreciated seminar titled “Delving into Penang History: Casting light on Scott and Light, the brown Lights and the yellow Browns” during which he provided some interesting details about the early history of Penang.
The event was very well attended, by scholars and NGO representatives, as is often the case whenever a seminar is held at Penang Institute which deals with Penang History.
On this occasion, Datuk Seri Lim was using his knowledge of early Penang History to draw attention to how much remains unknown or unwritten about. For history to be written, the original sources need to be valued and preserved—and made accessible to any potential writer of Penang history. This has sadly not been done, not by individuals in a position to do anything about it, not by libraries, not by scholars in high positions, not by NGOs, and not by the major authorities involved.
Apart from being a much-appreciated presentation of early Penang history, the rare appearance by Datuk Seri Lim was therefore a call to the public, NGOs and everyone involved, no doubt implicitly including state authorities, to take the matter seriously before too much of our past is lost.
What was reported in Free Malaysia Today on January 30, that Datuk Seri Lim was criticising the Penang State Government of not doing enough to preserve Penang state history, is therefore incorrect and highly misleading.
The article pointedly avoids mentioning the venue and context of the talk, and it sidesteps and misrepresents Datuk Seri Lim’s obvious intention, which was to use a Penang Institute seminar to herald a movement and to call for the broad spectrum of Penang society to take seriously the urgent need for the preservation of original sources related to the subject, and for their accessibility to the public.
To underline the importance of the venue and context, which was in all likelihood consciously ignored in the FMT article, Datuk Seri Lim pointedly asked that he be introduced—for immediate relevance—as: founder-chairman of the Penang Heritage Trust, once an active member of the Museum Board, the State Culture Council and the Botanic Gardens, and former chairman of the Penang Ratepayers Association.
This was to set—and did set—the stage for what he was going to present, and who he was presenting it to.
With this press release, Penang Institute wishes to correct the misunderstanding generated by the FMT article, but more importantly, to amplify what Datuk Seri Lim Chong Keat’s call for a concerted movement across Penang society to preserve in all ways possible, the precious history of Penang.