Singapore

Malaysia proposes joint Unesco bid for hawker culture

This article is more than 12 months old

Singapore has yet to respond to request

Malaysia will follow up on a proposal made to Singapore last month that the two neighbours bid for a joint listing of their hawker culture under Unesco.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik told The Straits Times yesterday that although he has not received a formal request from the Penang state government on a joint nomination as reported last week, he had already raised the idea in a meeting with Singapore's Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia three weeks ago.

"So far, I don't have any requests from Singapore to do a joint nomination. I highlighted this to Singapore's Deputy High Commissioner when he visited me but he didn't come back to me. So I take it that they will go on their own," he said.

Mr Bakhtiar plans to take up the issue again with his counterpart at the Asean Socio-Cultural Community Council meeting on May 17.

'CASUALLY ASK'

"Maybe if I can see Sim Ann, then I will casually ask her and convey to her," he said, referring to Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth.

Mr Bakhtiar, whose constituency is in Penang, stressed that every country has a right to nominate its heritage for Unesco listing. But he pointed out that because the United Nations body has a finite number of proposals it can review, "you cannot submit 20 dossiers to Unesco. It's better to have joint bids".

But getting Malaysian hawker culture gazetted is not a priority.

"Hawker (culture) is not a priority. We have so many things because Malaysia is well diversified," Mr Bakhtiar said, adding that it already has Malay love ballads known as dondang sayang and the mak yong dance drama inscribed as cultural heritage.

Singapore announced on March 28 that it has nominated its hawker culture to Unesco to be inscribed on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the end of next year.

But the bid drew criticism from across the border, with some Malaysians claiming that their country is a street-food paradise. The Penang state government said last Thursday that it wanted the federal government to pursue a joint listing with Singapore as this would increase the probability of Unesco inscribing the hawker culture of both countries.

Penang Tourism, Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin added that while the state government would very much want it to be a Penang initiative, Unesco has required that the nomination be made only through a member country.

Mr Bakhtiar, who is the Balik Pulau MP, assured Malaysians that "we do not have to worry" about Singapore's nomination as it does not preclude other similar hawker cultures from being inscribed by Unesco.

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