THE inscription of Malacca and Georgetown as historical cities under Unesco’s World Heritage Sites (WHS) after eight years of waiting is seen as a timely blessing for inhabitants.
Perhaps the most relieved of persons in Malacca is Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, who played a personal and vital role in seeing the state through the arduous process towards WHS inscription.
Malacca Historic City Mayor Yusof Jantan, who was with Mohd Ali in Quebec, Canada, at the 32nd World Heritage Committee meeting to receive the good news, said the Chief Minister was all smiles.
“He was very happy and relieved. He couldn’t wait to convey the good news to the Prime Minister,” he said when contacted in Quebec after the announcement.
Under the joint inscription with Georgetown in Penang, the Malacca site comprises 214.6ha in two protected areas within the city's conservation zone demarcated by Malacca River.
The first area is the St Paul's Hill Civic Zone comprising government buildings, museums, churches, the original fortress town from the 16th century Portuguese and Dutch period and Bukit Cina.
The second area is the Historic Residential and Commercial Zone comprising 600 shophouses, commercial and residential buildings, religious buildings and tombs on four main streets.
With a target of eight million tourist arrivals by 2010, Mohd Ali realised that successful inscription as a WHS would do wonders for the state’s tourism industry while preserving the city’s cultural heritage.
“The inscription will bring in millions of tourists, including conservation and heritage experts, and this will bring economic benefits to the people and the tourism industry,” Mohd Ali said.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 property owners within the heritage zones will experience immediate benefits as the value of their buildings would appreciate.
This is true for more than 200 17th Century Dutch homes in Jonker and Heeren streets at the core of the heritage zone.
The homes were valued at RM200,000 fifteen years ago and can now fetch RM800,000 to RM1,000,000 depending on the condition.
Property evaluators CH Williams, Talhar and Wong director Foo Gee Jen said the properties were valued at RM120 a square foot three years ago but this shot up to RM200 a square foot recently.
“The inscription will push prices up almost immediately by 20% to 30%,” he said, adding that investors were willing to pay for such properties because of their heritage value.
Despite the all-round elation, some quarters voiced caution, saying the inscription could be retracted by Unesco if authorities here did not maintain a strict code to ensure continued preservation and conservation of the city.
Malacca Heritage Trust vice president Michael Benerji said the city council must employ more officers trained in conservation to ensure that building guidelines and regulations were implemented and enforced.
He noted that the inscription did not entail a total prohibition of construction or renovation of buildings in the heritage zone.
“Re-adaptive use of the buildings is allowed under strict conditions. This is why the council needs adequate staff to ensure the rules are followed,” he said.
He added that the state could consider incentives such as waivers of quit rent and assessment and tax relief for owners who restored and preserved the buildings.
Source : STAR
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