Historian wants George Town, Butterworth replaced with original Malay names

Dr Ahmad Murad Marican

(Bernama) – Local Malay historians, academicians and non-governmental organisations (NGO) have urged Unesco, National Heritage Department and the state government to change George Town and Butterworth back to their original names.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Centre for Policy Research and International Studies (Cenpris) faculty member Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Murad Marican (pic) said that George Town’ original name was Tanjong and Butterworth’s original name was Bagan.

“The name proves that the Malay community has been here even before Francis Light came and by acknowledging the name, it means that the earlier history is being acknowledged as well. I hope the relevant authorities will be open to this,” he said at a press conference, here today.

The name of Tanjong was changed to George Town in 1786 by Francis Light and Bagan’s name was changed to Butterworth in 1800 by former Governor of Prince of Wales Island, Alexander William Leith.

“As we all know that George Town has been bestowed with the Unesco status as a city rich with history, we hope that the early part of the city’s history and narrative will also be included as well,” he said.

The idea to change the name had been mooted by Hashim Awang, a local assemblyman in 1958 but no follow up had been done by anyone till now.

Besides the name of George Town and Butterworth, Ahmad Murad also said that the state government could name the streets and roads according to the name of old Malay settlement founders such as Datuk Nakhoda Intan and Datuk Nakhoda Kecil.

Datuk Nakhoda Intan, or its original name Raja Nan Intan from Paya Kumbuh, Sumatera Barat had opened the Batu Uban port and built a settlement in the area in 1734 after getting approval from the Kedah sultanate, Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Abidin Muazzam Shah II.

After his arrival, his relatives, Nakhoda Bayan and Nakhoda Kecil had come to open a settlement in Bayan Lepas and Jelutong.

According to previous research done by USM, Francis Light had only arrived at the state some 52 years after they (Nakhoda Bayan and Nakhoda Kecil) had reached and till now, the Batu Uban mosque is still standing strong even though it is more than 200 years old.

Ahmad Murad who is also the president of Penang Heritage and History Society also said that the move was needed to decolonise George Town as currently the early settlement in Penang before Francis Light was not being recognised by any parties.

“It would be an honour for them as they had also contributed to the history of the state. Don’t only look at the white-man’s history. Look beyond it,” he said.