Sarawak Assembly passes Bill to have better cultural heritage law

Sulok Tawie
Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said there is a need to have a better heritage law and a workable system to address a broader scope of heritage in relation to the protection, conservation and preservation of the state’s heritage. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Nov 5 — The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly today unanimously passed the Sarawak Heritage Bill, 2019, that seeks to widen the scope of heritage to include underwater heritage and intangible cultural heritage, after 20 lawmakers debated on it.

The Bill, seeking to replace the Sarawak Cultural Heritage Ordinance, 1993, defines intangible heritage to include song and dances, skills and oral traditions.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, in tabling the Bill, said there is a need to have a better heritage law and a workable system to address a broader scope of heritage in relation to the protection, conservation and preservation of the state’s heritage.

He said it is also to safeguard and protect traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions of the communities in the state.

“The Bill is to establish the Sarawak Heritage Council to advise the state government on policy matters relating to heritage,” he said.

Karim said the council will also advise the state government to come up with action plans for the administration and management of heritage in Sarawak.

He added the Bill empowers the state government to set up the Sarawak Heritage Trust Fund and the Sarawak Heritage Register for the purpose of preservation and conservation works of the state’s heritage.

Karim allayed concerns expressed by DAP’s Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen on Section 16(1) with regard to non-native having to register their antiquities with the director of the Sarawak Museum Department.

He said the registration means that they are the registered owner of the antiquities and that no one can take away the ownership from them.

He said Chong should not be racial about the section that does not require the natives to register their antiquities.

“This particular provision is inherited from the past Antiquities Ordinance, 1954, when Sarawak was still a colony of the British, then into the Sarawak Cultural Heritage Ordinance, 1993,” he said, adding that this provision was taken in toto to the Sarawak Heritage Bill,2019.

Karim said Section 16(2) of the Bill states that certificates of registration will be issued by the director of Sarawak Museum as proof of ownership.

The Bill provides the penalties to be imposed for the commission of the various offences, ranging from a fine not exceeding RM6000 to not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment for five to 10 years.

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