Penang Government To Investigate Demolition Of Historical 138-Year-Old Tomb
The grave belonging to historical figure Foo Teng Nyong has been demolished, and the Penang government will be launching an investigation into the parties who are responsible
According to The Star, State Tourism and Creative Economy Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said that a permit was initially granted to developers on 18 March by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP). Their permit was also extended on 26 July. They were only permitted to exhume the grave and ensure the tomb site was preserved.
"It was clearly stated that the permit only allowed [the developers] to exhume the remains but not to destroy the historic tomb," Yeoh said in a statement made on Monday, 29 August.
A team of historical investigators from the George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) has been designated to survey the demolition site and investigate the issue.
Meanwhile, the developers have been issued a stop-work order by the MBPP until further notice.
Back in early March, the landowner of the burial site area wrote a proposal to the city council with the intention of building a high-rise apartment on top of the burial grounds
According to Malay Mail, Penang State Heritage commissioner Rosli Nor mentioned that the owner had asked for permission to exhume and demolish Foo's grave. The landowner also submitted another proposal to cut up the grave, exhume the body, and relocate the burial site.
However, due to the grave's unique design and the carvings that decorate the tomb, Rosli recommended that the grave be preserved and that the landowner turn the burial site into a green area. In order to protect the grave, he also recommended that the MBPP offer the developers incentives to encourage them to retain the burial site.
The future of the project was still under discussion when the developers went ahead with the demolition of the tomb site.
Foo's great-grandson, Jeffery Seow, has spoken out against the demolition of his great-grandmother's grave
Back in 2 March, Seow had appealed to the Penang state government to protect Foo's grave from being demolished. But because the land no longer belonged to Seow's family, the project had to involve the authorities before any decision could be made.
However, because the developers have now demolished the grave before getting permission to do so, Seow now wants the appropriate punishment to be meted out to the developers for their 'blatant disregard for authority'.
"The developer had no permission to do anything on the land until the issue between them and the authorities was resolved," Seow told SAYS.
Seow counts the demolition of his great-grandmother's grave as a great loss to the state of Penang as well as to Malaysia. He described Foo's burial site as one of the many unique historical markers that have shaped the historical personality of the country.
"The damage that has been done with the demolition and destruction of this unique, ornamented historical marker...there is no compensation that could adequately cover the outrage," he said.
Seow fears that, if the developers are not held accountable for their actions, his grandfather's grave, Chung Thye Pin, might be demolished next. He hopes that Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow will exercise his political will to ensure the developers are punished accordingly.
Foo was the third wife of Chung Keng Quee, who was appointed Kapitan Cina by the British in 1877 and later became the largest tin mine owner in Malaya
Known for his philanthropy and contributions to the community, Chung was dubbed the founder and administrator of Taiping, Perak.
Chung was said to have extensively donated and contributed to the development of the economy, education, healthcare, and social welfare in Penang and Perak and was well-respected in his community. Two streets in Penang were named after him: Keng Kwee Street, which is home to the Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul, and Ah Quee Street, which houses many notable tourist hotspots in Penang.
Aside from being the wife of a famous historical figure, Foo was also the mother of Chung Thye Phin, the last Kapitan Cina of Perak. At the time of his death, he was regarded as the wealthiest man in Penang as Chung owned several tin mines, mirroring his father's success. Foo was also the aunt of Foo Choo Choon, who was conferred the title of 'The Tin King', after working in Foo's husband's tin mines and running his own tin mines and business.