Troublesome to change names of cities and towns
APROFESSOR has called on the Penang state government to change George Town and Butterworth to their original names. Professor Datuk Dr Ahmad Murad Marican, who is also the president of Penang Heritage and History Society, said the original name of George Town was Tanjong and that of Butterworth was Bagan.
He said that the original names proved that the Malay community had been in the two places before the arrival of Francis Light to this part of the world on Aug 10, 1786.
According to the Universiti Sains Malaysia professor, a former state assemblyman, Hashim Awang, had urged the state government to change the name of George Town in 1958. But this was ignored.
It is good of the professor to highlight the names of the people who played important roles in the development of the state of Penang and its towns and cities. But the names of George Town and Butterworth have been used for more than a hundred years. It will be difficult to change the names to Tanjong and Bagan. Besides naming cities, there are other ways of paying tribute and giving credit to them.
More importantly, it can be very troublesome and costly to change the names of cities or towns. The name of “George Town” on all the road signs has to be changed and replaced by Tanjong. This will cost a huge sum of money because “George Town” is on many road signs.
Besides, as part of the city has been proclaimed a world heritage site, a change of name may not be good in terms of the city retaining its Unesco World Heritage status.
There have always been a large number of Malays in Penang throughout its history. There are many beautiful and attractive artifacts that showcase the skills of the Malays. Furthermore, the Penang state government and the then Municipal Council of George Town did acknowledge the long-term presence of the Malays and their contributions in shaping the state.
In 1993, the municipal council not only spent a considerable sum of money to restore a beautiful building along Armenian Street, but also allowed it to be used as a museum for Islamic artifacts. Unfortunately, the doors of the heritage house have been closed. So far, little has been made known as to the reasons for the closure. The building looks like it is in bad shape.
It may be more beneficial to put effort into rehabilitating the Islamic museum and other heritage buildings, instead of changing the names of George Town and Butterworth.
There is no doubt that there are still villages and towns that have Malay names. When such places undergo development, there may be pressure from developers to change the names of the villages to western names to attract buyers. Hopefully, the town planners, architects and councillors of the city council play a bigger role in naming housing estates.
There is a need for academicians who are keen to keep the old names to carry out studies and make their findings known to the public. It is important that universities and research centres, such as Inspen, are well-funded by the federal government to enable them to carry out these studies.
For the time being, those interested in, and who want to cherish artifacts of the past generations must find ways to convince the land owners to keep their land use basically unchanged.
It may be useful to recall that in the 1990s, some enthusiastic champions of heritage went through very tough and trying times hoping to save some beautiful and historical buildings. They have succeeded and there are now historical buildings that have been conserved. More importantly, owing to conservation efforts, a part of George Town, together with a part of Malacca, have been proclaimed as United Nations World Heritage Sites, and now attract visitors from all over the world.