Trou­ble­some to change names of cities and towns

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

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.

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