KUALA LUMPUR: The Penang Malay Heritage and Historical Society (Pewarisan) has expressed its disappointment with the organisers of the George Town Festival, saying the Malay community was not appropriately represented at the event.
Its president Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Murad Merican said since its inception in 2010, the event had failed to recognise the Malays as the founding community of Penang and Tanjong, among others.
“George Town has a history of the Malays, not only in the ‘Malay town’ of Lebuh Acheh/Armenian and in the surrounding areas where the Malays once plied their trade,” he said in a statement today.
He said the absence of the Malay community in the festival was a false portrayal of multiculturalism.
“We agree that Penang and George Town are cosmopolitan. But the history and heritage of the Malay community have not been portrayed as such.”
He said in previous years, the event’s organisers had included stories by various ethnic groups like the Chinese Peranakan, Hokkien, Indian Muslims and Eurasians.
“But the festival seems to have forgotten the Malay community. Other ethnic groups have claimed that they are the founding community, but the Malays building a community decades earlier was silenced.”
Ahmad said instead, the festival glorified the genealogy of Francis Light, the founder of the British colony of Penang.
“The organisers continue to marginalise the cosmopolitanism in Penang before the arrival of the British — the cosmopolitanism that lends various names of places on the island, and the earlier layer of the history of George Town. This has to be narrated.”
Ahmad said the organisers should refer to various oral and written sources on the history of the Malays in Penang.
“There is no reason to claim ignorance. Or perhaps it (the festival) has been plain selective.
“More recent history of Penang Malay letters, printing, publishing and journalism centred around George Town’s core heritage area are censured.
“The organiser must create the aesthetics for the memory of how Penang began. There will be no meaning to the festival if the founding Malay community is not represented,” he said.