Heritage Act vs Malaysia Metal detecting

After sharing the news about "The Lost Treasure of Johor" yesterday, a friend of mine Private Message me via Facebook, asking what the news is all about and will the news affect Malaysia Metal detecting scene. I don't reply his message because I already told him so many times, when the authority enforce the Heritage Act fully, he is one of many who will be brought to court because he already shared so many pictures of him found "treasures" using his Metal Detector.

Metal detecting

Today, The Star continued with their story about artefacts and treasures with a short explanation about Heritage Act and under the act, finders keepers policy does not apply especially to treasure that were found after 2005 (when the Act was first implemented). Like I said yesterday, any object discovered after Malaysia National Heritage Act has been announced in 2005 shall be the absolute property of the Federal Government. If the object is discovered on an alienated land, compensation may be paid to the owner of the land.

If you find any treasure of National Heritage, you need to inform a commissioner of heritage or a district officer to declare your find. Anyone who caught in their possession of undeclared artefacts can be fined up to RM50,000 and/or jailed for not more than five years.

That is what the law said but today, according to a report by The Star newspaper, lack of officials from the National Heritage Department is one of the main reason for not enforcing the Heritage Act. The news stated that their source close to the department? Not enough manpower has been a normal excuse for Malaysian Government agency. The Heritage Act has been around since 2005 and they still don't have enough manpower to enforce the act? I do think in 2020, they will still give the same reason and we can only see our National Heritage in foreign museum.

I don't think manpower is the only problem. They also lack of expertise in recognizing what are Malaysia National Heritage. Until today, you can still visit a Museum in Malacca with fake animal shape currency. How can they enforce the law when they themself don't understand how to check real animal shape currency? The fake currency has been on sale for many years and many people has been deceived by the "rare item".

I don't think the authority need to put so much manpower to enforce the Heritage Act. Malaysia Royal Customs Department officers are already at almost all Malaysian entry point. National Heritage Department should identified what are "Malaysia National Heritage artefacts and treasures" and share the information (pictures, how to recognise the item, general information etc) in their website or print a "book of Malaysia National Heritage artefacts and treasures" as a references to all entry point officer. Any artefacts and treasures that need to leave Malaysia must be declare to the authority and failed to do so, the person should be charged in court.

Nowadays, many Malaysian are illegally doing Metal Detecting looking for coins and treasures including my friend. Many of them do not realize that Heritage Act exist and under the law, the Federal Government under commissioner of heritage or a district officer can seized their find and bring them to court if the item is declared as national treasure. Lucky for them, National Heritage Department lack of manpower to enforce the law. I am not against metal detecting but as what I told my friend before, to all my Metal Detecting friends, beware what you shared online. Under National Heritage Act 2005, what you find is not exactly yours until a commissioner of heritage or a district officer said so.

Here are the news report by The Star Newspaper for everyone to read:

Heritage Act 'not enforced'

JOHOR BARU: No one has ever been caught or charged under the National Heritage Act 2005 despite the rampant selling and buying of artefacts and state treasures in Johor.

It is also learnt that while the Act clearly states that it is an offence to transfer, demolish, remove, alter, renovate or export any national heritage, enforcement itself is minimal.

Those found guilty under the Act face a jail term of up to five years or a fine of up to RM50,000 or both.

“Officials from the National Heritage Department are in charge of enforcing the law but they currently do not have enough manpower to do so,” said a source close to the department.

Most of the time, said the source, the department was only made aware of these treasures when it was told by those who had stumbled upon these artefacts.

“Even after that, it is difficult for officials to constantly monitor the finds. Sometimes, these are sold privately to the highest bidder,” said the source.

He was commenting on a report in The Star that artefacts and treasures from the old Johor kingdom and Malacca were being sold at lucrative prices in a thriving black market.

Yayasan Warisan Johor director Muhammad Fuad Radzuan said that under the law, those wanting to sell or export artefacts over a 100-year-old would need to apply for a licence from the National Heritage Department.

“Even antique dealers who sell artefacts more than 100 years old need to get a special licence,” he said yesterday.

Most museums, said Muhammad Fuad, had a separate budget set aside for the purchase of artefacts or other historical items.

“We usually allow the person selling these items to fix a price. We will then negotiate further and eventually purchase the item if the price is within the budget,” he said.

The time process, he said, depended on the artefact itself as some would need to be sent to the Nuclear Department for radiocarbon dating.

“If the artefact is rare, it can be bought for hundreds of thousands of ringgit while smaller and more common objects can fetch between RM1,000 and RM5,000 each,” he said, adding that the price was based on market value.

Source: The Star.


Finders keepers policy does not apply for heritage items

PETALING JAYA: The “finders keepers” policy does not apply to those who come across artefacts of cultural value, as far as the National Heritage Department is concerned.

A department official said Section 47 of the National Heritage Act 2005 states that finders should notify a commissioner of heritage or a district officer to declare their find.

“Any object discovered after the Act was enforced, automatically becomes absolute property of the Federal Government.

“Once we are notified, a team will be dispatched to evaluate whether the find can be classified as a heritage item,” she said.

If the item is found to be a heritage artefact, the commissioner will take it for safekeeping. He can also, at his discretion, pay a reasonable compensation to the finder, landowner, or the informant.

Any dispute regarding compensation will be referred to the Tourism and Culture Minister, whose decision will be final.

On how long the evaluation process usually takes, the officer said it differed based on the type and condition of the object found, but noted that it will “take time”.

“There are some who do not declare their discoveries, perhaps because they are unaware of the Act or they underestimate the values of the items.

“Anyone who finds such objects should come forward and declare them, so we can check to see if it is indeed a heritage,” she added.

Those caught in possession of undeclared artefacts can be fined up to RM50,000 and/or jailed for not more than five years.

Items found before the Act’s enforcement which is owned by a person or kept with a trustee/manager can also be issued a written notice, which forbids their sale or disposal without the consent of the commissioner.

Individuals and companies wishing to do business with heritage items can apply for a licence, as the law forbids anyone from doing such business unless they are registered traders and hold a certificate from the commissioner.

“The department goes to the ground to monitor licensees periodically, especially close to the time when their licences come up for yearly renewal,” the officer said.

“Anyone who breaches the regulations can be imprisoned for no less than five years or fined not more than RM50,000, or both.”

Source: The Star

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