Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Historian’s mark on Rukunegara

Monday, July 6th, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim has been gone for a year but his deeds live on.Like a tiger that dies leaving its stripes, he died leaving his name.

Khoo, who died on May 28 last year, was a historian whose contributions were a source of reference to many, especially in matters concerning Malaysian history.

And with the July 9 celebration of Rukunegara’s 50th anniversary in conjunction with the Merdeka Month and National Day, his name comes to mind as Khoo was one of those who had drafted the principles of Rukunegara before they were declared on Aug 31, 1970.

Khoo was also known as a nationalist and a patriot.

“My father was always proud to introduce himself as a Malaysian,” his son Eddin said.

“As the eldest of three siblings, I was close to my father. When I was five or six, I used to follow him to schools and other places across the country where he engaged in information programmes.

“Indirectly, he introduced me to Rukunegara and told me the history of the places we went to, which at the same time built my interest in the Malay language as my father had a very good command of it,” said Eddin, who is a writer, cultural activist and patron of Pusaka, a cultural organisation,

Eddin, 51, said he and his siblings were raised to be polite and respectful of others, besides being open-minded to embrace ethnic, racial, cultural and religious diversity.

“No racial pride and prejudice allowed in our house.

“My father was a Peranakan Chinese from Kampar, Perak. My mother (Puan Sri Rathi Khoo) is Tamil and (when I was small) I was cared for by a Malay aunt who lived with us.

“It was indeed an extraordinary experience to have three major races in Malaysia living in the same house, practising their culture and religion in peace. It was that peaceful environment that made me hesitate to leave the house because I knew things were different outside,” he said.

Rukunegara was introduced as a result of the meeting of Majlis Gerakan Negara which was set up following the May 13, 1969 incident.

It was formed with the main purpose of forming a strong unity for the country’s success and stability.

Sharing his experience of interviewing his father in a programme which focused on Rukunegara, Eddin said what impressed him the most was his father’s open-mindedness in hearing the opinions of others.

“The discussions were rather heated as they were talking about the first principle of Rukunegara, which is Belief in God.

“What was concluded was that most people have their own religious faith and they believe in God.

“But my father did not dismiss those who didn’t, such as the atheists. This (open-mindedness) is the trait that was needed to enable such a topic to be discussed in greater depth,” he said.

Eddin said through his observation after being involved in cultural programmes at the grassroots level for almost 30 years, Rukunegara had indeed been well accepted by every Malaysian.

“However, there is still a lack of observation and appreciation for the Rukunegara on the people’s part,” he said.

As such, he expressed hope that more efforts would be taken to nurture the spirit of and respect for the Rukunegara, especially among the younger generation.

by Bernama.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/07/06/historians-mark-on-rukunegara#cxrecs_s

KL’s iconic buildings to get facelift

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
The courtyard of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.  - NSTP/Zulfadhli Zulkifli
The courtyard of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. – NSTP/Zulfadhli Zulkifli

KUALA LUMPUR: The decaying century-old cluster of colonial buildings at the junction of Jalan Raja and Jalan Tun Perak here will be given a facelift.

The iconic buildings include the old Federated Malay States (FMS) Survey Office and Supreme Court.

Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan told the New Straits Times that the former custodian of the buildings, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, had handed them over to City Hall for the RM120 million upgrade.

“We will open them up soon to the public and access will be free. You can walk inside the buildings and take pictures.

“But those who want to use them for private functions will have to pay,” he said, adding that a bangsawan (Malay opera) play had been scheduled for Panggung Bandaraya’s reopening.

“Our main concern is securing the place. We need to have enough guards. I am afraid that the homeless will make the place theirs.

“They have been using the fountain in the area to bathe,” he said, referring to the fountain and pools at the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

One of the sites at the colonial buildings which is in need of repair. - NSTP/File picOne of the sites at the colonial buildings which is in need of repair. – NSTP/File pic

He said part of the allocation for the upgrade was expected to be used for the restorative work outside the building.

It is yet to be established whether the money will be used for damaged water features, tiles and marble slabs of the courtyard there, built under the controversial River of Life (RoL) project.

(The NST reported in October that it would cost taxpayers another RM1 million to fix and replace vandalised fountains and weathered fittings. The upgrades, part of the project’s RM130 million flagship, had been handed over to City Hall for barely six months before the additional maintenance allocation was required.)

Hisham, however, said the rejuvenation work, including the structural upgrade, was being monitored by registered conservators under the National Heritage Department (NHD).

He said the job was 100 per cent City Hall’s and outsiders could submit ideas, but would not be recruited.

“The project is ours. We don’t want to pay people (consultants) and have them claim that it is theirs.”

A flashback of the NST front page on Nov 18 last year. A flashback of the NST front page on Nov 18 last year.

City Hall’s Project Implementation and Building Maintenance Department senior deputy director, Norzaini Noordin, said the involvement of outsiders was limited to registered conservators.

“This is an NHD requirement and we have to update the dilapidation report commissioned for the buildings,” she said, referring to a report done when City Hall sought but failed to take over the buildings.

She said the allocation would be stretched out over a period of 10 years or more so that a thorough job could be done.

The decision to spread the funds was based on Malaysian Institute of Architects’ Heritage and Conservation Committee head Steven Thang’s conservation strategy for the iconic structures, pitched by NST in a special report.

Thang, enlisted by the NST to analyse the degradation, had prescribed RM200 million to be spread over a decade or two.

Norzaini said Panggung Bandaraya (at the old City Hall), parts of the old City Hall headquarters and the courtyard of the cluster would be opened in May.

This dome in Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur is on the verge of falling off. -NSTP/Azhar Ramli

This dome in Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur is on the verge of falling off. -NSTP/Azhar Ramli

“We are planning to open the Supreme Court. But this will be after we have done some work on the building, and after it is declared safe for use.

“The building will be a creative space for exhibitors and community programmes,” she said, adding that the funds were not from RoL’s allocation, but City Hall’s instead.

However, she said, it would take some time for the FMS Survey Office to be restored as it was in a bad state.

NST had reported that the office and the old City Hall were in need of urgent repairs.

Experts projected the collapse of its roofing in the next five years or earlier if nothing was done.

Two domes in Jalan Tun Perak were on the verge of falling off, stripping the buildings of their identity.

Overall, the cost of plugging the leaks, as well as fixing the roofing and domes, is expected to be between RM10 million and RM15 million.

A tree growing in the Federated Malay States Survey Office building in Kuala Lumpur. -Pic taken in November 2019, NST photographer, Muhd Zaaba Zakeria.A tree growing in the Federated Malay States Survey Office building in Kuala Lumpur. -Pic taken in November 2019, NST photographer, Muhd Zaaba Zakeria

Exterior walls, plastering and the brickwork of the old Supreme Court and the FMS Survey Office are flaking off.

To make matters worse, a Bollywood production crew, which was allowed to use the cluster’s shared courtyard, had painted the FMS Survey Office’s walls.

Thang, who was recruited to oversee a conservation project at the old Supreme Court involving RoL that was shelved in 2017, said the buildings had been left as they were.

Algae, wet rot, plants, creepers and trees were already fixtures on the roofs of the buildings ever since they were left vacant after the relocation of the court to Jalan Duta in 2007.

The FMS Survey Office building appears to be in the worst state.

A tree was found growing in its air well, while the roof and other wooden structures like the staircase crumbled under the weight of neglect.

Thang had, however, said the dilapidation report done while the conservation work was under way had marked the icons as structurally sound.

Budget constraints are believed to be the reason why the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry relinquished the management and operation of the buildings.

The ministry had told the NST that Think City Sdn Bhd, in its assessment, reported that it would take RM200 million to restore the buildings.

A check by the NST recently found City Hall was doing work on its old headquarters. It had been painting and reinforcing the building.

By Veena Babulal.

Read more  @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/exclusive/2020/02/562143/kls-iconic-buildings-get-facelift

George Town listed as ‘Top 10 Best cities for Digital Nomads’

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020
 George Town was ranked among the top 10 Best Destinations for Digital Nomads. - NSTP/Fil e picGeorge Town was ranked among the top 10 Best Destinations for Digital Nomads. – NSTP/Fil e pic

GEORGE TOWN: George Town added another feather to its cap when it made it into the list of “The 10 Best Destinations for Digital Nomads” recently.

George Town came in fourth after Da Nang in Vietnam and Cancun and Merida in Mexico with good cost of living, ample co-working spaces, good level of free Wi-Fi and friendliness.

However, traffic safety, population density and internet speed ranked lower.

The survey carried out by Storage Cafe, an online platform that lists self-storage units for rent, polled a number of digital nomads to whip up the list of the best destinations for remote workers.

It conducted research on the 100 most recommended locations based on 20 factors such as cost of living, quality of life, friendliness to foreigners, internet infrastructure, safety, healthcare, air pollution and entertainment.

In an article published on www.storagecafe.com yesterday, its writer Francis Chantree said digital nomad lifestyle had become much more attractive in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic as working online became increasingly popular and doable even in industries otherwise regarded as office-dependent.

On George Town, Chantree said: “Locations such as Vietnam’s Da Nang and Malaysia’s George Town are very chilled and offer good value for money, while Bali and Colombia’s Medellin are recommended for their friendliness and laidback vibe, which seems to be reflected in the scores.

“While renowned destinations in Thailand and Bali performed commendably — and our survey respondents particularly recommended such places for their food — it may be their popularity is taking a toll on how comfortable it is to live there now.

“Digital nomads will want to know not only which places were popular but which will be the best in the future. Chiang Mai, for instance, has air pollution problems these days, registering a much worse score for that than all but one of our top 20 cities.

“Many governments and tourist boards want to spread the load by directing nomads to places with better air and less burdened infrastructures, which pushes other destinations up the popularity ranking before too long.

“Also, with internet provision being a big factor, nomads’ discovery of the free Wifi we see in highly ranked Vietnamese, Malaysian and Mexican destinations, for example, may signal imminent boosts in their fortunes,” he added.

Chantree is a senior editor and writer for US-based self storage search portal STORAGECafé, with extensive experience writing for a variety of publications and expertise of economics and business issues gained from more than a decade providing information to the real estate industry.

Meanwhile, state Tourism, Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin took to his Facebook page to share the good news.

“We made it into the list again,” he said, sharing an article published today by Roadtrippers.asia with the headline “Georgetown, DaNang and Koh Phangan listed as Top 10 Best cities for Digital Nomads”.

Last year, CNN Travel, CNN International’s new travel website, named Penang as one of 17 Asia’s best destinations to consider for the next adventure, singling it out as a ‘Mecca’ for food and architecture lovers.

On July 13, 2018, Bangkok-based CNN Travel senior producer Karla Cripps, in her article “George Town, Penang: Asia’s greatest street food city?” wrote at length on Penang’s street food culture and the state as an eater’s paradise.

By Audrey Dermawan.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/06/601265/george-town-listed-top-10-best-cities-digital-nomads

The emergency: A day to remember

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020
The atrocities committed by the communist terrorists during the Emergency were appalling. PIC FROM NSTP ARCHIVE The atrocities committed by the communist terrorists during the Emergency were appalling. PIC FROM NSTP ARCHIVE

THE murder of A.E. Walker in Elphin Estate, Sungai Siput, Perak on June 16, 1948, changed the political landscape of Malaya.

The killings of another two European planters soon after culminated in the declaration of the Emergency in Perak on June 18 and subsequently on June 23 in the entire country. It was imposed by British high commissioner Sir Edward Gent.

As the years went by, memories of the tumultuous times of the Malayan Emergency grew dimmer except perhaps in the minds of the older generation.

But it is important that the Emergency, which began 72 years ago this month, should not be forgotten. It represents one of the most important events in Malayan and Malaysian history.

The Emergency was the name given by the British to the armed uprising of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) from 1948 to 1960.

The CPM aimed to overthow the government and establish the Communist People’s Democratic Republic of Malaya.

The Emergency was a bloody, internecine war. The British colonial government called it an “Emergency” and not “war” so that London commercial insurance rates, on which Malayan commerce and industry relied upon, would not be adversely affected. But it was nothing less than an outright war.

The Emergency affected the country as the atrocities committed by the bandits (later called communist terrorists) were enormous.

The economy was in tatters, people were killed and infrastructure damaged. Parts of the country were placed under frequent curfew, buses and lorries were ambushed and burnt and the mail train between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was often attacked and derailed.

Coming so soon after the end of World War 2 and the Japanese Occupation, the Emergency shook the country to its foundations.

During this period, military action was carried out by the Malayan forces and police together with Commonwealth forces from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Kenya, Nyasaland (Malawi), Uganda and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Gurkha units under the British Command were also mobilised. The sacrifices made by all these people, including civilians, were huge.

There were several factors contributing to the defeat of militant communism in Malaya, including the fact that the country was never placed under martial law and the civil government ran the show.

During the Emergency, Malayan forces and police combined with Commonwealth troops to battle the communist terrorists. PIC FROM NSTP ARCHIVE During the Emergency, Malayan forces and police combined with Commonwealth troops to battle the communist terrorists. PIC FROM NSTP ARCHIVE

Director of Operations, General Sir Harold Briggs, in his famous “Briggs Plan” saw the need to break the connection between the communists and supporters in the countryside.

This culminated in the establishment of new villages where the majority of the Chinese were resettled.

The arrival of Briggs’ successor, General Sir Gerald Templer, brought a fresh approach to the campaign to defeat the communists. He adopted the “hearts and minds” campaign which ultimately gained the support of the people.

The part played by political leaders of the period also contributed to the defeat of militant communism as the country took the road to nationhood and the cry for Merdeka began to take root.

In an interview with the BBC in the documentary titled Jungle Green Khaki Brown aired on TV3 during the 50th anniversary of independence, Templer said, “if Malaya can defeat militant communism, then independence can be considered”.

Though the Emergency officially ended on July 31, 1960, the insurrection continued. It only ended when peace was signed between the government of Malaysia and the CPM to “terminate hostilities” on Dec 2, 1986 at the Lee Garden Hotel in Hatyai, Thailand.

It is important to note the peace agreement did not state the communists surrendered or capitulated.

The only remembrance of this day is held on a beautifully maintained cemetery called God’s Little Acre in Batu Gajah, Perak. This ceremony is held on the second Saturday of June each year where veterans from the UK and Commonwealth countries gather to pay their respects to the fallen. They include planters, miners and their descendants.

One has only to see how Anzac Day is celebrated in Australia, New Zealand and in other Commonwealth countries. This is to honour the soldiers who fought the Ottoman Turks at Gallipoli in World War I in 1915.

Another date that is being remembered by the allies in World War 2 is June 6, 1944 — D-Day.

The authorities should think about putting the start of the Emergency in the annals of our history by commemorating this date on a scale befitting its impact on the country’s road to Merdeka as fifth prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in his foreword to the book The Malayan Emergency Revisited 1948-1960: “This episode still has relevance for us today, as we see terrorism being waged in many parts of the globe. We must assure the people violence can never be justified and that terror has no place in the world.”

By Datuk Abdul Mutalib Razak.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/06/600849/emergency-day-remember

History of the United States is far more complex

Friday, June 12th, 2020
US President Donald Trump arrives for a roundtable with faith leaders, law enforcement officials, and small business owners at Gateway Church Dallas Campus in Dallas, Texas. -AFP picUS President Donald Trump arrives for a roundtable with faith leaders, law enforcement officials, and small business owners at Gateway Church Dallas Campus in Dallas, Texas. -AFP pic

LETTER: As an American living in Malaysia, I am entirely appalled by the published opinion pieces found in New Straits Times “Leader” section, with regards to the politics of the United States.

This is obvious within 3 of the latest articles titled: “America, Be Afraid”, “America Can’t Breathe”, and “Seize the Minnesota moment”. Each is filled with half-truths, false information, narrow-mindedness, and cherry picking of historical anecdotes. The entire purpose is to slam American exceptionalism.

The root of character smearing is jealousy. In the latter of the articles, which is a meandering, unfocused piece that a reader can’t distinguish if the purpose is to bash racism or exceptionalism, the anonymous author tries to uphold Spike Lee as some purveyor of truth as Lee states, “The land was stolen from the native people, genocide was committed against the native people, and our ancestors were stolen from Africa and brought here to work”.

Well, it must be that simple! Except for the fact that the African slave trade only began once African tribal lords captured and sold slaves to Europeans. Are they complicit, or is this to be conveniently forgotten?

Or the fact that it is well known that Native American tribes were brutally conducting near-genocide assaults on one another prior to the so-called genocide perpetrated by the European settlers, as well as aiding and abetting white combatants during raids against perceived tribal enemies.

The history of the United States is far more complex than these articles are stating. It would be best to leave these opinions out of print without better scrutiny of history. While the world rages about George Floyd and tries to make this simply a race issue, I would ask you this, have you heard of Tony Timpa or Daniel Shaver?

Two white Americans who were brutally and unjustly murdered at the hands of police. Nobody protested, looted, or rioted because of their deaths. Why not? Again, it is complexity that can’t be fully discussed within an email. There is a problem with police brutality, which is not solely unjust towards just one race.

Fact: Between 2013 and 2019, 29 unarmed black Americans were killed by police and 51 unarmed white Americans were killed by police. Source: https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/nationaltrends

America does have a police problem. If you want to spit some vitriol in your opinion sections, that would be a just focus. Also, while you try to demonize the United States, let me provide you with something to consider instead of the academia blather you are fond of:

Fact: The United States has only 4.25 percent of the world’s population

Fact: The United States paid 15 percent of the WHO budget

Fact: The United States paid 28 percent of the UN budget

Seems like America does more than it’s fair share to the keeping the commonwealth of the world alive. How much financial support does Malaysia provide to the general safety and security of the world?

America might not be exceptional. It has it’s flaws. Don’t ever forget this, without the willingness of young Americans who grew up in a capitalist and democratic society, who gave their lives for the freedom of the entire world, Malaysia would not exist and this would be a Japanese-speaking region.

That heart for the world still resides in most Americans, but you won’t ever hear about it because that type of news does not sell!

by SHAUN FITZPATRICK.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2020/06/600047/history-united-states-far-more-complex

Islamic history shows how to deal with health threats

Friday, May 22nd, 2020
Health workers perform a nose swab test during a drive through coronavirus test campaign held in Diriyah hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP)Health workers perform a nose swab test during a drive through coronavirus test campaign held in Diriyah hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP)

THE Quran does not mention any plague (ta’un) by name, but makes references to destructions of bygone people, adding also that calamities occur only within God’s all-embracing knowledge (57:22; 64:11). Ta’un is the subject, however, of many hadiths in al-Bukhari and Muslim, including:

“If you hear of the outbreak of ta’un in a land, do not enter it; but if it breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.

“When ta’un has struck, any faithful who stays patiently at home while knowing that nothing befalls him that God has not pre-ordained – earns the reward of a martyr,” or “Death from a plague is martyrdom for every Muslim.”

Lastly, “(And with regard to animals): The sick should not be taken where the healthy ones are.”

Some Muslim scholars have drawn the conclusion that the Prophet’s movement control orders during plagues are obligatory.

It is also not accidental that Ibn Sina (d. 428/1037), a Muslim scientist, was the first to introduce a 40-day social isolation measure calling it ‘al-Arba’iniyah’, which was almost literally translated as ‘quarantine’ in European languages.

The Covid-19 pandemic that has hitherto claimed over 325,000 lives, prompted authorities around the world, including in Malaysia, to impose restrictions on movement, business and travel.

The caliph ‘Umar’s management of the plague of ‘Amwas is a case history of contemporary relevance: when the caliph heard of its outbreak, he decided to go to Syria himself to manage it. Upon reaching Surgh outside Madinah, he met with Abu ‘Ubaidah al-Jarrah, Commander of the Muslim army in Syria, who advised the caliph to proceed to Syria.

At this point, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf came forward and quoted the hadith from the Prophet that when plague is raging, one should not go from the non-infected to the infected area or vice versa. That settled the matter and ‘Umar returned to Madinah.

The caliph then ordered that troops be moved to a healthier place in Jabiah. However, days after arrival, Abu ‘Ubaidah died of the plague, followed by Muadh b. Jabal. Their successor, ‘Amr bin al-’Aas executed ‘Umar’s orders to shift the troops to the hills, and to separate them into smaller groups to reduce interactions.

Covid-19 has also prompted questions over the higher purposes (maqasid) of syariah as to which comes first: protection of religion or protection of life. Although the conventional ordering of maqasid prioritises protection of religion (hifz al-din) over that of life (hifz al-nafs), actual life experience of the pandemic points to life as being the first priority.

Muslims were asked by their governments to perform Friday and other daily prayers at home to contain the deadly virus. Protection of religion had thus to give way to the protection of life. Travel bans imposed by Muslim countries also meant postponement of the ‘umrah – and it looks likely even of the haj.

Congregational prayer and ‘umrah are arguably Sunnah, not wajib, but even the haj proper, which is wajib, may be postponed to save life – a higher wajib. This order of priority is also noted in the following example: when a fit person sees another drowning, yet he runs the risk of losing the salat time – which should he prioritise? The answer is definitely to save the drowning.

Instances of conflict between the protection of life and that of property (hifz al-maal) have also been noted. Almost all businesses are shut under lockdown conditions and people are suffering, some with extreme hardship, yet all this is tolerated in order to protect life.

The traditional order of the maqasid that places religion first is based on an extremist scenario: when enemy forces attack a Muslim country, Muslims are duty-bound to fight and sacrifice their lives for their religion. But extreme situations are unrealistic, as no order can be observed in emergencies.

One also gives life to protect one’s property, family etc., hence maqasid priorities should be based on normal, rather than extreme, situations.

For life is the sine qua non of all other syariah ordinances and should therefore come first. Hence, a corrective is due to the conventional ordering of the essential maqasid – if the syariah is to relate meaningfully to people’s lives.

By Professor Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/05/594630/islamic-history-shows-how-deal-health-threats

KL’s iconic buildings to get facelift

Sunday, April 26th, 2020
The courtyard of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.  - NSTP/Zulfadhli ZulkifliThe courtyard of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. – NSTP/Zulfadhli Zulkifli

KUALA LUMPUR: The decaying century-old cluster of colonial buildings at the junction of Jalan Raja and Jalan Tun Perak here will be given a facelift.

The iconic buildings include the old Federated Malay States (FMS) Survey Office and Supreme Court.

Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan told the New Straits Times that the former custodian of the buildings, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, had handed them over to City Hall for the RM120 million upgrade.

“We will open them up soon to the public and access will be free. You can walk inside the buildings and take pictures.

“But those who want to use them for private functions will have to pay,” he said, adding that a bangsawan (Malay opera) play had been scheduled for Panggung Bandaraya’s reopening.

“Our main concern is securing the place. We need to have enough guards. I am afraid that the homeless will make the place theirs.

“They have been using the fountain in the area to bathe,” he said, referring to the fountain and pools at the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

One of the sites at the colonial buildings which is in need of repair. - NSTP/File picOne of the sites at the colonial buildings which is in need of repair. – NSTP/File pic

He said part of the allocation for the upgrade was expected to be used for the restorative work outside the building.

It is yet to be established whether the money will be used for damaged water features, tiles and marble slabs of the courtyard there, built under the controversial River of Life (RoL) project.

(The NST reported in October that it would cost taxpayers another RM1 million to fix and replace vandalised fountains and weathered fittings. The upgrades, part of the project’s RM130 million flagship, had been handed over to City Hall for barely six months before the additional maintenance allocation was required.)

Hisham, however, said the rejuvenation work, including the structural upgrade, was being monitored by registered conservators under the National Heritage Department (NHD).

He said the job was 100 per cent City Hall’s and outsiders could submit ideas, but would not be recruited.

“The project is ours. We don’t want to pay people (consultants) and have them claim that it is theirs.”

A flashback of the NST front page on Nov 18 last year. A flashback of the NST front page on Nov 18 last year.

City Hall’s Project Implementation and Building Maintenance Department senior deputy director, Norzaini Noordin, said the involvement of outsiders was limited to registered conservators.

“This is an NHD requirement and we have to update the dilapidation report commissioned for the buildings,” she said, referring to a report done when City Hall sought but failed to take over the buildings.

She said the allocation would be stretched out over a period of 10 years or more so that a thorough job could be done.

The decision to spread the funds was based on Malaysian Institute of Architects’ Heritage and Conservation Committee head Steven Thang’s conservation strategy for the iconic structures, pitched by NST in a special report.

Thang, enlisted by the NST to analyse the degradation, had prescribed RM200 million to be spread over a decade or two.

Norzaini said Panggung Bandaraya (at the old City Hall), parts of the old City Hall headquarters and the courtyard of the cluster would be opened in May.

This dome in Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur is on the verge of falling off. -NSTP/Azhar RamliThis dome in Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur is on the verge of falling off. -NSTP/Azhar Ramli

“We are planning to open the Supreme Court. But this will be after we have done some work on the building, and after it is declared safe for use.

“The building will be a creative space for exhibitors and community programmes,” she said, adding that the funds were not from RoL’s allocation, but City Hall’s instead.

However, she said, it would take some time for the FMS Survey Office to be restored as it was in a bad state.

NST had reported that the office and the old City Hall were in need of urgent repairs.

Experts projected the collapse of its roofing in the next five years or earlier if nothing was done.

Two domes in Jalan Tun Perak were on the verge of falling off, stripping the buildings of their identity.

Overall, the cost of plugging the leaks, as well as fixing the roofing and domes, is expected to be between RM10 million and RM15 million.

A tree growing in the Federated Malay States Survey Office building in Kuala Lumpur. -Pic taken in November 2019, NST photographer, Muhd Zaaba Zakeria.A tree growing in the Federated Malay States Survey Office building in Kuala Lumpur. -Pic taken in November 2019, NST photographer, Muhd Zaaba Zakeria.

Exterior walls, plastering and the brickwork of the old Supreme Court and the FMS Survey Office are flaking off.

To make matters worse, a Bollywood production crew, which was allowed to use the cluster’s shared courtyard, had painted the FMS Survey Office’s walls.

Thang, who was recruited to oversee a conservation project at the old Supreme Court involving RoL that was shelved in 2017, said the buildings had been left as they were.

Algae, wet rot, plants, creepers and trees were already fixtures on the roofs of the buildings ever since they were left vacant after the relocation of the court to Jalan Duta in 2007.

The FMS Survey Office building appears to be in the worst state.

A tree was found growing in its air well, while the roof and other wooden structures like the staircase crumbled under the weight of neglect.

Thang had, however, said the dilapidation report done while the conservation work was under way had marked the icons as structurally sound.

Budget constraints are believed to be the reason why the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry relinquished the management and operation of the buildings.

The ministry had told the NST that Think City Sdn Bhd, in its assessment, reported that it would take RM200 million to restore the buildings.

A check by the NST recently found City Hall was doing work on its old headquarters. It had been painting and reinforcing the building.

By Veena Babulal.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/exclusive/2020/02/562143/kls-iconic-buildings-get-facelift

Prehistoric Niah skeletal collections returning home from US

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

KUCHING: Prehistoric skeletal collection from the Niah Cave taken to the United States in the 1960s are on their way back to Sarawak.

The remains, comprising 122 bone fragments, are expected to arrive on Friday (Mar 6), after the process to ship them back started last month.

Their arrival would conclude a three-year effort since the state Museum Department signed a memorandum in 2017 with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for the collection to be handed back.

The bone collection was then transferred to the University of Florida, also in 2017, for temporary safekeeping and consolidation.

“This is the homecoming of the Niah skeletal remains from the University of Nevada. It’s been a long journey and indeed we are blessed that we still have this collection in good condition.

“It’s on the way back, and this is for the people of Sarawak,” Assistant Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Sebastian Ting said after opening a seminar on the return of the remains here on Thursday (Mar 5).

He said the collection would be housed in the new Sarawak Museum Complex’s storage facility, where they can be further studied by researchers.

“This invaluable historical and cultural heritage tells us about past human activities and also reflects a nation’s civilisation.

“The protection and preservation of these heritage assets are a priority and Sarawak is committed to this,” he said.

University of Florida lecturer Dr John Krigbaum said ongoing research on Niah’s prehistory would be enhanced through reuniting the Nevada collection with other cave materials in the Sarawak Museum.

“We are very pleased to have the materials from the University of Nevada finally come home to Sarawak. At the University of Florida, we had the privilege to take care of these materials, study them and prepare them for their long journey home.

“Research is ongoing and we should have results in the next year or so. We do know that there is a lot to learn now that the two assemblages are unified again,” he said.

Krigbaum said the research included looking at diet and subsistence, ancient DNA analysis and burial features at Niah.

“Now that we have the two assemblages together, we can start to pare down what are true burial features and what is just a bone here or there.

“The remains date from maybe 12,000 years ago to about 2,000 years ago. We’re talking about humans who were using the cave for cave activities early on, about 10,000 years ago, and then mostly using the cave later on for ritual purposes and a cemetery,” he said.

By SHARON LING.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/03/05/prehistoric-niah-skeletal-collections-returning-home-from-us

A nation at the crossroads

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

The path to a better future, says our columnist, is based on shared history, economy and spirituality.

MANY of my friends were deeply disturbed and distraught over last week’s events. I was not. My familiar calm disposition came from 20 years of contemplating the root cause of racial and religious conflicts in Malaysia.

Many academics, activists and others point to politics and politicians. I never did that. I know the very root of our problem.

In this article, I elaborate on the direction that we as a nation can take that may help end the racial and religious impasse once and for all. It is really up to us and not a few scheming and selfish politicians. We the people have no one to blame but ourselves.

My strategy for our nation is simply about sharing. We must all “share” as a nation and only then can we feel for each other.

There is no partisan politics in this strategy, which relies solely on various forms of education.

We are always harping on the idea that our education system is in crisis but we often ask for the wrong things, such as more time to teach Science and English and less for religious studies, or more money for computers.

These are merely educational tools and infrastructure that mean nothing without the proper perspective and attitude concerning what we teach.

The first thing that our education must do is to present a construct of a shared history. Through it, we will know about all our many ethnic groups instead of concentrating on one race and one religion. If there are 10 religions or belief systems, then we must have a basic understanding of as well as plain respect for all of them.

It is important to understand how historical events have shaped the values and way of life of each of our ethnic groups.

The shared history must also cover the successes and failures of events deemed turning points in our history. Remember that our history is the history of Malaysia, not of Tanah Melayu per se.

We must teach the perspective that all our historical events have indeed happened and that we accept each and every one of them. Apportioning of blame and ideas of what-ifs in revising history should be avoided at all cost.

Until we as a nation understand that we are the product, the by-product and the cause of our history, together as a people entwined with ourselves in different communities, we will never share the precious aspects of history in our lives.

Our arts, culture, traditional food and architecture present the imprints of cultural, technological and aesthetic integration of peoples of various races and religions or beliefs. These are the facts and pages of our nation’s upbringing, a shared heritage of things, events and lives.

Second, if we are to progress as a strong nation, we must have the attitude and perspective of a shared economy.

I am not an economist and I would not try to position myself as a self-made expert. What is mostly presented as economic measures are what I term as macro issues that involve the movement of large amounts of materials, capital and resources. My approach to a shared economy is more spiritual, not mathematical or scientific.

When the nation was poor, the resources and policies were geared towards education in order to prepare the young with the skills and knowledge to sustain themselves and in this, we have significantly succeeded.

Malaysia now has many middle-class households. What is the responsibility of this group of citizens? Overseas holidays and expensive houses and condos are simplistic constructs of wealth and success that give no lasting meaning.

My approach to a shared economy is to ask the middle class to consider adopting and taking care of families from the B40 group. Instead of relying on just the policy makers to help the needy, we too must play an important role. All religious faiths teach about helping others as a significant path to higher spirituality.

For some of us, RM400 is what we spend on lunch over 20 days. For the B40, RM400 a month helps to feed and buy books for the four or five children per family.

There are many other ways in which a shared economy can work, for instance, through corporations helping the poor. Thus, the economy is not just about a RM200mil investment in flying cars but also about individuals and businesses investing in the community in the way a nation does in its people.

The third element that the nation badly needs is a shared spirituality.

It saddens and worries me greatly when religion becomes divisive because some people focus on forms and history. Some religions have an empire-building history and as a result, many adherents look at others as enemies or with mistrust. Also, the sanctity and rituals of some religions may lead to an unfair judgement of others.

A shared spirituality is simply about sharing the hardships and uncertainties of life such as health and financial problems. All faiths teach the goodness and high spiritual value of helping others. God does not care about the skin colour, faith or disposition of the people we help.

If we can reorient faith as a weapon of mass help-intervention, then religion becomes a strong force of nation-building. Even minuscule assistance, given with dignity, kindness and sincerity to those in need, can mean as much as a billion-ringgit house of worship.

How can we impart these important ideas of shared history, shared economy and shared spirituality? Our universities can teach these as modules of subjects. Our church, mosques and temples can teach these via diligently prepared sermons.

I dream of heading a centre with many good and kind teachers who educate every single university student on these three modules before he embarks on his life and career.

In this way, we can change the nation as our university graduates will have a shared history with all communities, a shared compassion to help a single family or individuals in need, and a shared spiritual construct of humility in giving dignity and help to all of different faiths.

We do not have to depend on politicians, political parties and a declaration of who leads the country. We are all responsible for every one of us as a nation, as a family and as a cause for a true and meaningful existence.

By Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/over-the-top/2020/03/03/a-nation-at-the-crossroads

What can Muslim countries be proud of?

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019
Security forces carrying out a military operation to search for Islamic State militants in Anbar province, Iraq, on Sunday. Internal strife is common in many Muslim countries. REUTERS PIC

I’M writing about the world’s affairs in the past 100 years.
European countries had engaged in bloody civil wars prior to the first and the second world wars.

Most practised a liberal-capitalist economic system and freedom for humanity.

After World War 2, these European countries consolidated their positions and eventually formed the foundations of today’s European Union (EU).

The very aim of the EU was to assist in redeveloping weak European countries by establishing and advocating “shared prosperity”.

Eventually, through sheer determination, the European countries became economically and socially successful. Major powers like the United Kingdom (UK), Germany and France played the biggest roles.

The EU, centred in Brussels, managed to spread its influence by becoming the economic backbone of the continent, and broadening its role in political and economic systems in other parts of the world

The EU, alongside the United States of America, became a major power globally

The influence of the EU and US is widespread, and their military capabilities are exceptional, especially with the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Military treaties between the US and European countries, including Turkey, have turned the EU into a powerful bloc

On the other side of the world, there is another group of countries that adopt the socialist or communist ideology.

We cannot accept their ideology and belief system. But it is clear that these countries have historically dominated their people through the “doctrine” of their struggles.

It was the main reason why Russia was able to influence the Soviet Union and managed to dominate a large number of countries befo

The dissolution of the Soviet Union gave birth to eight independent countries, but Russia remained very strong by dominating the people’s way of thinking.

It was also militarily and economically strong

Then there is China. It was at one time in chaos, mainly due to the wars between warlords. The turmoil enabled the Japanese to control a large part of the country.

Prior to that, the British also managed to gain control in China. We can still see the British legacy in Shanghai today.

However, Mao Zedong, who led the ‘Long March’, succeeded in uniting China.

Adopting a strong communist ideology, Mao and his associates managed to unite the Chinese people under one republic, with the exception of Taiwan.

Chiang Kai-shek escaped communism in China and founded the more liberal and democratic Taiwan

Both nations competed with each other for power and progress and finally, as we are witnessing in this century, China has emerged as an economic and military superpower.

Mao managed to unite the Chinese despite the use of brute force.

Post-Mao, Deng Xiaoping launched economic reforms

Under the leadership of the Communist Party, China modernised into an economic and military superpower and is now the strongest rival to the US.

Taiwan, on the other hand, continues to develop under western influences and has made tremendous progress.

China’s progress and power have led other countries like Japan and South Korea to approach it despite warnings by the US.

Japan and South Korea are slowly changing their direction by building a close relationship with China while remaining allies with the US and European countries.

The same can be said about North Korea. Japan and South Korea are now approaching the country through dialogues.

UMMAH IS WEAK

The question is, where is Islam and the Muslims now, after
the British, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Italian and other European colonialists left Asia and Africa?

The Islamic countries gained independence after the colonialists were forced to leave.

Lately, we have witnessed how the Islamic countries became birthplaces of rich leaders.

The purchase of luxury items, such as paintings worth millions of dollars by these leaders, were revealed by the media.

They are also proud owners of luxury yachts, hotels and apartments in Switzerland, London and Paris, among many other places. They are also well known for visiting casinos.

Islamic leaders, be they presidents or kings, are known for their wealth and luxurious life.

To keep their country secure and to protect themselves from being overthrown by their own people, they would sometimes seek help from the major powers like the US, Britain or France

The fact is, Muslim-led countries are still the proxies of superpowers.

Not being fully independent, especially in the way of thinking, has made Muslims weak.

Internal strife is common. We can see how Muslim wealth and lives are so cheaply ‘lost’ in the Islamic world.

Look at what has happened in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and many others. In Afghanistan, the war has been raging for more than 40 years and is sadly being fought between Muslims

While the socialist-communist countries — China and Russia — can be proud of their strength, and so, too, the liberal-capitalist countries such as the US, France, Germany and the UK, what about Muslims

We Muslims always claim that we are the best, that Islam is superior to the others. This is continuously said in Islamic lectures and sermons. But Muslims are still at the bottom in terms of the economy, social justice and military capabilities

The fights continue and Muslims will always be chasing the pack.

KL SUMMIT

Along came one man, the prime minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He has seen the ‘epidemic’, especially in the Islamic world, from post-World War I to World War 2, and up till now.

He often raises the matter of Muslims’ weaknesses in both open and closed-door meetings.

Muslims need to unite because they used to lead the world economically and militarily, as well as in education.

As the most senior leader in the Islamic world, Dr Mahathir is the most qualified person to talk about the unity of the ummah.

Alongside leaders from Turkey, Iran and Qatar, he initiated discussions on the unification of Muslims with the intention of liberating them.

At the very least, with ideas that focus on the future, the strengths of the Islamic world could be improved and mobilised, earning respect from others

This very idea was translated into the Kuala Lumpur Summit (KL Summit).

The success of the KL Summit is probably not immediately evident, but the idea of unification of the ummah must be continuously pursued so that Muslims can freely discuss ideas, without the restrictions of sect, race and tribe that have often shackled the Islamic world.

The KL Summit was a platform to seriously discuss how the strengths of the Islamic world should be portrayed, and how wealth should be shared among Muslims, as what was done by the superpowers in the Eastern and Western blocs.

In the teachings of Islam, helping each other is a must, but this has never been done by Muslims.

Ironically, it is being practised by others, who interpret the teachings of the Quran themselves.

Dr Mahathir has started something new to bring Islam and the Islamic civilisation back to the world on loan by Allah S.W.T. so that we are able to return to Allah S.W.T. by fulfilling the teachings of Islam.

In the Islamic world today, there are at least two countries that have great military capacity, namely Turkey and Iran.

We are expecting the two countries, together with Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Qatar, to unite the ummah and bring about the enlightenment of the ummah of today and the future.

By Mohamad Sabu.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/12/552094/what-can-muslim-countries-be-proud