Fort Cornwallis 228th Anniversary Celebration
SPEECH BY THE CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG, YAB LIM GUAN ENG
ON FORT CORNWALLIS 228TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
11TH AUGUST 2014
Fort Cornwallis is located on part of PT 4, Section 24, North East District, George Town, Penang measuring approximately 8.299 acres, is widely known as the crown jewel of George Town Heritage. George Town is a remarkable example of historic colonial towns on the Straits of Malacca, demonstrating a succession of historical and cultural influences arising from their former function as trading ports linking East and West. George Town is one of the most complete surviving historic city centre on the Straits of Malacca with a multi-cultural living heritage originating from the trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Malay Archipelago to China. It bears testimony to a living multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, where the many religions and cultures met and coexisted.
Fort Cornwallis is an old fort built in star-shaped formation classified as a heritage building under Category 1 and gazetted under the National Conservation Act and also listed as a core area of George Town World Heritage Site under the UNESCO Heritage Listings from 7th July 2008 .This is the first time that cultural sites in Malaysia have been inscribed into UNESCO's prestigious World Heritage Listing.
According to a historian, Marcus Langdon, Fort Cornwallis was first landed by Captain Francis Light on 17th July 1786 and official flag-raising and naming ceremony was held on the same day as today which is 11th August but way back in 1786. The fort was built from nibong palm trunks and completed by December 1786 and was named after the British Governor General of India at that time, Charles Marquis Cornwallis.
In 1804, when Colonel Robert Townsend Farquhar was the Governor of Penang, the fort was rebuilt with bricks and stones using imported Indian convicts labour. Fort Cornwallis was later completed in 1810 during Norman Macalister’s term as Governor of Penang.
Even though the fort was originally built for the Royal artillery troops and the military, its function, historically, was more administrative than defensive. In its entire history, the fort had never engaged in any battle.
Apart from being used for the British Royal artillery troops, the fort was once occupied by the Sikh Police of the Straits Settlements during the 1920s. After Merdeka, in 1977, the fort was declared as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act.
Fort Cornwallis functions as a tourism product and is the main attraction for tourists in George Town, Penang. Fort Cornwallis is the only fully intact historic old fort in the country, which is owned by the Penang State Government.
In line with the State Government's vision to transform Fort Cornwallis as an international tourist site, the State called for an Request For proposal (RFP) to refurbish, restore, enhance and manage Fort Cornwallis. The RFP was advertised on 1st June 2010 and closed on 30th August 2010 to invite qualified bidders to participate in the RFP.
The state accepted the proposal from Ewein Berhad and the Fort being a national monument in the core zone of UNESCO World Heritage Site, the State requested comments from various heritage agencies including the National Heritage Department and GTWHI. It was decided that enhancement, restoration and refurbishment work of the fort can only start after a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is prepared as a guideline.
While awaiting for the CMP, The State Government has awarded the management and minimal enhancement for the Fort Cornwallis with lighting to Ewein Berhad effective 1st of June 2014. Ewein Berhad via its special purpose vehicle The Esplanade Park Sdn. Berhad has agreed to maintain, operate and manage the fort and its surrounding,
a. Fort Cornwallis;
b. Lebuh Light Car Park;
c. Food Court which is known as Astaka Kota Selera; and
d. Other facilities located on the land.
The Company will also undertake other upgrading and maintenance works in respect of the existing facilities at its own costs and expense without any financial contribution and / or assistance from Penang State Government.
As you can see, there are many positive improvements has been done. Ewein Berhad has improved the landscape within and surrounding the fort with approximately 10, 000 plants. The LED lightings, which are displayed now on the external perimeter walls and the internal areas of the fort, with enhanced landscape beautifies the fort at night while ensuring the safety of visitors.
The upgrading of the stage and amphitheater in the fort provides a venue for cultural performances and will also serve as a platform to encourage and nurture more local talent whose creative work will bring pride to our state and country. Ewein as also made improvements to the car park and the surroundings facing the Dewan Undangan Negeri
I believe that is it important for us to protect, conserve and celebrate important historical buildings such as Fort Cornwallis. The improvements of Fort Cornwallis which have been carried out intend to help the Penang State Government to conserve the outstanding universal value of this historical building which has been the crown jewel and one of the main tourists attraction in Penang.
I hope the event will help promote Fort Cornwallis, not only as a tourism product but also as an important part of Penang’s heritage and history. I also hope the members of the public have enjoyed all the performances and celebration since 6.30pm and hope you had a wonderful experience with the various activities.
Furthermore this place can be a paltform to enhance and encourage more youth to participate in arts and cultural activities, bringing Penang to the next level in par with other Creative and International Cities.