Fortress of light

O Cultural dancers performing colourful routines on stage. • The outer perimeter walls of Fort Cornwallis lighted up at night by new LED fixtures. — P...

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Fortress of light Dazzling tribute marks 228th anniversary of Penang's crown jewel to see more photos

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O Visitors taking photos of 'actors' dressed in period costumes to celebrate the fort's 228th anniversary. O Cultural dancers performing colourful routines on stage. •

The outer perimeter walls of Fort Cornwallis lighted up at night by new LED fixtures.

— Photos by ZHAFARAN NASIB

By JEREMY TAN [email protected]

F

ORT Cornwallis had seen many anniversaries throughout its storied past, but the 228th will go down as one of the most memorable yet. The iconic bastion in George Town, Penang, which dates back to 1786, reverberated with the energy and excitement of thousands of visitors who were treated to a dazzling display of lights, fireworks and culture on Monday. Models dressed in period costumes role played scenes from the era of the fort's construction, while a line-up of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultural performances celebrated the state's diverse, ethnic make-up. The fort's brick and stone walls were then illuminated by thousands of LED lights, switched on for the first time after its recent installation by Ewein Berhad. Moments later, the night sky came alive with a brilliant display of pyrotechnics, whose colourful, flaming streaks were greeted by loud cheers. Chinese acrobatic and mask-changing routines, along with a sand art performance, kept the excitement going for locals and tourists alike who packed the open-air amphitheatre. Ewein managing director Datuk S.K. Ewe,

whose company won a five-year contract to manage the fort, said the new LED lights were part of a multi-million ringgit upgrading project. With the new lights creating a different ambience, the fort will soon be open to the public at night. Other enhancements included the planting of over 10,000 plants in and around the fort, and grass turfs across 50,000sq ft (4,645sq metres) of the fort grounds. Improvements would also be made to the museum and facilities inside the fort, as well as the food court and open-air car park beside it. Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz lauded the efforts, and said the event was a momentous milestone for one of Penang's prime attractions. "Fort Cornwallis has stood as the state's richest historical edifice, whose legacy played a major role in George Town securing the Unesco World Heritage Site status. "It also stands out as the largest and most intact fort in Malaysia, and these improvements will return the crown jewel to its former glory," Nazri added in his speech at the anniversary celebrations. He said tourism was one of the most important contributors to the country's economy, contributing RM51.5bil to the gross national income

in 2013. Overall tourism revenues were RM6Obil in 2012 and RM65.44bil in 2013. For 2014, he said the projected figure was RM76bil. "We are targeting to earn RM168bil from 36 million tourist arrivals by 2020," he added. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the fort was a world-class tourist attraction that should be enjoyed not only during the day, but also at night. "It is important to preserve and celebrate historical structures like Fort Cornwallis whose rich history would not be told without the people of Malaysia," he added. The anniversary celebrations ended with performances by Akademi Fantasia 2013 champion Faizul, and Astro Star Quest 2014 champion Uriah See. During the event, visitors also placed flowers at a memorial as a tribute to victims of the MH370 and MH17 flights. Fort Cornwallis was erected by Sir Francis Light on July 17, 1786, as a palisade of palm tree trunks on then Prince of Wales Island. It was named after the Governor-General of Bengal (India), Charles Cornwallis. In 1804, Penang Governor Colonel Robert Townsend Farquhar gave the fort its walls of bricks and stones that stand to this day.