Wednesday, December 11

New bill to protect, preserve state’s heritage passed

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Abdul Karim (second left) goes through some documents with the permanent secretary to his ministry Hii Chang Kii (second right), as (from right) Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Sebastian Ting and acting permanent secretary to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Nancy Jolhi (left) look on.

KUCHING: The new Sarawak Heritage Bill 2019, which was passed in the DUN yesterday, would allow for comprehensive protection and preservation of Sarawak’s heritage.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the Bill repealed the Sarawak Cultural Heritage Ordinance 1993, and would cover four new elements not previously covered by the Ordinance.

The new elements are administration, duties and responsibilities of the director, underwater heritage, and enforcement.

He said the inclusion of these parts and certain new provisions would widen the scope of heritage, and provide a clear framework in heritage conservation.

“Under this Bill, a body to be known as ‘Sarawak Heritage Council’ will be established to advise the government on matters of policy, strategy or plan of action to be taken relating to administration and management of heritage in Sarawak.

“Additionally, a fund to be known as ‘Sarawak Heritage Trust Fund’ will be established to assist owners to do preservation works on heritage buildings or historical monuments or sites belonging to them through financial assistance,” he said in tabling the Bill.

Abdul Karim added that the Bill would enable the Sarawak Museum Department to exercise its roles and responsibilities in safeguarding the state’s heritage assets efficiently.

He pointed out that a provision relating to underwater heritage was necessary to address the recent findings submerged in water bodies, noting that the provision would guide the ‘Director of Museum’ on such discoveries and empower the director to deal with underwater heritage.

The minister believed the coming to force of the ‘Underwater Heritage’ element would ensure that underwater heritage within the state’s territory would be safeguarded and preserved for future generations.

Adding on, he said the Bill would also enable the museum director and enforcement officers, including police and Customs officers, to enforce the new Ordinance.

“It will empower these officers with the necessary provisions to enable them to carry out investigation, search, seizure and arrest of person(s) alleged to have committed any offence under the new Ordinance.”

The Bill would also provide provisions to safeguard and protect the traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions of communities in Sarawak, as well as give proper recognition to its owner or holder.

“This will ensure the protection and preservation of this fragile heritage from dying, and maintaining cultural diversity in the face of globalisation,” he said.

The Bill, he noted, would also restructure the process of declaring, registering and publishing of gazettes relating to buildings, heritage sites or historical sites which had heritage significance, and revise and enhance the penalties to be imposed for the commission of various offences.

Abdul Karim said it was important for Sarawak to have a workable and updated heritage management system not only for protection, but also to create awareness of and instil care for the heritage.

“Sarawak is not only rich in natural resources but also rich in history and culture. Our heritage, our identity and our pride,” he said.