Landowner of 138-year-old grave site breached terms of permit, says Penang council

GEORGE TOWN: The landowner of the site where a 138-year-old grave was recently demolished has been given a show-cause letter by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and faces possible punitive action.

The grave belonged to Foo Teng Nyong (1816-1874), the third wife of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee.

MBPP said it had never received any application to redevelop the area but the landowner had applied for a permit to exhume the remains.

“The permit was issued on March 18, subject to conditions set.

“Among them is that the applicant must provide the council with the date of (exhumation) at least 10 days before, and (this) cannot be carried out without the supervision of council officials,” it said in a statement on Thursday (Sept 15).

ALSO READ: Penang govt to probe destruction of historic tomb

MBPP said it was regrettable that the applicant failed to comply with the conditions in the permit.

“Work was carried out on Aug 28 without any notice to the council and the grave was dug up without supervision from council officials.

“The council has issued notices of non-compliance with permit conditions and a show-cause letter to the applicant (land owner) on Sept 8 in accordance with Section 97(2) of the Local Government Act 1976 (Act 171),” the statement read.

The landowner was given seven days from the date of the notice to give an explanation or face follow-up action including possible prosecution in court, it added.

The demolition of the grave caused a furore among heritage conservation groups.

ALSO READ: Destruction of 138-year-old grave shows little respect given to Penang heritage, says MCA

MCA spokesperson Saw Yee Fung said the destruction of the historical grave in Penang showed little care and respect was given to the island’s heritage.

It is learnt that George Town Heritage Action (GTHA) has written to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) over the destruction of the grave.

Kapitan Chung played a pivotal role in the growth of Penang and Perak in the 1800s.

He left such an impact on Penang’s economy, public healthcare, education and social welfare that two streets were named after him: Keng Kwee Street, where tourists today enjoy Penang Teochew Cendol; and Ah Quee Street, the site of several iconic murals of the heritage enclave.

Foo Teng Nyong gave birth to several sons and daughters, one of whom was Chung Thye Phin, who became a tycoon and philanthropist in George Town and Ipoh.

She is also the aunt of Foo Choo Choon, who at one time earned the moniker Tin Mining King of Malaya.