Tag Archives: unesco

Lenggong Valley – the Jewel in Malaysia’s Archaeological Crown

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By G. Sivapragasam

On the June 10, the New Straits Times reported that the Perak government wants Lenggong Valley to be declared a world heritage site.

It quoted the Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir saying that the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had done an assessment of the area and that it had potential, especially in terms of world history. It further reported that, “According to UNESCO, the Lenggong Valley is one of the earliest sites of world civilisation which dates back more than 180 million years”.

There can be no dispute that amongst the attractions in Perak the Lenggong Valley archaeological sites are in a class of their own. They have the potential, as Dr Zambry claimed, to put Perak on the world map.

Information Disseminated Should Be Accurate

Having said that, I need to impress that if we are to succeed in establishing and promoting this area as an important archaeological site we need to become more knowledgeable about archaeology in general and the area in particular and deliver accurate information. Only then can we be perceived as credible.

Grossly inaccurate statements like that attributed to UNESCO that the “Lenggong valley civilisation dates back more than 180 million years” has to be avoided. I do not know if UNESCO actually said this but I seriously doubt it. Suffice it to say that 180 million years ago dinosaurs were still wandering around the earth and mammals, let alone man, existed in ferret-like form and this region, if it existed at all, was part of the supercontinent Pangaea.

Modern Man Left Africa Only 100,000 Years Ago

Current evidence supports the theory that modern man (Homo sapiens) left his place of origin in Africa only about 100,000 years ago. He probably arrived in the Lenggong valley about 80,000 years ago. However, there is evidence that the ancestors of modern man (Homo erectus or descendants) possibly resided in the Lenggong valley 200,000 years ago. Even if this specie were considered human we are still talking only about 200,000 years, and 180 million years is more than a little exaggeration. I can only hope that it is the New Straits Times that erred, substituting million for thousand. If that be the case, the Chief Minister’s secretary should have been diligent enough to correct the mistake within a day or two of its publication.

Is The Intent Research Or Tourism?

I do not know if the intention is to promote this site for research or as a tourist destination. If the intent is merely to employ the site for research I do not think much benefit could be derived by gaining recognition from UNESCO as a world heritage site. We will only succeed in subjecting ourselves to restrictions imposed by a third party.

If, on the other hand, we are talking about promoting the site as a tourist destination, I am puzzled by the fact that it appears to be missing in the Perak tourism master plan prepared by the consultant from New Zealand engaged by the State Government. It is unfortunate that there appears to be a singular lack of coordination amongst those directing tourism.

Set Up Dedicated Body for Lenggong

If we are really serious in promoting the Lenggong valley as a tourist destination, a separate body needs to be set up to single-mindedly focus on this product. It could be modelled on the Perak State Parks Corporation. At the moment, save for the museum, which I must say is well designed and the artefacts well presented, the archaeological sites are not easily accessible and more importantly not ready with infrastructure to not only support visitors but safeguard the integrity of the sites. Rules and regulations need to be devised and strictly enforced to ensure that the value of the sites is not compromised in any manner. If this is not done we will only be inviting disaster.

Immense Tourism Potential

Prof. Zuraina says archaeology is much more than artefacts. It is the study of human culture and the process of its evolution. It is the study of how societies evolved and civilisations developed in a complex, dynamic and changing process, influenced by a range of factors including the environment, contact with others, population increase and changing needs.

This vision presents almost unlimited prospects for creating tourist attractions based on the history of the Lenggong valley.

One possibility I can immediately think of is creating a sound and light show at a suitable site in the area. Bringing the history of the valley to life in this manner will provide tourists an exquisite experience of prehistoric Lenggong.

Prehistoric Sites in Lenggong

Illustrating Timeline

Kg. Temelong:                200,000 years

Kota Tampan:                 75,000 years

Bukit Bunuh:                   40,000 years

Gua Gunung Runtuh:      11,000 years

Gua Teluk Kelawar:        10,000 years

Gua Harimau:                  6,000 years

Semang Villages:            Today

Five Locations in Perak for World Heritage Sites

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Perak is preparing the nomination dossier for five locations to be presented to UNESCO to list them as World Heritage Sites.

State chairman for Industry, Investment, Industrial Development and Tourism, Datuk Hamidah Osman, said a committee had been formed comprising of the National Heritage Department, Tourism Perak, Ipoh and Taiping local councils, district offices, related government agencies together with the heritage societies to prepare the nomination dossier.

Participants listening to tour guide K. Rajasegaran

She stated this before flagging off a Saturday morning “Heritage Walk” at the Ipoh Railway Station recently. The committee, she said, had held initial meetings with the National Heritage Department.

Under the nature category, the sites are Royal Belum (Tropical Rainforest and Biodiversity Heritage) and Gua Tempurung (Limestone Heritage), and under the Nature and Culture Category the locations identified are Taiping (Heritage Town), Kinta (Tin Heritage and encompassing the area between Ipoh, Batu Gajah and Kampar) and Ipoh City (Cultural Heritage).

On the Heritage Walk, she said it would be held every Saturday for members of public to participate. It is the first part of the state government’s strategy at creating heritage awareness and promoting the heritage Panglima Core area in the city.

Datuk Hamidah said an allocation of RM550,000 has been approved to upgrade Panglima Lane, better known as Concubine Lane. And if all goes well, Tourism Perak will open a Tourist Information Centre in the lane.

The walk is organised by the Tourism Perak office and Kinta Heritage Group and starts at 8 a.m. from the Railway Station. The route recently named the Panglima Core will proceed to City Hall, the High Court and going east, passes St Michael’s School and heads towards the commercial area to Han Chin Pet Soo Building and back through Concubine Lane to the Clock Tower and Railway Station.

The tour is conducted by a licensed tour guide who will elaborate on the historical background of the various heritage buildings throughout the walk. To create more awareness, a forum to discuss heritage issues will be held towards the end of July where experts on the topic will be invited. Heritage agencies and members of the public are also invited to attend.

Datuk Hamidah said to ensure that the unique characteristics of Old Town Sector is not lost, the state has proposed that all future development plans specifically for Old Town must follow the guidelines as set down by the Ipoh City Council.

Besides Datuk Hamidah, Ipoh Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim and Perak Tourism CEO Zameema Banu, present at the last walk were some students from St. Michael’s School.

JAG

Tourism through Sports

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The Malacca state government with the co-operation of Tourism Malaysia and its state tourism council is organising a nationwide road show beginning in Perak in conjunction with the hosting of the 13th Malaysian Games (Sukan Malaysia) from June 10 to 19.

An exhibition showcasing Malacca’s attractions was launched at Impiana Hotel, Ipoh recently.

Malacca, which was declared a world heritage city by UNESCO in 2008, is set to attract large number of visitors to the state. Opening the one-day exhibition, Capt (Rtd) Abdul Karim Sulaiman, state’s chairman of Welfare, Youth and Sports, spoke on the need to highlight Malacca’s heritage to sporting buffs that would be coming to watch the Games. “We’ll adopt a dual concept combining both sports and tourism into one. This is a workable concept, based on current needs,” he remarked. The Games Secretariat too will be involved in promoting tourism. This was confirmed by the state’s chairman of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, Dato’ Seek Har Cheow who thanked Tourism Malaysia for its support. The primary objective of the biennial Games is to source for raw sporting talents from among the youths of today.

RM