Archive for the ‘History’ Category

NST175: An entertainer beyond compare

Saturday, September 12th, 2020
Some of the 100,000 people who thronged the free mega concert by Datuk Sudirman Arshad in Chow Kit Road on April 14, 1986. FILE PIC Some of the 100,000 people who thronged the free mega concert by Datuk Sudirman Arshad in Chow Kit Road on April 14, 1986. FILE PIC

ON the night of April 14, 1986, it was, perhaps, the first time that Chow Kit Road in Kuala Lumpur was filled with a sea of people.

It was the night when Malaysia’s No. 1 entertainer, the late Datuk Sudirman Arshad, performed at a mega concert, which drew 100,000 people from all walks of life.

Those who came did not mind being sandwiched by the crowd as the show was the only time they could watch Sudirman perform for free.

Some climbed trees, roofs and signboards of shophouses just to catch a glimpse of Sudirman, who made an unusual entrance at the start of the concert.

It was reported that the mega show had led to bumper-to-bumper traffic on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz and Jalan Raja Alang in Kampung Baru. The diminutive Sudirman charmed the audience and everyone just fell in love with his entertaining and bubbly personality.

At the three-hour concert, he performed his famous song, Chow Kit Road, named after the venue of the concert.

This was at the opening, when he made a spectacular entrance onto the stage from a fire engine’s Simon Snorkel skylift.

There were spotlights everywhere.

The singer extraordinaire also performed hit songs like Kenali Malaysia Cintai Malaysia and Apa Khabar Orang Kampung. Behind his smile and likeable personality on stage, Sudirman was serious and meticulous when it came to work.

Datuk Sudirman Arshad made a typically spectacular entrance onto the stage from a fire engine’s Simon Snorkel skylift during his famous concert in Chow Kit Road. FILE PIC Datuk Sudirman Arshad made a typically spectacular entrance onto the stage from a fire engine’s Simon Snorkel skylift during his famous concert in Chow Kit Road. FILE PIC

Sudirman’s former creative assistant, Shuib Taib, described him as a creative, compassionate and caring person.

“When it came to work, he took it seriously. He was sharp and he did not want anyone to mess around with him.

“He was the singing lawyer. He could cut you to shreds with just words. That was him. But behind all that, he was friendly, compassionate, caring and creative. He had our best interests at heart.

“He was the best boss I have ever worked for and until today, I feel honoured and privileged to have worked for him,” he told the New Straits Times.

Shuib said he knew Sudirman in 1990 and the singer hired him on May 13, 1991. Throughout his time with Sudirman, Shuib said he gave ideas for his shows and business, which was then called Sudirman Usaha Dagang Industry.

Shuib also represented Sudirman at meetings or events if the singer was not able to make it.

“Sudir told me — ‘if I cannot attend the meeting, you attend it for me and if it’s good for you, then it should be good for me. If it’s not good for you, then it’s not good for me’,” recalled Shuib, who was also a former specialist writer with the NST.

Although his time with Sudirman was relatively short, Shuib felt it was the most memorable moment in his life and he would always cherish it.

He thanked Singaporean singer, actress and entertainer Anita Sarawak for introducing him to Sudirman which led him to have that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of working under Sudirman Productions.

Sudirman fell ill in September 1991 and died on Feb 22, 1992 at the tender age of 37.

By Esther Landau.

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Region’s oldest girls’ school to become international school

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020
Southeast Asia’s oldest girls’ school here - Convent Light Street - is opening a private international school on part of its sea-fronting premises. NSTP/FileSoutheast Asia’s oldest girls’ school here – Convent Light Street – is opening a private international school on part of its sea-fronting premises. NSTP/File

GEORGE TOWN: Southeast Asia’s oldest girls’ school here – Convent Light Street – is opening a private international school on part of its sea-fronting premises.

The 168-year-old school which is located within the city’s United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) heritage core zone, is part of the Roman Catholic Convent Light Street, which was established by three French sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus Mission in 1852.

The school’s last batch of studebts are expected to graduate from the national education system in 2024.

In a statement issued today, The Infant Jesus Sisters Malaysia, the owner of the Convent Light Street Penang (CLS), said that it would be collaborating with education provider ACE Edventure to open a private international school using part of the CLS’s premises.

“The co-ed school, to start as soon as approval has been obtained from the authorities, will initially offer Year 1 to Year 10 classes leading to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) with an entrepreneurial component,” the statement said.

CLS was the first school set up by the IJ Sisters upon their arrival in Malaysia from Paris in 1852 and has grown to be one of the nation’s premier schools.

“But due to a continuous decline in enrolment of students in the last decade and escalating costs to maintain the heritage school buildings, the IJ Sisters had asked for the return of the CLS premises from the Ministry of Education, approval of which was granted in 2018,” the statement said.

“Not forgetting their mission to provide wholesome education to children, irrespective of race or creed, the IJ Sisters had been actively meeting with a number of reputable school operators over the last one year to identify one with similar aspirations and like-mindedness, and found ACE Edventure a good fit.”

ACE Edventure was touted in the statement as “an establishment able to provide affordable learning that is dynamic, progressive and relevant and, most important of all, willing to maintain the ethos of the IJ Convent schools with their emphasis on character building.”

ACE Edventure’s founders, Anne Tham and Melinda Lim, are both CLS alumni, and currently operating three private schools – Sirius Scholar in Subang Jaya, Sri Emas in Petaling Jaya and Dwi Emas in Shah Alam.

“The IJ Sisters look forward to this collaboration with ACE Edventure and the new role CLS will play towards the advancement of private education in Malaysia.”

After establishing a foothold in Penang, the site where CLS stands today, was reportedly acquired in 1859 by Mother St Mathilde Raclot.

The land expanded over the years to include a chapel, nunnery, orphanage, school and boarding house.

It is the oldest girls’ school in Malaysia and its alumni are also known as ‘Colistrians’.

Penang is currently home to nine international schools, with another one scheduled to open its doors this month.

By Marina Emmanuel.

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Protect the peace and harmony bequeathed to us

Sunday, August 30th, 2020
Tunku Abdul Rahman, being sent off on his London 'Merdeka' mission on Jan 2, 1956. - NSTP file picTunku Abdul Rahman, being sent off on his London ‘Merdeka’ mission on Jan 2, 1956. – NSTP file pic

THE crowd was burgeoning and it swelled over to the edge of Tanjong Pagar Port, Singapore, that evening on Jan 1, 1956, as men, many of whom were Parti Perikatan or Alliance party members garbed in white shirts and pants, jostled and chanted “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!” while holding placards and bunting with immersive slogans.

More than 10,000 people of all races had gathered to give a rousing send-off for Tunku Abdul Rahman and his Merdeka entourage to London with a mission to gain independence from the British Empire after a series of negotiations lasting almost 10 years.

This momentous trip by these fine gentlemen with the backing of the Malay rulers and overwhelming support of the rakyat led to the birth of a sovereign nation on Aug 31, 1957.

At the stroke of that midnight, the Federation of Malaya attained independence, marking the end of the British colonial era in the Malay states.

Well, the British would rather prefer others to see them as a “protector” despite the fact they had been a colonial master for centuries.

Ever since the trading post of Penang was founded by Sir Francis Light circa 1780s, the struggle for freedom was imminent. The Malay rulers were “tricked” into entering a series of “protection treaties”.

British negotiators, who had acted as advisers (to the rulers), promised protection from any enemy attack and to make the Malay states safe havens from rabble-rousers who could disrupt peace since tin mining and rubber became the mainstay industries.

Even in the early 1940s, there was no telling that Britain would support a self-governed Malaya. The promise made by the British to Malaya was finally reaffirmed in 1946 in times of crisis.

No citizen of Malaya at that time would cooperate with the “protecting power” in the governance of the country.

The Malayan Union perished that year. Tunku and the leaders who negotiated with the British at Lancaster House in London for 20 days from Jan 18, 1956, successfully signed the agreement on Feb 8, with Merdeka permanently in sight a year later.

The British were impressed with the representation of different races that Tunku brought to the negotiating table. It showed genuine cohesiveness among the people from the start.

We achieved independence through negotiation. Tunku told a roaring crowd at the Selangor Club field (now Dataran Merdeka) 63 years ago that independence was achieved by constitutional means through mutual goodwill, understanding and trust.

“Let us not abuse this trust, but honour it so that others will honour us. A nation born with honour will tread the path of glory,” said Tunku.

These mighty fine words leave us with an everlasting impression of how a country should and would be.

As much as we want trust to be the backbone of unity for the nation to move forward in this millennium, it’s sad to see that trust among us is still lacking after 63 years.

We can’t allow trust issues to negate the peace and harmony that our forefathers had helped build. It’s our duty to safeguard this delicate balance of peace and harmony.

One good thing to emerge from the horrid depths of the Covid-19 pandemic is that Malaysians have come together to help each other out in the darkest hour. That’s what we should continue to truly practise and believe in.

By Rohiman Haroon.

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Our colonial history and us

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

Polarising history: Red paint was splashed on the statue of Captain Francis Light at Fort Cornwallis in Penang early this month.Polarising history: Red paint was splashed on the statue of Captain Francis Light at Fort Cornwallis in Penang early this month.

OVER the recent months, the world has been struggling with what to do with icons, names and symbols of our history – from the slave trade legacy to the global colonial heritages.

Inevitably, the global discussion has reached our shores too – in an accumulation of various influences from the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, global anti-racism protests to the widespread call to decolonise education and public spaces.

Some believe the moment is here for us to revise mainstream narratives which either ignore or downplay the many problems that stem from colonialism.

In Cambridge University, a decolonisation campaign to expand its curriculum from being dominated by a white, euro-centric lense has gained momentum.

There is also the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, which seeks to remove the veneration of the imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

Of late, other voices have come up to show another side of former British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill and his role in the mistreatment of millions throughout the British Empire. Often hailed as a hero in the West, the perception of Churchill by the Commonwealth, less heard than that of the United Kingdom, is not quite as rose-tinted. The debate in Malaysia has not reached the same levels as those abroad, but it is still significant. Earlier this month, the statue of Sir Francis Light in Penang was vandalised with red paint and the ensuing response has been polarising.

The matter of renaming St Paul’s hill in Melaka is, however, more complicated as the factors in the debate do not just concern colonialism but also represent important ethnic and religious identities of today and their deep roots in the area.

In general, Malaysia’s approach to colonial history is mixed. One on hand, our Sejarah textbooks are very clear about the negative repercussions brought by the “penjajah” (colonials) who imposed rule over us. But on the other hand, we also exalt elements of colonialism – hotels, developments, and cafes often capitalise on colonial heritage in both its themes and designs. Some take a more positive view by representing the olden days an age of “culture and class” while others use it as a form of acknowledgement of our varied history. Regardless, there is no consensus, and the debate is far from settled.

A complicated matter

Colonial history should not be erased, and colonial injustices should not be forgotten, says Penang Heritage Trust vice-president Khoo Salma Nasution.

While history is complex and nuanced, the discourse can be easily oversimplified and hijacked by the politics of the day to exacerbate divisions instead of healing divisions, she warns.

Generally, Khoo is not in favour of changing street and place names, but she clarifies that there are no strict rules on this.

“If we want to change our street names, a strong justification must be given against the old name and for the new name. It should not be due to a politician’s whim or fashion of the day, ” she says, adding that all stakeholders who live and work along the street should be consulted.

While she agrees that instead of removing colonial names and legacies, we can use them as points of discourse to raise better conversations about the darker side of colonialism, Khoo can also understand why some people insist on defacing or taking down statues.

“I hope that people will discuss and find out more before taking drastic action. There should be a public discourse. What is just as important is, what are we doing to preserve the heritage which we want to remember, that we are losing through sheer neglect?”

Heritage activist Jo Chua prefers not only to maintain colonial era names, but to also make it clear that there were previous names associated with the places.

“We can correct mistakes in the recording of history to reflect the facts but it would be sacrilegious to change it to suit the whims and fancy of the moment. It is from the layers of history added on from our local rulers to the various foreign powers which formed our heritage and gave our country its distinct character, ” she says.

Preserving history?

Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong, a Principal Fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA) is against reviewing or changing the names of our colonial sites.

“This is because they are our “full” history, that we were colonised for a long period of time, ” he says, pointing to the hundreds of cumulative years of colonialism by the Dutch, Portueguese, Japanese and British all the way back from the 16th century.

“For all the effects of colonialism on us as a nation, the good, bad and ugly, we should take it all in our stride, ” he says.

This means, says Teo, that all colonial memories, whether pleasant or otherwise, that have impacted us socially, culturally, economically apart from the political realm, should not be shunned.

Therefore the maintenance of names of colonial sites and the sites themselves should be supported on historical grounds, mainly for their heritage, since they are our “full” history, he says.

“Changing names of colonial places and removing or demolishing colonial sites would definitely defeat the purpose of history, especially the importance of history and historical records, in this case names and sites, ” he says, while adding that keeping relics of colonial heritage is not about glorifying colonial powers.

“For me, it is about us, how we evolved and how (colonial) history develops an awareness about ourselves as a strong, independent nation, ” he says.

Case by case basis

Architect and heritage historian Ahmad Najib Ariffin is of the view that colonial names could, not should, be reviewed and changed according to the merits of each situation.

“It goes without saying that this is a complex, even loaded, question and the answer is not a straight yes or no as it depends so much on context, ” he says.

However, Ahmad Najib believes that there are some universal principles that should be adhered to.

“A prime principle is when a native population who were already residing in a place that was then colonised and had its name change by occupying forces.

“The native communities then retain the right to continue using its original name and even change it back officially, ” he says, giving examples of Myanmar (from Burma) and Mumbai (from Bombay).

“Having said that, there are numerous issues around each, for example what or which ‘original’ name to use, or whose name to use as there could be many current parties involved, each with a different name or variation. That’s another set of complex arguments, ” he says.

Delicate matter: The issue of renaming St Paul’s hill in Melaka is complexDelicate matter: The issue of renaming St Paul’s hill in Melaka is complex

According to Najib, the best manner to preserve history is for all parties to practice mutual respect and fair attitude on the subject of history; from the former “colonial masters” who must respect the sovereign rights of now independent nations, to these nations having to be strong in their current identities and achievements, particularly Malaysia which has done well since independence, and not having to erase everything of the colonial past.

“With this constructive attitude, we can all find a practical balance in respecting the combined pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial histories, ” he says.

What’s in a name?

This region of the world in particular still holds on to a colonised, eurocentric history and we have yet to deconstruct that colonial narrative, says Professor Datuk Dr Ahmad Murad Merican of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC – IIUM).

“Colonial powers robbed our land, identity, and even the names of our places, but we should not erase those names completely. Instead, we should re-narrate our history, ” says Ahmad Murad, who is also Penang Malay Heritage and Historical Society (Pewarisan) president.

Ahmad Murad favours the selective renaming of places. His criterion being that places which had a native name, but whose names were replaced by colonial powers, should return to their original names.

“Bear in mind that the issue is not about changing colonial names, but reverting to an earlier name which has been erased, suppressed or hidden, ” he explains, adding that selecting which places ought to be renamed is dependent on the context and sentiment of the people of the time.

Names are not just names, they reflect the interpretation and the representation of the past, and contribute to the national narrative, says Ahmad Murad. And so, there is inherent value and weight to what we choose to call a place of significance.

“In Malaysia many names of places have reverted to an earlier name – Teluk Anson to Teluk Intan, Port Swettenham to Pelabuhan Klang, ” says Ahmad Murad, who believes that places like Georgetown should revert to its former Tanjong Penaga and Butterworth to Bagan Tuan Kechil.

“If the colonists can just easily change a name, what is stopping us from ‘changing’ it back?” he asks.

Local authorities must be careful in distinguishing between colonial and Eurasian names, says Ahmad Murad.

“Eurasian road and place names are local, just like Malaysian Indian and Chinese names. The main issue is colonial European names. And to this we have to trace the person that we are naming in public places, ” he explains.

Ahmad Murad is also against destroying statues of colonial figures.

“Don’t deface them. We should not vandalise like how they vandalised us. They should be moved to more suitable places like museums and renarrate their crimes accordingly. The future must know who they are, ” he says, adding that injustices carried out by colonial figures in Malaysia like the plundering and robbery of our land should be made known alongside the effigies.

“We have to reappropriate and renarrate our past in terms of who Francis Light was, same as Cecil Rhodes or Stamford Raffles. They were not benevolent.”


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Activist: Don’t change name of historical site based on anecdotes

Sunday, July 19th, 2020
MELAKA: Efforts must be made to unearth the remnants of the Melaka Sultanate on St Paul’s Hill or historical sites before changing their names, says an activist from the Portuguese community.

Save The Portuguese Action Committee chairman Martin Theseira said remnants or relics relating to the Sultanate were crucial to strengthen any proposal to change the names of heritage sites in the historic city.

“We can opt for technology like high-tech scanners to recover these relics if the items are buried underneath the earth.

“As a Melakan myself, I really would like to support any attempt to recover the remnants of the palace or artefacts linked to the Sultanate even if we have to comb the seabed, ” he said in an interview here on Friday.

Theseira was responding to a proposal by the Melaka Museum Corporation (Perzim) to change the name of St Paul’s Hill to Bukit Melaka.

“Any move to change the identity of historical sites should be based on solid historical facts.

“I guess Melakans would have no qualms if the proposal to change the name is supported by historic documents and not based on anecdotes, ” he said.

Theseira said from facts he had garnered, the site was known as “Malacca Hill” as only a point of reference by the Portuguese in the 1500s.

He said Melaka elders had shared the stories of the Sultan’s palace at the foothills of St Paul and the garden stretched to a hockey field that no longer exists at Bandar Hilir.

“We need to locate the remnants before pursuing any attempt to make changes, ” he said.

For instance, Theseira said, the name Strait of Malacca was known since time immemorial and its history was well documented.

“I urge Perzim to initiate an in-depth research on heritage sites together with reputed historians as well as Unesco researchers on St Paul’s Hill, ” he said.

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Re-imagining the future of George Town’s heritage

Monday, July 13th, 2020

LETTER: George Town was THE place for Chinese medicine and orh kueh (yam cake) when I was young. Both shops are not there anymore. Today, they serve latte and cempedak cheese cake.

This year’s July 7 marked the twelfth year of George Town’s inscription as a Unesco World Heritage Site. There has been a contest over the interpretation of the inscription, couched in phrases from the humanities.

When new businesses replace under-performing ones, it’s labelled “Disneyfication”. When properties receive new tenants, it’s scorned as “gentrification”. When heritage buildings are refurbished, it’s castigated as “Unesco-cide”.

Marco D’Eramo epitomises these schools of thought. “UNESCO’s ‘World Heritage’ listing,” he writes, “is the kiss of death. Once the label is affixed, the city’s life is snuffed out; it is ready for taxidermy.”

Taking a step back, I wonder if this is a form of nostalgia fossilisation? I understand the concern to preserve the “identity” of George Town. But, can we say that today’s collective identity is the progeny of George Town’s past?

This is iffy, is there is such an identity in the first place, not least a collective one? There is sympathy for tenants who are affected by rising rentals. But isn’t rent-seeking a problem happening elsewhere too, not confined to heritage sites?

Community changes are associated with a string of factors. But when it happens in George Town, enthusiasts label it “gentrification”? What then do we call rent-seeking that occurred in 2007 in George Town, before the city was listed by Unesco?

Like most trades, traditional trades in George Town have no guaranteed immortality. The Chinese medical hall that my family frequented had shut before the Unesco appellation came. As Dr Ang Ming Chee, general manager of George Town World Heritage Incorporated, observed: “[If] the craftsmen don’t want to produce and the locals do not take these products as a part of their identity, then you’re stuck as well. For it to be sustainable you have to look at it in the long term. There’s supply and demand; and there’s the availability and cost of the raw materials.

“Take rattan weaving for example – it might be harder or costlier to obtain raw materials due to factors such as urbanisation and deforestation. Rattan weaving is a skill, but most of the weavers we interviewed who decided not to continue their craft said it was because weaving is too painful – if you look at their hands, you can feel the pain. They work hard to send their children for higher education so that they don’t have to do physical work; it’s an achievement for them, whereas we want continuity – we are selfish.” (Emphasis added.)

Is the pain of rattan weavers a characteristic of George Town’s heritage and must therefore persist?

Fossilising nostalgia may be a hobby to enthusiasts but George Town gained prominence as a trading port. People from surrounding regions came here to trade. New businesses were formed to serve them, and many made their home here as a result.

Changes haven’t stopped in the past 300 years. Instead, can George Town’s future be re-imagined as the heart of 21st century trade? Start-ups creating unicorns in a 19th century shop?

The potential of the heritage buildings in George Town is not confined only to serving latte and cempedak cheese cake.


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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.

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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.


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 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 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.

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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 thBriggs, 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 commemord 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.

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