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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New heritage law has removed protection by assembly and TYT – Yong

KOTA KINABALU - The State Heritage Enactment 2017 recently passed by the Sabah legislative assembly has removed the crucial protection that was provided for in the Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1997,  said former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee.

Clause 4(3) of the 1997 enactment stated that ‘no declaration (of cultural heritage or conservation area) shall be revoked or amended without the prior approval of the Sabah Legislative Assembly given by way of a resolution.’

In other words, Yong said it is only after a resolution of the assembly had been obtained that the Sabah Heritage Council and minister may present the proposed revocation of the heritage site to the Head of State (TYT) for consent.

“The idea of having to get a resolution of the legislative assembly beforehand is to ensure a strong deterrent against abuses by the government. This is because the process of obtaining a resolution of the assembly will necessarily bring the proposed degazetting of the heritage conservation area into the public arena. This will force the ministers and officials to explain and defend their decision (to revoke a heritage area) to the public. It is to be expected that media and environmental groups will come to know about the proposed revocation of a heritage site and make their views known. Public opinion or outrage will act as a deterrent against abuses by the government.

“It is because of this protection by the need for a mandatory resolution of legislative assembly and consent of the Head of State that the KK Wetlands (Likas Bird Park) was saved and given enough time for nature lovers to acquire RAMSAR status this year.

“It is because of this protection that Atkinson Clock Tower has been saved. It is because of this protection that we still have the Chong Tain Vun Park and Padang Merdeka today. This protection has now been removed by the 2017 enactment which repealed the 1997 enactment. The 2017 enactment does not have a provision to make it mandatory to have the consent of the TYT or the legislative assembly to revoke the heritage status of any site,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Yong added according to the 2017 enactment, the power to revoke a heritage site now lies in the hands of the minister responsible for culture whose decision shall be final.

“As the saying goes, ‘don’t throw out the baby with the bath water’. Is this what the government has done?” he asked.

The State Legislative Assembly last Thursday passed the State Heritage Bill 2017, in its bid to preserve the state’s heritage in a more organized, orderly and comprehensive way.

In tabling the Bill, Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Haji Kamarlin Haji Ombi said there was a need to introduce the bill as the current law that governed the state’s heritage, the Enakmen Warisan Budaya (Pemuliharaan) 1997, was not comprehensive.

The new Bill will have 12 divisions and 92 clauses.

In a nutshell, the new Bill will cover two aspects, namely cultural heritage (which will be divided into ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’ heritage) and natural heritage (which will focus on natural wonders such as mountains, rivers, flora and fauna etc), Kamarlin said.

Tangible heritage will include areas, buildings and monuments, while intangible heritage will include expressions, folk songs, oral traditions, dances, theatre performances, composition of sounds and music, martial arts, traditional customs and traditions etc.

Any sites that have cultural and natural heritage will be classified as designated heritage sites under Clause 22, while objects that have cultural importance will be declared as heritage objects under Clause 43 or registered under Clause 45, Kamarlin said.

He further asserted that any heritage sites, heritage objects or any living persons may be declared as State Heritage, under this new Bill.

Each different category will be governed according to its very own guidelines.

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