Archive for the ‘History’ Category

From ‘Malacca’ to ‘Melaka’: Is it worth the effort?

Friday, May 5th, 2017
Is it worth the effort, standardising the spelling of Malacca to ‘Melaka’? The answer appears to be yes, according to members of the public polled. (File pix)
By Kelly Koh - May 4, 2017 @ 10:15pm

MELAKA: Is it worth the effort, standardising the spelling of Malacca to ‘Melaka’?

The answer appears to be yes, according to members of the public polled.

Tour guide Shaukani Abbas said the move is commendable as it can bring an end to confusion, especially among tourists.

“The state was previously spelled ‘Melaka’ (even in English) and it should be maintained as such. It is good that the state government finally standardising it,” he said.

Shaukani said, as a tour guide, he was often quizzed by puzzled tourists on the actual spelling of the state’s name.

“It can be confusing to have two spellings. It should be spelled as ‘Melaka’.

“It is high time we finally spell the state name out as ‘Melaka’, not ‘Malacca’,” he said.

Yesterday, the Malacca State Executive Council decided that the Anglicised state name spelling of ”Malacca” will cease to be used, and that reference to the state in English shall henceforth be exclusively “Melaka”.

Melaka State Secretary Datuk Seri Naim Abu Bakar said that all newspapers and the media, whether Bahasa Malaysia, English or any other language, shall use ”Melaka” in writing or when mentioning the state.

“This is intended to standardise the use of the name ”Melaka”, especially in English,” he said.

Meanwhile, over on social media, Facebook user Abdul Rasyid Muhammad Razak, said it was a good effort.

“Don’t let them change it (the name) like Singapore (from Singapura). Pulau Pinang (Penang) should also do the same,” he said.

by Kelly Koh.

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Corridors of Learning.

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Photo montage of the five leading schools in Johor (clockwise from top right) Bukit Zahara School Johor Baru, Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Johor Baru, Muar English School, Batu Pahat English School and Boarding School JB (middle). Photos courtesy of Alan Teh Leam Seng

NO! My heart sank when it was announced that the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery would be closed for two years for a RM20 million restoration. It seems there are plans in the pipeline to move all the artefacts and temporarily house them at the museum’s Macalister Road branch in George Town. It was with a heavy heart that I made the decision to pay my favourite haunt a visit.

Farewell visits never fail to make me see the same things in a different light. I guess when we‘re conscious that time is no longer a luxury, we try to savour every minute of it. There’s a sense of calm when I arrive at the museum. Having had my ticket inspected, I proceed to look at the two bronze wall plaques which I’ve always ignored during my previous visits. The inscriptions list the names of the people who’d donated generously towards the Penang Free School building fund in 1816.

Continuing to read the explanatory card beside them, I discover that this Penang Museum building was the original site of the school before it was relocated to Green Lane in 1927. Inspired by the thought that the school spent an astounding 110 years at the very place I‘m standing, I decide to find out more about the early history of Malayan education.

The Convent School established in 1907 is one of the oldest schools in Ipoh.

Early Education.

Although Penang Free School holds the record for being the country‘s oldest learning institution, education in Malaya didn’t start with the arrival of the British in 1786. Before Francis Light first set foot on the island, Penang’s population already consisted of nearly a hundred Malay fishermen and farmers from Sumatra, Kedah and Satun. They settled largely around the Batu Uban, Jelutong and Dato Kramat areas.

Religious schools are believed to have already existed in the 18th century. Back then, it was common practice for young Malay boys to uproot and live with a renowned teacher for a certain number of years. They helped the teacher with household chores and at the teacher’s orchards and fields in exchange for lessons in Arabic as well as in reciting the Quran. Malay girls received religious lessons from their parents at home.

Discipline during those early days was very strict and the teachers had the blessings of the parents to mete out punishments as they deemed fit as long as they didn’t mortally wound the children. At this juncture, I’m reminded of the great Malay scribe Munshi Abdullah. He gave a vivid account of his personal experience in his autobiography, Hikayat Abdullah.

It seems that Abdullah led an early pampered life living with his grandparents. Everything changed when his father found out about his 7-year-old son’s inability to read and write. In a fit of anger, he sent Abdullah to the Kampung Pali Koran School. Abdullah wrote that all students, regardless of their family background, were treated equally. His teacher resorted to using various “instruments of punishment and torture” to maintain order. Among these was the Chinese press made from four pieces of threaded smooth rattan. This instrument, known also as apit Cina, was used to squeeze the fingers of boys guilty of stealing or beating their fellow students.

by Alan Teh Leam Seng.

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Relics from Majapahit kingdom found beneath Malacca river

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

MALACCA: Relics possibly dating back to the 13th-century Majapahit empire are believed to have been found along a 2km stretch beneath the Malacca river.

Two weeks ago, a group of professional divers apparently discovered parts of a Hindu temple and a fort-like structure.

They believed that these ancient finds could point to a submerged city that existed even before Parameswara founded Malacca in 1400.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron, when contacted, acknowledged that he had received a report about the sighting of the relics.

“But we have yet to get an in-depth report.

“The finding is still vague until archaeologists from the Heritage Department make their conclusions,” he said.

The Majapahit Empire was centralised in east Java and was a vast archipelagic kingdom during its peak between 1293 to 1527.

Malacca was once an important town for Majapahit’s palace officials and soldiers who made the town their maritime headquarters.

In February last year, The Star reported that relics discovered in Pulau Nangka were reportedly from the Majapahit era.

Two relics found on the island by a salvaging firm featured characters and symbols that indicated that they could date back to the Majapahit kingdom.

When contacted yesterday, Malacca Museum Corporation’s general manager Datuk Khamis Abas said that relics linked to the Majapahit age had been salvaged from the river since the late 1990s.

“Some of these relics have been displayed at a museum,” he said.

History buff Mohd Fuad Khusari M. Said said he researched claims of an underwater city and found there was a temple and structures resembling a fort.

“The underwater city stretches from the bridge close to Hard Rock Cafe in Malacca to Kampung Morten.

“This underwater city is about 20m from the river surface.

“The statues and various structures are still intact,” he claimed.


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From Malaya to Malaysia

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Growth and evolution are natural and necessary in any federal set-up.

AS we commemorate Malaysia Day, it is important to look back at the mileposts that led to this historic accord between the British and Malayan Governments and the territories of North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak.

It is also important to note what my Sabah and Sarawak friends often remind me of, that Sabah and Sarawak were not minor colonial outposts that “joined” Malaya in 1963 but were two huge, sovereign, independent states that reconstituted Malaya to form Malaysia.

Indeed, for a few short weeks before “merger”, both Sabah and Sarawak had gained independence from the United Kingdom.

History: After World War II, as part of its de-colonisation process, the Labour Government in the UK intended to give independence to North Borneo, Sarawak and Singa­pore. Negotiations were therefore commenced in 1961 with the Government of Malaya and representatives of the three territories plus Brunei for the creation of an enlarged federation.

Initially there was all-round opposition to the proposal in Malaya and in the territories of North Borneo, Sarawak, Singapore and Brunei. But ultimately a resolution was passed by the Malaysia Solidarity Consul­tative Committee (1962) to proceed with the Malaysia proposal, on the condition that the special rights of the Borneo States be protected.

This was re-emphasised in the Twenty-Points Manifesto of the Sabah Alliance and the Eighteen-Points Resolution of Sarawak.

In April 1962, the Cobbold Commission was formed. The Commission reported on Aug 1, 1962 that the people of the Borneo States wished to join Malaya. A Resolution in support of the formation of Malaysia was passed by the Legislative Council of North Borneo on Sept 12, 1962.

An Inter-Governmental Commit­tee (with Lord Lansdowne as Chairman and Tun Abdul Razak Hussein as Deputy) was formed in 1962. The Committee worked out the provisions to safeguard the special interests of North Borneo and Sarawak. General elections were held in North Borneo in December 1962 and in Sarawak in 1963.

The Philippines and Indonesia opposed the formation of the new federation and rejected the legitimacy of the self-determination process. A Tripartite Summit was therefore held in Manila in 1963 to bring the parties together.

It was agreed to invite the United Nations Secretary-General to ascertain the wishes of the people of Sabah and Sarawak and to determine the democratic legitimacy of the electoral processes in North Borneo and Sarawak.

The UN Secretary-General’s mission spent three weeks in Borneo to conduct a survey. It reported on Sept 15, 1963 that the Malaysia proposal had the wide backing of the people of these territories.

But the Indonesian and Philippines Governments were not persuaded. Indonesia resorted to an undeclared war (the “Confrontation”) with Malaysia. The Philippines laid an international law claim to Sabah.

The Malaysia Act: On July 9, 1963 the Malaysia Agreement, consisting of 11 clauses, was concluded between the UK, the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore. Commentators have argued that the Malaysia Agreement was not just a domestic pact but a binding international treaty between the parties.

On Aug 20, 1963, the Federation of Malaya Parliament enacted Act No. 26 of 1963 which became operational on Sept 16, 1963. This “Malaysia Act” rewrote the Mer-deka Constitution and substantially restruc­tured the constitutional framework of Malaya. Eighty-seven out of 181 Articles and 10 out of 13 Schedules of the Federal Constitution were amended. Thirty-five new Articles were inserted.

In many respects, the amendments created a new Constitution to accommodate the realities of a new, enlarged and more diverse federation. But there were grumbles within and without.

On Sept 10, 1963, the State of Kelantan in the case of Kelantan v The Federation of Malaya & Tunku Abdul Rahman (1963) challenged the impending Malaysia Day Agreement and the Malaysia Act on a number of grounds in the High Court. Its challenge failed.

And so on Sept 16, 1963, the 11-state Federation of Malaya was transformed into the 14-state Federation of Malaysia. A new name (Malaysia) was emblazoned on the political firmament. Significant new rules were established to regulate the special relationship of the new entrants with the Federal Govern­ment.


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Old boys, new plans

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

An electrifying reception: With his energy and enthusiasm, Khairy (centre) was clearly a hit, inspiring both the students and teachers.

One of the oldest schools in the country is set to get a facelift in the next few years.

IT is the norm for former students of a school to gather for the occasional catch-up session to reconnect. However, members of Victoria Institution’s Old Boys’ Association (VIOBA) have rolled up their sleeves to do much more.

Last year, the old boys launched a two-year master plan to modernise the 123-year-old school and bring back its glory days.

The physical transformation involves the rather straightforward task of refurbishing the premises.

On another level, there will be lots of goodies for students, not in the form of things, but in the form of motivational talks for students, as well as knowledge-sharing sessions with schools and universities.

Towards positive outcomes: Students walk past posters of pride that will bring about better days for them and future learners at the institution.

Towards positive outcomes: Students walk past posters of pride that will bring about better days for them and future learners at the institution.

This year, plans are in place for internship programmes, where post-Form Five students will be placed in various companies to gain work experience.

This master plan is being carried out by the (VIOBAF), an arm of the association formed in 1922. The foundation, which turns 50 this year, generates its own funds to provide financial assistance to deserving students and the school.

Driving the whole initiative is VIOBAF chairman Datuk Seri Andrew Abishegam, who studied at VI from 1977 to 1983.

“We enjoyed a fabulous time then. We have lots of fond memories and would like to give back to the school,” he said.

Abishegam added that his school days were not just about books and academic achievement.


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South China Sea: Coc Is Best Solution To Dispute – Freeman

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 (Bernama) — Adhering and committing to finalise the Code of Conduct (Coc) for claimants of the South China Sea territorial dispute remains the best solution to resolve the long-standing problem in the region, an expert said.

Executive Director of School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), John Hopkins University, Washington DC, Dr Carla Park Freeman said in fact formulation of the document needed to be expedited to prevent the tension from rupturing into a full blown conflict.

She said that claimant states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Taiwan should set a time frame to complete the CoC.

Formulation of the CoC, which resulted from the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) signed in 2002 by 10 ASEAN member countries namely Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam as well as China have not seen much progress.

DoC, among others, aimed to promote a peaceful, friendly and harmonious environment in the South China Sea between ASEAN and China for the enhancement of peace, stability, economic growth and prosperity in the region.

It also spells out the 11 signatory countries’ desire to enhance favourable conditions for a peaceful and durable solution of differences and disputes among countries concerned.

Dr Freeman who specialises in China Studies said decision by the Philippines to pursue its claims against China at the Arbitrary Tribunal had further complicated the matter.

Speaking to Bernama in an interview during her working visit here, she added that China might even abort the CoC negotiation process as objection to the arbitration.

“Arbitration is certaintly one tool but as long as countries like China with a major claim is unwilling to accept international arbitration, it makes discussion more difficult.

“The worry that I have is that if you have this arbitration, China will basically stop the movement of talks and development of the CoC. China will not participate in that any longer,” she said.

She added that if the arbitration outcome favoured the Philippines, it would set a precedent for other claimant states to follow suit.

Dr Freeman said the claimant countries in ASEAN at the same time must work to resolve the dispute among them before heading to the negotiation table with China, as this would enable them to establish a more coherent and unified position vis-a-vis the superpower.

She noted that this was even more crucial as not all ASEAN countries are on the same page with claimant states in regards to the contentious issue.

“But if ASEAN have a strategy and be coherent in their position, the outcome will be better for everyone,” she said.

On the United States’ position, she said the US had maintained its stand in wanting to see the freedom of navigation and safe passage in the waters under the international laws was preserved.


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Retracing Hang Tuah’s travels

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

LEGENDARY Malay warrior Hang Tuah once travelled downriver along Sungai Muar from Malacca to Pahang, a study revealed.

Berita Harian reported that the History and Patriotism Research Institute discovered that Hang Tuah had travelled 500km via that route, which traverses Sungai Muar, Sungai Jempol and Sungai Serting in Negri Sembilan, as well as Sungai Bera and Sungai Pahang in Pahang.

In recent times, however, the institute’s general manager Datuk Dr Aziz Ujang said the river was getting shallower and narrower.

The report also quoted Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron as saying that the state go­vernment would lend its support to the institute to turn the route into a tourist site.

“If we were to develop the route, it can become a permanent feature and tourist product that we can be proud of,” Idris said after laun­­­­ching the monthly state council meeting on Monday.

Kosmo! reported that contrary to the perception that Malaysians read very little, the Malaysia Book Village in Ayer Keroh, Malacca, is attracting readers of all ages.

Many people often visit the village after going for their daily exercise at the Malacca Botanical Gardens nearby or study there.

“Although similar to a library, the village’s ambience is more re­­laxed and people can sit wherever they like,” said the village’s assistant administrator Fatin Izzati Rusman.

Foreign tourists would even drop by sometimes to exchange books, she added.

“These are true book lovers who like to visit other book villages around the world,” she said.

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Expert not stopping after finding Buddha’s birthplace

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: The archaeologist who stumbled upon the exact birth spot of Prince Siddharta Gautama (Lord Buddha) is now involved in unearthing other key sites related to the life of Buddhism’s founder and immediate family in his native Nepal.

“Archaeological sites are everywhere in Nepal,” said Dr Basanta Kumar Bidari (pic), who in 1996 discovered the ancient marker stone which denoted the spot of Buddha’s birth in 563BC.

He said there were hints previously of where the exact spot might be based on clues inscribed on a pillar erected by King Asoka some 2,000 years ago. However, it was the written testimonies of Chinese travellers Fa Hsien and Xuan Zang that conclusively helped to narrow the spot.

Excavation work began at the site under the auspices of the Japan Buddhist Federation, Nepal’s Department of Archaeology and the Lumbini Development Trust.

He said when the work began in 1992, he did not expect that it would lead to the momentous discovery four years later.

“I trembled when it was confirmed at a conference,” said Dr Basanta, 60.

In fact, the greatest moment in his 30-year career happened by chance when he tried to find a way to dislodge thick roots of a tree belonging to the banyan family from damaging the area that was buried underneath it.

Here on the invitation of the Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia, Sabah branch, Dr Basanta said there are also important Buddhist sites waiting to be discovered, including in Malaysia.

He cited the discovery of the “Kedah Buddha” in Kedah’s historic Bujang Valley.

“It is a small bronze standing Buddha discovered by a British archaeologist couple in 1941,” he said.

Dr Basanta until his retirement was the Chief Archaeologist for Lumbini, Kapilavastu and Devadaha which are historical sites associated with the Buddha.

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Let’s hear it for Tunku

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

After retiring, our first prime minister found his voice through his column in The Star. He needs a new voice now. Who will speak for him?

HOW many times did Tunku Abdul Rahman shout “merdeka” at the historic moment on Aug 31, 1957, to declare Malaya’s independence from Britain?

No, this is not a trick question. It’s actually what a young woman said she had to answer in her SPM history paper. And that was the only question she had to answer about the nation’s first prime minister.

She shared this at an event held at Menara Star on Saturday to announce the Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj Cambridge Scholarship.

Never heard of it? Well, neither had I before the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) asked the Star Media Group to provide the venue for the occasion. Not even our Education Editor was aware of the scholarship.

Perhaps it’s understandable. After all, this scholarship is open to outstanding Malaysians from any discipline to do their Masters or PhDs in the humanities and social sciences at St Catharine’s College in Cambridge University. These disciplines are not exactly popular or highly regarded in our society.

The scholarship is under the Tunku Abdul Rahman Fund that was set up in 2003 by the Government to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birthday.

Tunku was an alumnus of St Catharine’s where he received his degrees in history and law. The fund is administered by the college and after 13 years, it is still very healthy at £4mil (RM22mil).

It is a generous scholarship as it fully funds the successful recipient for three years covering college/university and maintenance fees.

Since its inception, it has benefited many deserving world-class Malaysian post-graduate students.

But this was still not good enough for the university. It felt more awareness of the scholarship was needed and it dispatched a team led by its director of studies, Dr Peter Wothers, to Malaysia to publicise it.

It contacted Ideas, the organisation set up by Tunku Abidin Muhriz and colleagues, who were inspired by the country’s founding father’s vision and principles.


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Chinese may fall to third spot soon

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

THE Feb 8 to Feb 22 Chinese New Year period was set to be an uneventful 15-day celebration with many open houses, but few fresh topics to talk about, until a Feb 14 news report interrupted the monotony of the festivities.

This report on declining Chinese population ratio in Malaysia peppered with a warning that this ethnic group may slide to the third spot in terms of number and percentage in the country, immediately triggered the alarm.

The active Selangor/Kuala Lumpur Hainanese Association based at Thean Hou Temple was the first to react emotively at its CNY open house.

Pheng: Chinese politicians and community leaders should pay attention to this issue.

Pheng: Chinese politicians and community leaders should pay attention to this issue

It warned that this development would have far-reaching implications for the Chinese community on the political, education and economic fronts.

This high profile association and other clans reiterated their calls to the local ethnic Chinese to give birth to more babies.

To recap, a report in Sin Chew Daily on Feb 14 stated that by 2030, the numbers of Chinese – the second largest ethnic group after the Malays in Malaysia – would drop to third place after the bumiputra and foreign migrant workers.

A huge fall in the birth rate of the Chinese to 1.4 babies per family in 2015 from 7.4 in 1957 and a sharp rise in the numbers of foreign workers are now threatening the Chinese’ position as the second largest grouping in Malaysia.

The report, quoting projected data from the Department of Statistics, said the percentage of local ethnic Chinese population would shrink to 19.6% in 2030, from 24.6% in 2010 and 21.4% in 2015.

The Chinese percentage is also projected to fall further to 18.9% in 2035.

In the report, Chief Statistician Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman was quoted as saying that even though the Chinese population would increase to 7.1 million people in 2040 from 6.6 million now, the percentage compared to the Malays and Indians might decline to 18.4% in 2040.

In terms of numbers, the other two ethnic groups are projected to rise in population, with the bumiputra outdoing those from other races.

The bumiputra population is anticipated to increase from 19.2 million in 2015 to 26 million by 2040, and Indians from two million to 2.3 million.

In terms of percentage, the bumiputra population is anticipated to increase from 61.8% to 67.5%, and Indians from 5.5% to 6.4%.

Malaysia’s population was estimated at between 30.6mil and 30.8 mil at end-2015.


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