Who really owns “hawker culture”? A Malaysian lawmaker has urged his peers in the northern state of Penang to be vigilant regarding the recent suggestion for Malaysia and Singapore to jointly apply for UNESCO’s recognition of hawker culture in both countries
As initially reported by Malaysian daily Malay Mail, lawmaker Lee Khai Loon said in a state legislative assembly that he opposes the joint, or serial nomination for “Hawker Culture in Singapore and Malaysia.”
Firstly, he insists that Penang be nominated specifically on its own to avoid confusion.
“Why shouldn’t the nomination use “Hawker Culture in Singapore and Penang” because putting Malaysia is too vague and does not specify Penang or pinpoint Penang’s unique feature as a food heaven?” Lee asks.
Secondly, Lee urged quick action as he doesn’t want Singapore to get the recognition before Malaysia does.
Fellow lawmaker Yeoh Soon Hin then responded to say that UNESCO nominations must represent a nation and not just specific places.
Yeoh added: “As hawker culture in Penang is more unique than the hawker culture in Singapore, as we still have hawkers by the roadside and in food courts, we have sent an official letter to the National Heritage Department and the deputy tourism minister to propose a joint nomination with Singapore under the title “Hawker Culture in Singapore and Malaysia”.”
On April 12 this year, Malaysia’s deputy tourism and culture minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik proposed the joint nomination with Singapore for UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List for 2020.
Singapore submitted its nomination to UNESCO in March this year. The nomination included letters, photographs and videos that showcased Singapore-wide local communities’ support for the bid./TISG