Thursday, July 24, 2008

KEKWA Chasing The Wrong Heritage.

Half a century after the nation freed from European dominance, Malaysian heritage experts are reported to be in an overdrive mode to bring back national wealth from overseas museums and private collectors. (NST – July 3, 08) Nevertheless, the vigorous and very expensive quest to retrieve this priceless heritage falls short to elevate Malaysia to become the proud heirloom of ancient Malay artifacts. According to the paper, topping this shopping list is Malay manuscripts circa around late 19th century and early 20th century.

These manuscripts in my best comprehension would include the various royal seals and letters from the Malay sultanates used in Treaties and official or private correspondence currently kept inside the vaults of the British libraries, museums and universities, and to a lesser extend Dutch repository.

The rationale to spend the hard earned tax payers’ money in this shopping spree while we all suffer from the escalation of cost to run the country and also the unfavorable exchange rate is most baffling. Unless, of course if we can comprehend that the Museum Department and the National Archives are now an instrument to pursue Agenda Melayu.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see how such an acquisition, however costly, would be the perfect ingredients for not just heritage triumph but also a political one too.
Acquiring these long forgotten Malay treasures and finally taking these precious documents home from the foreign thieves. Follow up with the right dose from the spin doctors from the main stream media and the directors from these two institutions would be hailed as national heroes and champions of the race.

Again you don’t need college algebra to figure the difficulty or the lack of it to buy what is essentially an item listed in Museum manuals.

Taking a step further and it will be just a snap of the fingers to picture politicians especially those from the battle scarred UMNO joining the hero bandwagon.

Personally, the huge expense the Ministry of Culture, Heritage and Arts is willing to commit to this endeavor defies common sense and show what priority the Ministry is taking to safeguard Malaysian Heritage.

In my posting Conquer Culture Coup – Jul 23, 08, I urged the same Ministry to revalue its priority and focus to live up to its much acclaimed role as the repository of MALAYSIAN heritage. Valueless Peranakan heritage were permanently lost to Singapore when the owner in Penang was offered an amount, I guess just too hard to say NO to.

Why KEKWA officials are so adamant about fighting tooth and nail for treasures housed in some foreign institutions which are world class research centers but are somewhat less than enthusiastic about treasures while may not of the same category but definitely the same value slipped away right under our very nose. Why?

Jul 3,08

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Priceless relics making the way home - NST –July 3,08

KUALA LUMPUR: The country's priceless relics, which were transported abroad and kept out of the country for years, are slowly being identified and brought home. Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry deputy secretary-general (Heritage) Datuk Nor Azmal Mohd Nazir said research was ongoing to establish the authenticity of the artifacts.

"The National Heritage Department was assigned to conduct studies and research on heritage items since its formation in 2006.

"They have identified several artifacts, including relics, overseas, but formal announcements of identification are only made with clear facts and documents." He added that the Museums Department and the National Archives would also take part in the research as there were many procedures involved.

"It is not an easy task. When the artifacts are identified, they have to go through several tests and carbonisation processes. So it takes time." Azmal said, sometimes, the process of tracking down the artifacts was tough, especially when they were kept in personal collections."We can try our best to procure the artifacts, but some of the individuals ask for a very high price.

"We don't even know how the artifacts ended with them in the first place."

Last month, the New Straits Times front-paged a report on the efforts to retrieve Malay manuscripts abroad by the National Library and the National Archives.