Malaysiakini NEWS

Heritage activist who promotes classic facets of Penang

Koh Jun Lin  |  Published:  |  Modified:

MALAYSIANSKINI | George Town native Khoo Salma Nasution @ Khoo Su Nin, 55, wears many hats in championing the Penang capital’s colonial-era heritage.

She was the president of Penang Heritage Trust, and prior to that, was involved in the group’s successful lobbying to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to list George Town as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008.

Khoo Salma has written multiple books about Penang’s history, some of which were published through the publishing house Areca Books that she co-founded with her husband Abdur-Razzaq Lubis in 2004.

One of her books, The Chulia in Penang that talks about the Indian Muslim community on the island, won the International Conference of Asia Scholars (ICAS) book prize in 2015.

She is also a custodian of the Sun Yat Sen Museum in Penang, which was once the house of her grandfather, Ch’ng Teong Swee.

In campaigning to preserve Penang’s heritage, Khoo Salma has been lobbying against overdevelopment, swiftlet nest farming, gentrification and the Penang Pan-Island Link highway project.

She even had a one-and-half-year stint as Penang city councillor, beginning in 2017 as the representative of the NGO, Penang Forum, in the Penang Island City Council.

But the road to becoming a heritage activist – or indeed what to do at all – wasn’t clear at first when Khoo Salma left Duke University in the US, with her liberal arts degree in 1985...

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