Former law minister raises concerns about Unesco bid for new villages

Historical sensitivities highlighted

13 Feb 2024 03:54pm
Debate erupts over nominating new villages for Unesco. - FILE PIX
Debate erupts over nominating new villages for Unesco. - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - Former Law Minister Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim expressed concerns about the proposal to nominate seven new villages for Unesco World Heritage Site status, urging sensitivity towards historical sensitivities, particularly among the Malay community.

In a recent social media post, Zaid questioned the selection of new villages, suggesting they do not fit typical heritage categories like natural wonders or historical sites.

He highlighted alternative options on the tentative list, such as the Taman Negeri Royal Belum and Sungai Buloh Leprosarium.

“Why new villages? Unesco sites are reserved either for natural, historical sites or cultural sites. Mulu Caves and Melaka, for example.

“The places on the tentative list include the Royal Belum and Sungei Buloh Leprosarium. Why not nominate those on the tentative list?” he asked.

He raised concerns about the historical context of new villages, established during the Malayan Emergency to contain suspected communist sympathisers.

“This is where DAP should be more ‘sensitive’ to the feelings of the Malays.

"It was not so long ago that the new villages were set up to isolate Chinese communist sympathisers.

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“The communist party was waging war in Malaya. Feelings are still raw about how Chinese chauvinists were fighting Askar Melayu. Not so long ago,” he said.

Zaid also slammed Housing and Local Government Minister Nga Kor Ming's communication on the issue, suggesting he should have consulted Malay representatives before the controversy arose.

He advocated for inclusive and respectful dialogue when addressing sensitive historical topics.

“Let’s keep Unesco lists to the ones that are not controversial.

"There are six others we can consider in the tentative list.

“Nga should talk to the Malay representatives first. Not inviting them to talk after controversy has started,” he added.

It was reported on Feb 1 that Nga announced plans to draft nominations for the recognition of Chinese new villages in Selangor as Unesco World Heritage Sites, aiming to acknowledge their cultural and historical importance.

In June of the preceding year, he announced the selection of seven villages across the nation for nomination to attain World Heritage site status from Unesco.

These seven villages were meticulously chosen from a pool of 613 new villages scattered across Malaysia, including locations in Penang, Perak, Johor, Melaka, and Selangor.

The proposal then resulted in heavy debate among various parties, as critics contended that it exacerbated racial tensions given the historical background of these settlements.

It was also reported that Nga would meet Umno leaders to discuss his proposal to nominate new Chinese villages in Selangor as Unesco World Heritage Sites.