Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Treasures for Suffolk House

Penang soon can boost another heritage project and may help in its effort to be listed under UNESCO listing.

Below is the article on The Star posted on Wednesday April 2, 2008.

Treasures for Suffolk House


WITH a little luck, the Suffolk House, Penang’s sole surviving Georgian residential architecture, will be opened to the public by the end of the year.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state government hoped to revive the house, which was first built in the 1780s in a pepper estate owned by Captain Francis Light, into a cultural, historical and art collection centre.

Lim was speaking to reporters on a visit to the home of antiquity collector Jasmine Tan, who had offered the majority of her collection on loan to be displayed at the Suffolk House.

“With this offer, we hope we can get things moving again at the Suffolk House that has been recently refurbished and renovated,” Lim said.

Guan Eng (third from right) taking a closer look at an antique marble table.
Taking up antique and art collection in 1982, Tan and her husband’s collection includes historic items in Malaysian history as well as European fine furniture, marble statuary and architectural items from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Among items available for loan to the state government is a handwritten document by Captain Light dated 1794 pertaining to land on the Prince of Wales Island.

“This is the oldest item in the collection that I managed to obtain through the years,” Tan said.
Lining the walls and walkways of Tan’s house are precious artwork and several stained glass windows rumoured to be made by William Morris, a principal founder of the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain.

A pair of Baba Nyonya bridal tables (left foreground) made with mother of pearl and Venetian glass are among Jasmine's antique collection.

Also on display to reporters were a beautiful wooden table with a marble top fashioned in the shape of the Penang state made in 1874 in Calcutta, a 19th century Srard piano, marble furniture once belonging to Eu Tong Sen (one of Ma-laya’s most successful and wealthy tin miners) and a pair of Baba Nyonya bridal tables made with mother of pearl and Venetian glass.

“Penang is linked by history to other straits settlements, so a lot of items in this collection are highly prized by other countries as well. “Thankfully, these items are still in Penang thanks to Tan and her family, and I think it is important for us to retain them here and not lose these pieces of history,” Lim said.

He also urged other collectors to come forward to offer pieces to be displayed at the Suffolk House.

Tan, on the other hand, thought it would be nice to share her prized possessions with the public after enjoying them personally.

“I have been to the Suffolk House and there’s nothing much inside, so I thought that it would be a good idea to use the collection to help promote and boost tourism in the state,” Tan said.

A 19th century Srard piano made in Paris in one of Tan's most prized possessions.
Penang State Museum Board curator Haryany Mohamad, who was present at the visit to assess some of the items, said it would take at least six months to catalogue all the pieces.
“We will also have to look into the placement and security of the pieces at the Suffolk House before any movement can be made,” she said.

State Tourism Development, Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang, state executive councillors Lydia Ong Kok Fooi and Lim Hock Seng as well as Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng were also present at the visit.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Exhibition on the role of women in the Islamic world

The Star - Saturday April 26, 2008

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) is currently holding an exhibition on the role of women in the Islamic world.


The image of Muslim women was, to some extent, set in the 19th century when they were depicted as less than real individuals in art and literature.

Today, the view held by many in the West is that Muslim women are second-class citizens, trapped in their homes and hidden behind the veil. While this latter view is true in certain countries, it is by no means the norm as often the oppression of women is due to cultural rather than religious traditions.
Since the beginning of Islam, women have played important roles in society. Khadijah, Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, was the first convert to Islam. His third wife, Aisha, was a great contributor to the sayings of the Prophet (hadith), which went on to become a component of the shar’ia (Islamic law).

The deeds of these women secured them a place in the annals of Islam and it would be hard to find a single Muslim that did not know who they were.
Unfortunately, the same acknowledgment has not been extended to the many women who were able to attain the exalted position of sovereign. Occasionally, in Islamic history, women ruled jointly with their husbands, but they have also governed their own territories outright, having their names mentioned in the Friday khutba (sermon), and inscribed on coins.

One such woman was Yemen’s Arwa binti Ahmad al-Sulayhi. She was born in 1048 in Haraz, Yemen, a member of the Sulayhid dynasty, vassals of the Fatimid dynasty in Cairo.
Arwa was taught that in Yemen, the wife of the ruler shared power with her husband and was not meant to stagnate in the harem. At 17, Arwa was married to her cousin al-Mukarram. After considerable upheaval, al-Mukarram passed his power on to Arwa, and retreated from public life.

Queen Arwa focused her attention on the welfare of her people, building mosques, roads and fountains. She also took a deep interest in cultural and religious studies and set up several centres for education. Arwa ruled Yemen for over half a century, never losing the support of her people, who affectionately called her Balqis al-Sughra (Young Queen of Sheba).

In the Indian subcontinent, Nur Jehan may be less famous than Mumtaz Mahal, but her fame among the Mughals was far greater. Born Mihr-un-Nisa (Sun Among Women) in 1577, she was a handmaiden at the palace.

Prince Selim (Jahangir) fell in love with her when he spotted her at the palace bazaar in the spring of 1611, but his desire to marry her was thwarted by his father, Emperor Akbar.
Eventually the two were married and she was given the honorific title Nur Jehan Begum (Light of the World Queen).

Nur Jehan brought the emperor under her influence, concentrating real political power in her hands. Using the emperor as a puppet, this wily individual ruled in his name for 11 years, from 1616 till 1627. She became a legend, sitting on the throne alongside the emperor, with firman (pronouncements) and coins issued in her name.

Women have been among the most significant factors behind the success of Islamic empires since the 7th century. Their faith, intelligence, influence and beauty have been central to Islamic history. Their role in religious, military and social affairs was acknowledged as early as during the time of the Prophet.
Why then is so little known about these extraordinary women?

The reason for this is the scant attention they were given by contemporary and later historians, who either completely omitted them or downplayed their significance. Though Islam raised the status of women and ensured them certain rights, the society they lived in was still extremely patriarchal. And there were those within society who found no pride in being ruled by women.

The two above-mentioned queens are just a sampling of the plethora of Muslim women that were able to rise to prominent positions. The exhibition Faith and Power: Women in Islam at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) brings these women out of obscurity and gives them their pride of place in Islamic history. The exhibition runs until July 4, this year.

There is an accompanying catalogue available for purchase at the IAMM gift shop which provides a more comprehensive look at the lives and achievements of the women featured in the exhibition. The women highlighted come from all over the Islamic world, from Spain to South-East Asia, and span the entire Islamic period up till the present day.

A forum will be held at the IAMM auditorium to discuss issues relevant to the modern Muslim women. This is open to the public and free of charge. The tentative date is May 31.

More information can be found at www.iamm.org.my

Friday, April 25, 2008

'A Famosa' Rescued?

The Malaysian Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage has proposed a RM12.8 million plan to ‘reconstruct’ a partial fortress wall of 'A Famosa' in Malacca.

According to report -The Star, Feb 18, 07- the reconstructed wall would offer tourists a glimpse of the the original sea-front defensive wall that once guarded the Portuguese against numerous sea invasions.

It is difficult to identify where the fortress walls are today because reclamation and senseless property development have altered the sea front of the historic city and the sea is now a good distance away.

This recent development prompted vested parties to claim it as a shot in the arms for Malacca conservation but how the whole episode involving the archaeological site has been unfolding is a worthy news in itself.

The same honorable minister had on a previous occasion came to the very same spot next to Malacca River and proudly launched a grand Malacca state scheme to build a revolving viewing tower.

It will take paying tourists for a bird-eye view of the Stadhuys and the Class I historical enclave across the historical river and also remnants of 'A Famosa'.

Despite overwhelming public objections including from this writer to the proposed Viewing Tower and our valid concerns that there would be unreversable damage to the area’s historical significance, the distinguished minister vehemently defended the state authority’s decision to go ahead with the construction of revolving tower (similar to Singapore’s Carlsberg Tower in Sentosa Island).

In a bizarre twist of fate, critics of the project were vindicated when men working on the tower foundation accidentally stumbled upon structural remains of Middleburg bastion!
For the very first time, the scale of the Portuguese Fortress is emerging and this archaeological find adds weight to ancient maps depicting four other similar bastions around 'A Famosa'.

Fortunately, good sense prevailed and an announcement was made, I suspected relunctantly by the parties concerned to halt the tower project. A decision quickly followed suit and the site of the viewing tower was moved assumingly to a less controversial one.

The same personnel from Perzim (Malacca Museum Board) and the Museum Department who had given the go-ahead with the Taming Sari Viewing Tower project now ironically have a new task at hand, presiding and spearheading conservation work to bring the bastion back alive.

Subsequently, Phase II will kick in and it involves a more ambitious project to ‘reconstruct’ the missing 300 meter fortress wall from same river side extending to Santiago Gate.

Reconstruction is controversial and is by no mean conservation. The Chinese has experimented with the Great Walls with devastating consequence at popular sites like Badaling near Beijing.

Ruins of the Great Walls are rebuilt based on purely academic guesses, and compromises were made at the expense of the integrity and the historical values of the Walls.

Today millions of tourists visiting there are disassociated to this fact, but they are essentially paying 40 yuan pax to merely see mock up walls catering very much to their tourist dollars.

In conservation, original artifacts i.e. rocks, manuscripts, bricks, weapons etc are the essential tools to invoke appreciation and instill better understanding for the historical subject.

Every efforts to replicate objects or materials no matter how authentic, should be the last resort to promote historical awareness and should never replace the original artifacts.

Will 'A Famosa' suffer the same fate? The answer lies with the Minister and Jabatan Muzium.

2 centuries ago -'A Famosa' or the beautiful fort, so named by the conquerer Alfonso D' Albuquerque - almost faded into oblivion until the timingly intervention by Munshi Abdullah and Sir Stamford Raffles.

Is 'A Famosa' finally enjoying the limelight it solely deserves or perhaps it is too premature to rejoice yet?

The 'Taming Sari' Revolving Tower - a RM23 million project by Perbadanan Melaka has since operated from the old Glutton's Corner. (Apr 2008)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Malaysia Train History In A Doldrum

With a puff and huff, Engine No. 6051 of the North Borneo Railway and the 5 tourist coaches begin its scenic ride from Tanjung Aru to Papar in Sabah. The Vulcan steam locomotive brought in by the British has since 2002 begun its bi-weekly run on the 40 km stretch on North Borneo westen coast.

For train bluffs, the ultimate experience from the ride is the opportunity to have their face caressed by the wood burned smoke, sitting inside the swaying coaches and finally making the stop at Papar. Here at the heartland of Sabah rice bowl, the State railway department has invested in a roundtable in 2005 and it is an opportunity to see how the steam locomotive makes a 360 degree turn for the one hour return journey to Kota Kinabalu.

However that is the closest one gets to be nostalgic about railway heritage in Malaysia, a country known for its overzealous race to modernize. Over in Peninsula, despite the ERL, LRT and what have you, train history is pathetic to say the least. Preservation and conservation of rolling stock apparently are not in the vocabulary of the KTM management.

Across the Johore causeway, the KTM legacy is somewhat appreciated more. Visit the elegant Raffles Hotel museum and you will find that the cash registers are ringing constantly with the sale of duplicate copies of Old Keretapi Tanah Melayu travel posters.

Over here in Kuala Lumpur, we are still debating if we should have a Railway museum. If there is ever a consensus, then the old Moorish designed KL Railway Station is likely to be the preferred choice. The decision should win hands down because of its sentimental value although questions remain where are you going to put the locomotives.

Even as the debate rages on, all over Malaysia, precious and valuable Railway remnants and artifacts are at perils from scrap theft and victims of harsh tropical weather.

At Gemas, next to the wooden train station built by the British is the old 'Temerloh' steam locomotive. This mammoth piece of iron workhorse is rusting away with nothing to shed its metal dignity from the elements. It stood there like an eye sore and there is no mention of the great sacrifices 'Temerloh' made during its lifetime.

To the north, the significance of Malaya's first Railway route between Port Weld-Taiping appear only in school books because the track has long disappeared and the Port Weld Station is now a kopi stand with its historical marker stone lies broken and hidden behind some bushes.

Kuala Lumpur is no exception. At the northern end of the capital city used to be KTM's biggest depots for its rolling stocks. When the redevelopment plan in the 80s called Sentul Raya took off, it gave a hint of hope that finally railway heritage has a place to call home.

Unfortunately the developer, Taiping Consolidated flopped and YTL Land took over the Sentul project, Lot 10 etc. The red colored brick train shed with its many round gates was initially marked to be the new train museum. But fate decides otherwise. With a stroke of pen and no thanks to YTL's Francis Yeoh, the venue is now Kuala Lumpur Performaning Art Center (KLPAC).

The only venue now available to see steam loco engines in the city is Muzium Negara (3 units). They are placed on both sides of the rear entrance of the Museum. One is next to the car park lot.

The Selangor Museum in Shah Alam boosts a diesel loco on permanent display. It was a present for Sultan Abdul Aziz by KTM. The late Sultan apparently was into trains too, and not just your typical Mekkel train set but real ones too. At his Royal town just outside the Klang Commuter Station, an old caboose used by KTM now housed a florist shop. It is probably the only rolling stock of this type currently in existence in this country.

One enterprising food operator decided to be creative and called his western restaurant chain Victoria Station, after the famous train stop in England. Visit the outlets in USJ Subang and Ampang and you have the options to dine and wine in a KTM diesel loco where train engineers spent countless days and nights working in the sweaty and loud chambers. I particularly like the one in USJ, and the whole restaurant has a museum feel to it. Inside the Diesel head comes with sleepers and train apparatus i.e. lamps, signals etc.

Unfortunately that is the sad state of our train heritage in this country.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of little train treasures around to discover if you try hard enough.

The popular resort town of Port Dickson has one thing two for train bluffs. At the Armed Forces Museum in Port Dickson, an armored Wickham Trolley used to fight communist terrorist who were getting better at exploding rail tracks. It looks like a tank with rail wheels. Head to Port Dickson town center and you will see a lone train crossing gate with manual signal guarding over an abandoned track. It stops at the nearby godowns where the British had hauled tin ore mined from Sungai Ujung (now Seremban) and brought it here on the trains to export.

Yet, one can still have the ultimate train spotting experience in Port Dickson. Only Goods trains ply the Seremban- Port Dickson route today and to get the best view of the working train one needs to go to the roads to the Shell and ExxonMobil refineries. The train leaves PD and head off inland. In Siliau- a small town about half hour away, you can get a good view of the Goods train passing above the bridge.

Culture Coup by Singapore Peranakan Museum

The new Peranakan Museum in Singapore has opened its doors to visitors(The Star-Apr 24,08) and judging by the success they have had with the Asian Civilizations Museum, it is safe bet to say that this museum housed in an old school will generate the same excitement among history bluffs and tourists. Singaporeans can be forgiven if they show a glint in their eyes over this museum but it is no laughing matter for the Malaysian government.

The Malaysian Ministry of Unity, Cultural, Arts and Heritage and the Museum Department are now caught with their tails in between the legs. They must confront this culture coup earnestly and they must be transparent about the direction or the lack of it of where we are heading. This is important if the authority is to be taken seriously as the guardian of our museums and the repository of our national heritage and heirloom. Heritage loving Malaysians are disappointed that valueless Peranakan artifacts are now in the hands of foreigners and we should demand that the same authority in Malaysia adopt a more proactive stance to champion local heritage.

For centuries, Malaysian states like Malacca, Penang and as far as Kelantan were some of the early points of entry for chinese immigrants who came here to work. They subsequently assimilated with the locals to form this unique culture we are come to call Peranakan, or the not so politically correct term - Baba & Nyonya.

Singapore or Temasik was then just the occasional pirate hideouts. Thus it is not ridiculous to stake claim that Tanah Melayu is the rightful birthplace of the Peranakan and its heritage.

Countless thesis and articles from local and foreign universities have critiqued its unique racial composition and highlighted the role they in Malaysian society. When it fits the fancy of the same authority especially when elections or Lunar New Year are near, they are exemplified for their multi racial outlook and the multi cultural practices.

The time has come to call for greater recognition for the community besides the casual complimentary.

There is a popular Baba and Nyonya Museum operated by Chan Kim Lay and his family in Malacca. It is a favorite with tourists who are willing to pay top dollars to see first hand culture, handi works and architecture associated with the peranakan. In the late 90s there were talks about a Jabatan Museum project to build a similar Peranakan Museum along the same Heeren Street. Nothing came out of it and as we all know now -Singapore has beaten us to it.

It is not an exaggeration if we consider this seemingly "oversight" a tip of the iceberg. We have new archeological finds and reveal fascinating insights about 'A Famosa' fortress and its two unearthed Portuguese bastions in Malacca. Yet Jabatan Muzium and the state government enthusiasm is found wanting. Lembah Bujang, Kedah with its 1000 year old cendis around Gunung Jerai are left neglected although conservationists have acknowledged that Lembah Bujang is in the same league with Angkor Wat and Borobodur. However, no proper recognition or planning is forthcoming and this historical treasure is just accorded a brief mention in tour itinenaries, if at all.

Malaysians should not lament that Malaysia has not historical attractions to offer. The truth is the Ministry responsible for our heritage and culture are NOT bold enough to embrace the wealth that our multicultural and multi racial society has to offer. It continues to hide under a bigoted 'turtle shell' that brushed aside the multi-ethnicity and historical treasures laying idle across the country.

April 24, 2008

Related Reading

Singapore pays tribute to Peranakan culture with new museum.
The Star Apr. 24, 08

A new Peranakan museum in Singapore showcases more than 1,200 items of Straits Chinese artefacts and tells the stories behind them. MUSEUMS are much more than about items on display these days. They are about the stories behind the things as well.

Take the S$12mil (RM27.8mil) boutique Peranakan Museum, which opens this Saturday in what was once the Tao Nan School in Armenian Street. Work on it started just over two years ago.
The S$12mil (RM27.8mil) boutique Peranakan Museum, in what was once the Tao Nan School in Armenian Street, Singapore.

The world’s most comprehensive collection of Straits Chinese, or Peranakan artefacts, it contains more than 1,200 items showcasing this unique South-East Asian culture.
The Peranakan community began with early Chinese immigrants in Malacca, Penang and Java adopting local customs and marrying local Malay women.

Peranakans, famed for sarong kebaya (embroidered blouse-and-batik ensemble), kueh (cake) and feisty bibik (matriarch), began to live a blend of Malay and Chinese lifestyles peppered with British and Dutch influences. The items on show reflect these influences and range from intricately beaded shoes to a grand wedding bed. Also on display is the largest Peranakan beadwork tablecloth, created using one million beads.
The treasures are often all the more precious for their “true blue” individual histories.

That is something Dr Kenson Kwok, director of the Asian Civilisations Museum which is developing and operating the Peranakan Museum project, can attest to.
Late 19th or early 20th century Peranakan bridal garment made of silk and gold thread.

About 10 years ago when a visitor from Penang walked into his office asking for him, Dr Kwok almost turned her away.

“She said her mother had all these nyonya things which she wanted to give to the museum,” he says. He adds with a laugh that he was not convinced and did not take her seriously at first.
At that time, the Asian Civilisations Museum had only a small section devoted to the Straits Chinese past. But the woman was persistent and urged him to fly to Penang to take a look at some of the work.

“I flew to Penang and the minute I saw the kamcheng (covered container which the Peranakans used to store and serve food, water or pickles), I knew we had something special.
“It was so precious that I hand-carried it back to Singapore. It weighs more than 5kg and I had it on my lap all through,” he says.

Today, the kamcheng, which dates back to the late 19th century and is worth over S$100,000 (RM230,000), occupies pride of place in the Food and Feasting Gallery of the Peranakan Museum
one of 10 themed galleries housed in the building. These are spread over a floor area of 4,000sqm with a display space of 1,500sqm.

Also in the Food and Feasting gallery is a set of eight dining chairs with English-style carving which would have been done by Chinese craftsmen, and which Dr Kwok found in a junk shop toilet. “We managed to find a full set and they were in pretty good condition,” he says.

However, the museum is not just about viewing displays, but having hands-on involvement as well. Some exhibits include interactive components. These include touchable displays at a Peranakan kitchen, wedding and beading activities, and a multimedia activity where children can dress up in Peranakan costume electronically.

The museum’s galleries range from one devoted to weddings to others that cover the process of growing up, religious beliefs, food and feasting, conversations and public life. The Bim Poh Lenggang(ceremonial handkerchief) used during the traditional 12-day Peranakan wedding. The bride wore the handkerchief by wearing the ring around the fourth finger of her left hand.

Visitors will get an insight into a traditional Peranakan wedding – an elaborate 12-day affair filled with rituals and ceremonies – and also of the chiu thau ceremony, a rite of purification and initiation into adulthood, for example.

The museum wants to engage people of all ages. Says curator Randall Ee: “We want people to live through those times.” – The Straits Times, Singapore / Asia News Network
For more information, go to

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Malaysian Tin Legacy Comes Alive

Tin was an integrated part of Malaysian history. Millions of Malaysian Chinese today can trace their ancestry to the waves of cheap coolies brought into Malaya to labor in the God forsaken, malaria infested tin mines. Many Malays in this country too have their roots traced to groups originated from the surrounding Malay Archipelago who came to Tanah Melayu for the same economical reasons (i.e the Mandailing from Sumatera found mostly in Papan, Perak, Bugis from Sulawesi in Perak and Selangor). Unfortunately, this later form of migration are not mentioned promptly in history books or museums.

Calm was disrupted when everyone was caught in a ruthless fight for a bigger share of the tin pie. Throughout the 19th century, Civil Wars erupted in Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang and Selangor and often complicated by bloody royal tussle. Rival Malay/ Bugis Warlords would be aided by equally ferocious Chinese Clans fighting territorial control over tin rich areas.

Perfect excuse for the opportunistic British to interfere. With their superior guns and arm twisting tactics, the smoke apparently cleared and the mines were a hive of activity again. The British wasted no time and made iron roads into the Malay heartland. In a short span of time, numerous British financed railway lines began to dot the landscape spanning a common East to west direction.

It is was a mayhem in the villages with supertitious folks greeted the arrival of the steam era akin to doomsday. Wild elephants too were scared out of their wits by sights and sounds of fire eating iron work horse chugging with their tin ore loads to nearby sea ports. These East - West routes i.e. Taiping-Port Weld, Kuala Lumpur - Port Klang, Sungai Ujung(Seremban) - Port Dickson - share a familiar trait - Tin

Needless to say Tin resource brought prosperity for the country. History will also show that tin from Malaya saved Great Britain from bankruptcy after World War II. Countless millionaires were made and with their nouveau riches, they showed off by acquiring lavish taste for western amenities. In Perak, car owners have the privilege of having their Morris and Renault with car plates beginning with the letter 'A' . Selangor was next with 'B' and Pahang 'C'. They were the three of the wealthier states in Malaya and their source was primarily tin. Mansions built on hard cash from Tin also mushroomed in Ipoh, Penang and Malacca.

The collapse of tin price in the 80s suddenly halted the rosy outlook and hit hard at all levels of the society. However what's most unfortunate is how quick we were to distance ourselves from the tin legacy. Suddenly the tin industry became an outclass and not worth a mention except briefly on the school textbooks. We became apparently ashamed of our centuries old ties with mother nature's black gift.

Their immediate demise were hastened by a national inertia on what properly constitute Malaysia National Heritage. As a young country, we were confronting depleting treasures from our chequered past yet they were concerns, valid or otherwise by powerful groups who viewed our Colonial eras with dismay. They held a vengeance by collectively imply any symbolic representation or gestures from the last five centuries as a threat to our national identity.

Nothing were spared. Mining equipment were sold for scrap. Miners unemployed for the first time in their life found no support whatsoever. They quickly turned to cooking and manned the many hawkers stalls. Options were few for them and they have families to feed.

In Seri Kembangan/ Balakong, Selangor, the former world's largest open cast tin mine was shut down and is now a man-made lake with The Palace of Golden Horses(5 Star Hotel) and the Mine Shopping Center at its shores.

Other ex-tin mines were condemned too. They are now either popular fishing grounds, haven for migratory birds and worst, completely reclaimed to begin a new life as Taman (residential garden) found commonly in Puchong, Subang and Sunway, notably of the Sunway Lagoon fame in Selangor, and in Perak -Kampar and Gopeng areas to name a few.

If you are keen to revisit the tin legacy in this country then you have an uphill task. There are NO historical sites, NO dedicated museum, NO conservation of the mining equipments that are important to present or showcase tin and its history in this country.

However, I think there is light at the end of the tunnel. Malaysia while it positions itself as a tourism destination has taken a renewal interest in everything old, rustic and even colonial. Colonial subjects were discarded previously because it was considered against unnationalistic interest and unpatriotic.

The authority has finally awakened to the concept that heritage is a valuable asset and can bring in the precious tourism ringgit. This arrangement is far from perfect in conservation sense but it does offer a glimpse of hope to conservation work and the need to protect heritage sites and the artifacts despite some reservation about colonialization and the diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

Below is a list of museums and visitor centers offering fascination insights on the tin legacy in Malaysia.

The newly upgraded Gallery C of the Muzium Negara has an impressive exhibition on the subject. The gallery is also a good start to get acquited with the subject of tin and the different methods used in mining for tin ore. Tin ingots and model of tin dredge are on display too. (The current upgrade work in Galleries A & B of the museum is scheduled to complete in May 2008)

Not to be missed is The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, Kuala Lumpur. Highly recommended. A dedicated venue to highlight pewtersmithing business that has gone global. What I find most interesting is that the visitor center offers visitors stimulating and engaging exhibits not just the history of the Yong family and the trade. Visitors will leave with a profound appreciation of how tin is used and the pride involved in the making of pewterware. Look out for the giant dredge bucket replicas hanging from the ceiling. The buckets were used to dig tin ore in the ponds and there are some 50 buckets in one floating tin dredge!(model available in the Tin History section). Admission is free.

The Sungai Lembing Museum, Sungai Lembing, Pahang. Recommended. Known once as the El Dorado of Malaya because of its unsurpassed richness, now a dying town with largely an aged population with their grandchildren. One of the few perfect in-situ museums in Malaysia. The diorama of machinery and life in the tunnel can literally transport visitors back to the site itself worth the trip. The museum authority deserves a pat for Admission is free.

Visitor Information

Journey from Kuantan to Sg. lembing is approximately 45 km and takes about 1 hour by car.

The Sg. Lembing Museum is located at the far end of the quaint town. Pass the row of wooden shophouses and the handicraft center next to the main town field. Museumi s located on top of the hill. Lookout for the town's sole surviving Petrol Station and the antique looking fuel pump used for filling up the town's motorized vehicles.

The Jabatan Muzium run museum makes a welcomed weekend stop to get a sense of how tin was mined then. Besides the museum, visitors can access to the mining ground where tin ore was taken out from underground tunnels. The tunnels are located not too far from the museum.

Proceed by taking the small narrow road up the cliffs next to the museum lower entrance. DO NOt go beyond the tunnel opening because there is real risk of the tunnels collapsing. One can still walk inside the tunnels for about 10 meters and experience the claustrophobic environment.
Authorities have blocked any atempts to go beyond that and visitors will come face to face with earth rumbles and fallen wooden beams inside. Watch out too for the Bats!

Another highlight for history bluffs is the wooden ruins of the Smelting plant. A major fire destroyed a substantiate part of the plant and all is left of the structure is burned wooden poles.
Visitors will bel rewarded with sights of cement ponds at different levels supposedly used to filter tin ore (May 2005). Abandoned railway sleepers are still visible near the ruins. In the museum, maps and photos indicating a railway system with its rolling stocks and track was in place in Sg. Lembing.

For a close encounter with the huge tin dredge previously used to dig tin ore, one has to travel north(3 hours from KL) to Tanjung Taulang, Perak. T.T. No. 5, Tin Dredge is one of the two remaining floating tin dredge in Malaysia. The other one is in Dengkil, Selangor but unfortunately is left idle when the Wetland cum museum project fell through. And accessiblity there is a problem.

T.T. No. 5 should offer visitors an unforgetable learning experience and the trip should help history bluffs appreciate better the floating vessel the size of half football field. Guided tour is available and the dregde and museum complex is run by a private venture and there is an admission charge.

Darul Ridzuan Museum, Ipoh. Read that it has an exhibition on mining but no more information available.


Tin dredge to open to public - The Star Jan 30, 2008

AFTER years of relative obscurity, the Perak tin dredge at Tanjung Tualang will open its doors to the public from Feb 1. Run by Osborne & Chappel, the attraction will have packages that include guided tours – a trip to a tin mining museum and movies on how the 4,500 tonne giant works – for both children and adults.
Steven Ng, a company director in charge of development and marketing, said the dredge, T.T. No. 5, has been given a RM100,000 facelift.
Historical: Ng showing the tin dredge that has been given a RM100,000 facelift. There are toilet facilities, a canteen, parking lots, ticket booths, an exhibition room and walkway around the dredge, he said.
“During its tin-mining heyday, there were 40 dredges operating in Chemor, Ipoh, Gopeng, Batu Gajah, Papan, Tronoh and Malim Nawar,” said Ng.
T.T. No 5, one of the last great reminders of the time when the Kinta Valley was the world’s richest tin

producing area, was built in 1938 by W.F. Payne & Sons for Pernas Chartered Management Sdn Bhd.
Once belonging to Southern Malayan Tin Dredging (M) Sdn Bhd, the dredge had scoured for tin ore in the Kinta Valley for 44 years.
Operations stopped in 1983 due to the collapse of the tin mining industry. Since then, it has lain in a man-made pond at Desa Perlombongan, about 10km from Batu Gajah, Perak.
“At one time, the dredge would run on electricity for 24 hours in two shifts with 20 workers per shift,” related Ng.
In 1997, Pernas Chartered Management Sdn Bhd donated the three-storey high dredge to the state, which had spent over half a million ringgit to develop it into an attraction.
Ng said among other things, the company was planning to showcase other methods of tin mining to visitors.
“With the help of the Chinese tin miners associations, non-governmental organisations and Matta Fair, we should be able to get 400,000 visitors by year end,” he added.
The first package (RM5 for adults and RM3 for children less than 60cm tall) will include a movie, visit to the dredge museum and a tour of the dredge from outside.
The second package (RM15 for adults, RM8 for children aged 12 years and above) features tours inside the dredge.


Bright future awaits Sungai Lembing - NST 2007

That’s the nickname given to Sungai Lembing, a sleepy hollow which is a 45-minute drive from Kuantan. It earned the name due to the Westerners’ involvement in tin mining activities in the area 100 years ago. The place has a record of sorts for it is home to the largest, longest and deepest underground tin mine in the world.“Sungai Lembing will be sleepy no more,” said Department of Museums and Antiquities (East District) director Mohd Razaimi Hamat, adding that there were plans to revive the tin mine and the old British bungalows under the Ninth Malaysia Plan. He said the plan involved promoting the town’s rich historical tourism product.

The underground tunnels and mining site are currently closed to the public as they are no longer safe to visit. They have been rendered unstable through disuse and occasional floods in the town. “Efforts will be put in place to reconstruct the underground tunnels and mining areas while preserving the main structure to allow tourists a chance to revisit the historical mining site and learn how underground mining worked some 100 years ago.“The rebuilding of the tunnels, mining areas and bungalows will take a few years to complete but this will be carried out in tandem with promotion efforts to attract tourists to visit the existing Sungai Lembing Museum, which is still not widely known,” said Mohd Razaimi.The museum, which is a must-visit place in town, tells the story of how Sungai Lembing was once the richest tin mining area in Pahang around the early 20th century. Locals there prospered when they earned about RM1,000 per month. With that kind of money then, they could afford to purchase British-made home products and furnishings.

Mining activities in the town started with British colonisation when the area was first explored in 1888 under Sultan Pahang Almarhum Sultan Ahman Muazzam Shah 1, who agreed to the proposal by a London-based mining company to mine tin in Sungai Lembing. The company operated in Sungai Lembing from 1905 till 1986 under Pahang Consolidated Company Ltd (PCCL).The tin mine’s underground tunnels, known as pengkang, were dug by hand with the occasional use of explosives. The deepest tunnel at Myah Mines was 700 metres below ground.At that time, the population in Sungai Lembing was 10,000, and they enjoyed basic amenities. The British built a police station, a school, a hospital, shops and residential areas.However, the town suffered several unfortunate incidents such as a fire that ravaged shophouses in 1921, floods in 1926, the Japanese Occupation in 1941-1945 and the communist insurgency in the 1950s. A fatal blow to the prosperity of the town was when tin prices in the world market collapsed in 1985.This caused PCCL to crash, incurring huge losses. Mining activities then ceased and the economic activities in Sungai Lembing came to a halt.

Ever since the closure of the tin mine in 1986, Sungai Lembing has slowly slipped into an almost deserted place with miners moving into agricultural and logging areas elsewhere.However, visitors to Sungai Lembing today will still be able to see some of the town’s old characteristics, such as houses and shophouses still spotting a blend of the Pahang Malay traditional architecture with a Western influence. Houses occupied by tin miners in the old days are still standing, including 40 bungalows meant for British officers.Another interesting structure is the hanging bridge built for use during floods. There are now six hanging bridges in town.Most of the locals today sell coconut biscuits, fruits, wild lychee and tilapia which they fish from Sungai Lembing.According to local folklore, Sungai Lembing was named after the Malay weapon lembing (spear). It is said that a group of hunters hurled a spear at a deer. The deer jumped into a river with the spear still embedded in its body. After a long time, a group of miners arrived at the river and found the spear that killed the deer. The miners then named the place Sungai Lembing.Sungai Lembing Museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm. For enquiries, call 09-5412378.

Related Reading

The Star - Saturday March 22, 2008

Dredging up the past -BY LIZ PRICE

For a trip down memory lane to Malaysia’s tin-mining past, nothing beats a visit to TT No.5, one of only three dredges left in the country. Walking onto the tin dredge was like stepping back in time. The cavernous interior was strangely silent, but I am sure that when this dredge was in full operation, the noise and vibration would have been almost unbearable. This huge metal monster is a relic of the past, a reminder of the once bustling tin mining industry that thrived in Malaysia.

Tin mining is one of Malaysia’s oldest and most successful industries. In the 1600s, this industry started to thrive in Kedah, Perak and Selangor. Over the centuries, tin was extracted in huge quantities from both open cast and deeper mines. Dredges were commonly used. Today, there are only about three old dredges left in the country, and this one at Chenderoh, near Tanjong Tualang, Perak, has been preserved. In Feb 2008, it was opened to the public for tours.

The dredge looks like a colossal metal monster sitting in a pond, maybe a relative of the dinosaur. It looks too big to possibly move, but these massive dredges once devoured swamp and jungle as they searched hungrily for tin deposits. Steven Ng, 56, the man responsible for renovating this giant, is a director of Osborne & Chappel, the company that gave the dredge, TT No. 5, a RM100,000 face lift. Osborne & Chappel was started by British engineers in Malaya in the 1890s and was at the forefront of the alluvial mining industry in Malaysia.
TT5 was built in 1938 by W.F. Payne and Sons (UK), and modified in 1960.

As we walked onto the dredge, we realised just how big it was. The pontoon is 75m long, 20m wide, and three storeys high. It is essentially a floating factory where buckets on a chain scoop earth deep from the pond. These buckets were then transported up to an area high in the body of the dredge.
Nordin our guide opened a hatch in the wall and revealed the buckets on the ladder, which once took them to the top of the dredge. It looked like something from a bizarre fairground ride.
Each bucket was huge, made of manganese steel and the edges were reinforced to endure the damage done when scooping up the earth containing tin.

There are 115 buckets on the ladder, and each one can hold more than 600 litres. The maximum digging depth of this dredge was 31m. At the front end we could see the buckets where they came out of the water before beginning the long ascent to the top of the dredge. We also clambered up to the upper levels to get an overall picture of how the dredge worked. The dredge was built using steel girders, many of which came from Britain and have the manufacturers’ names stamped on them, such as Shelton, Skinningrove, and Appleby-Frobingham.

The dredge weighs 4,500 tonnes. It was moved by means of a 1.5km long cable, worked from the control area.
If the cable was released on the right side, the dredge moved left. At the top of the dredge, we got a bird’s eye view over the surrounding ponds. I was surprised to see a few birds nesting in the dredge. There are three ponds in the vicinity, and the one TT5 sits on is surrounded by paths and embankments. Fish have been stocked in the neighbouring ponds, which hopefully will encourage more birds in the area.
From the front end of the dredge, we walked along the narrow walkway on the roof and entered the next area where we had a close up view of the buckets all the way to the very top. Further on, we got to look down on the jigs. Leaving the buckets, the excavated material was broken up by jets of high-pressure water as it fell on to the revolving or oscillating screens.

Large stones and rubble were retained by these screens, while the tin bearing material passed to the jigs. These were vibrating trays, where water was forced up from below, pulsing up in a wave, so the heavy tin sank and the lighter hematite floated off. From this primary separating plant, the tin went down to the palong below and into a big container ready for transportation. The waste went out via a disposal chute at the tail end of the dredge and was subsequently dumped on the banks. These tailings were bulky as excavating just one cubic metre of new ground produced 20 cubic metres of waste material, as the new ground was compact, but the waste was separated and full of water.

Nordin informed us that the dredge operated 24 hours a day, with three shifts of about 17 men.
An area near the jigs was designated as the eating area, where the men had their food. A selection of tools is now exhibited here. Back at deck level, we could see the many hoses above our heads, which carried the tin from the jigs to the collecting areas. We continued our tour around the back end of the dredge and had a look at the control area. On the wall here is a list of the major components of the dredge and the date they were installed and last serviced.

We could see that the bucket band was fitted in 1974. Nordin showed us how the buckets were fixed to the band, and we could see the giant hammer used for removing the pins, which held the buckets in place.
There are squat toilets on the dredge at the back end, which open directly to the pond. After our tour of the dredge, we walked around the outside and then went to the small exhibition room.
During the heyday of the tin mining industry, 40 dredges were operated in Perak, with a record of 105 working in 1929 in the whole of the peninsula. This particular dredge stopped work around 1983 after more than 40 years of service.

Ng’s goal is to preserve the dredge. More money is needed to repair the two pumps. He also wants to set up a palong and to turn the area into a living museum, with people dressed in traditional clothes, including women dressed as dualang washers. A video will also be shown on how this giant worked. A visit to this dredge is an ideal way to get some understanding of what was once one of Malaysia’s most important industries.
TT5 is open from 8:30am to 7pm daily, including weekends and public holidays.

A RM10 entrance fee is charged for a walkabout on deck level while the grand tour is priced at RM15 and includes a guided one-hour tour on the upper levels and a video presentation.

TT No. 5
5th Mile Jalan Tanjong Tualang, 31000 Batu Gajah Perak
For more information, call: 05 3702 2216 or 012 517 1260

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reclamation kills Flor De La Mar?

The enclosed article below has raised important concerns about the lack of initiative on the part of the authorities to locate the great treasures supposedly on board the ill fated ship. In Malacca or Melaka, looking under the seabeds of the historic city shores is only getting tougher now that more rampant reclamation projects are in the pipeline. Think of the hugely unpopular Talam led Pulau Melaka project and the reality of the devastation unfolds before your eyes. Massive siltation of Malacca seashores i.e adjacent to Century Mahkota and Malacca Rivermouth. The entire area is slowly turning into swamps and now a favorite with migrating egrets.

A quick glance at ancient Malacca maps would reveal the shore lines were the entire stretch from present day Hotel Equatorial to Santiago Gate and right to Malacca River mouth where the Tourism Malaysia office is now situated. Therefore it would not be too hard to imagine that great sail boats and probably Flor De la Mar would have made its port calls where Hilton Hotel or Mahkota Parade stand today.

Malaysia's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had urged a thorough magnomatic survey of the various potential sites when the idea for the massive reclamation project was mooted by the state in the late 90s. Unfortunately the technology prescribed concluded nothing significant, and the Chief Minister was adamant that the project proceed. Yet for sometime, local dailies had articles highlighting fishermen and those who fish for leisure would often show up with pieces of broken china, old coins and the musket balls during their outings at the same areas.

As a teenager, I too have my share of adventures at the edge of the reclaimed land before developers changed the landscape forever with the likes of Mahkota Parade and Melaka Raya. As a matter of fact I own a few of the musket bullets and broken china wares digged out from the muddy soil myself.

Unfortunately, the state prefer to ignore the urgent need to find and identify the sunken treasures. Instead it has adopted a negligent attitude to concerned calls urging restrain in its reclamation project.

End of the story? Not yet.

The same authority however has remarkable enthusiasm to spend millions for large scale projects supposedly to draw more tourist traffic (The Eye of Malaysia in Kota Laksamana - The same Eye from KL by the way, The Taming Sari Revolving Tower and Malacca Skytrain etc) but fail to appreciate the exquisite value of heritage and conservation Malacca has to offer to its people and the world.

April 2008


Fevereiro 07, 2006

Flor De La Mar : An Early Epilogue of the Lost Ship 1511 (Portuguese Documents On Malacca)
Article By: Mohd. Sherman b. Sauffi (Maritime Archaeology Museum)The legend of the lost ship on the Portuguese fleet called Flor De La Mar (Flower Of The Seas) had been an agenda of story telling, speculations and assumptions for many years since her lost in December 1511. Lots of theories and speculations about her, that make her “A billion dollar baby”, some said that she lost or vanished on the unfaithful event, some said that she have been taken over and all the treasures are stolen, some says that she had been destroyed by rivals ships and most provocative some says that the ship was not lost and know whereabouts the ship but somehow until now, well 500 years later, it can never be found elsewhere and remains a mysteries.Enjoy the silence? We are actually got away from our leagues ladies and gentlemen.

Before we jump into conclusions about anything, there’s a good start we look at the early document of “Portuguese Document On Malacca 1509 until 1511”, collected, translated and annotated by the late M.J Pintado with National Archives of Malaysia in 1993. It is a “Long Term Project” which was started the ideas since 1974. Credits goes to all the personnel who work on the project especially Dato’ Zakiah Hanum Nor, Ex-Director General National Archive Malaysia.The written historiography collections with importance which had information about Malacca, “Letters from Alfonso de Albuquerque” in 7 volumes and the six Chroniclers - Joao de Barros, Diogo do Couto, Fernao Lopes de Castanheda, Gaspar Correia, Damiao de Goes and Manuel de Faria e Sousa. The document itself had information about what really happen to the ship Flor de La Mar.On the Document 2 (1511), Portuguese Republic Ministry of Colonies Asia Joao de Barros, Chapter II, “What Alfonso went through along the route that he took fom Cochin to the island of Sumatra, where he was visited by the King of Pedir and Pasai and what else he did up to the time he arrived in Malacca”, Document no. 13 noted “ …together with other jewellery taken as spoils from Malacca and put on aboard the galleon Flor de La Mar, as we shall further on”.

The unfortunate event that bring Flor de La Mar to bottom of the sea stated on the Book Seven Of The Second Decade of Asia by Joao de Barros, “The Achievements of the Potuguese in the exploration and conquests in the lands and seas of the east, after Alfonso de Albuquerque’s departure from Malacca to his entry into the red sea” Document no. 224, “ Above all they had to brave the fury of the storms at sea and the danger of the sandbanks near the coasts….”, Document no.225, “The truth of this we are going to see in the notable example of Alfonso de Albuquerque, who left Malacca with his galleons filled with trophies. Sailed as far as the Kingdom of Aru at the end of the region called Timia Point in Sumatra. There at night his galleon was dashed against a hidden reef and broke up into two parts with the poop in one section and the prow in the other, because the ship was old and the seas heavy”.Alfonso indeed inside the ship and his men unable to get aid from other ships that sails along with them. By the following morning, Pero de Alpoem, a captain from another ship called “Trindade”, gave aid for the shipwrecked men in a ship’s boat and save them from tragic fate.

During the period of danger, Alfonso had many precious things in his ship but the only “precious things” he saved was a little girl, the daughter of one of his slaves, while standing on a raft he held the child in his arms – the only things that he saved from among the rich spoils he had obtain from Malacca which were in his galleon. The great loss of Alfonso which is refers to his honor on the ship were the two lions hollowed iron, fine piece of craftsmanship and artistry, which the emperor of China had sent as gift to the Sultan of Malacca.Another interesting note on the event was the mutiny by the Javanese workers, on a Junk in the company of Jorges Nunes de Leao, the junk did not steer along the right course and entered the port of Aru, where the Javanese and the natives robbed it. Alfonso did go the wreck site with seeking help of Captain Jorge Bothello by using a ship Carravel type and enquire the natives who dived for pearls to dive the wreck site. However, the natives near the coastal area of Pasai might have robbed most of the cargo.

There were more than 10 ships responsible on the Malacca invasion campaign by the Portuguese in 1511, to name few, Flor de La Mar, Trindade, Anunciada, Santo Antonio, Santa Cruz, Bretao, Taforeia, Enxobregas, Cambaia, Santa Caterina, Joia, Santiago and Sao Joao. The Portuguese were the first pioneering Europeans to established empire in Southeast Asia by the invasion of Malacca , August 1511 througout 130 years before the Dutch did. Alfonso de Alburquerque died in 1515, where he left behind the legacy of navigations and established Portuguese maritime control from the Persian Gulf to Malacca, to the great enrichment of the monarchy. However, some questionable speculations about The Flor de La Mar cargoes: where did it really go? Where all the treasures of Malacca Sultanate that had been robbed? If the ship were broke into two parts, why nowadays people claim that they knew and found the wreck?If we calculate for 500 years including the changing of tides, currents and based on the unstable geographical of Sumatera, does the ship still there? Just for comparison, the Fort Santiago at Malacca A’ Famosa fortress if we look at the picture closely we sees that the sea is near the fort but 500 years later then compare the picture with the new land of Malacca, it is about 5 kilometers out from the cultural sites. Now look at the Sumatera coastal area and think again.

More research need to be taken and document to be analyzed, considerations for regions political issues, economics and diplomacy. We need to take a deeper look to this point so that the cultural heritage of Malaysia, Indonesia and Portuguese will be preserved with proper research and a little bit of sincerity in doing it.Phil-Sherman William @ Mohd. Sherman bin SauffiMaritime Archaeological MuseumDepartment Of Museums and AntiquitiesJalan Damansara50566 Kuala LumpurMALAYSIATel: 603 2282 6255 ext 228Fax: 603 2284 9103H/p: 6013 895 0198

Malacca River Folly Project.

Malacca River or Sungai Melaka the main waterway traversing this historic town is slowly but surely losing its lustre. Its traditional role and function permanently deleted.

After five centuries of receiving traders and sailors from all corners of the world, life around the river recently comes to a forcedly halt to accommodate a RM130 million Malacca River Beautification Project.
At its core, the project clamors after the San Antonio Riverfront and just about everything there with no qualms about the historical value of Sungai Melaka.

The project first launched in the new millennium was ambitious and its justification was music to many ears. High on the wish list is to stop the repeats of the Great Flood 1971, halt the local habit of turning the river into a favorite dumpsite, and rejuvenate river's marine life.

However as we appraoach the tail end of the redevelopment project, one will discover that in its place is a prettified riverfront, with an annoying similarity to Singapore's Clarke Quay.

Ask its advocators and they would argue that the river now is spotting a popular thoroughfare to reach different venues in the town, but this is probably more true for the tourist traffic and unfortunately little else for Malaccans.

Aestically the so-called beautification project has cast a cement veil over parts of the historical river and it is no different from the canals found along the confluence of Gombak and Klang Rivers in KL.

The rows of stilted shoplots in Kampung Ulu, Kampung Pantai and Kampung Jawa apparently were an eye sore for foreigners. At the worst, it highlighted a disappointing and a lack of genuine idea on the people involved in the project.

Monitor lizards and the occasional kingfisher once found lazily around stilts and the Sumatran schooners unloading charcoals at the river banks are all but disappeared.

Purple colored fishing trawlers once a common sight here when visiting Malacca is also history. Now the only motorized noise vibrating you get is from the state owned floating platoons cruising up and down the stream with paying human cargoes.

In the early 2005, treasure hunters can still be found on its muddy banks when tides ebb scavenging for remnants of Malacca's past. After all this water artery was the site where battles fought and history made.

Judging by the men's enthusiasm and the risk they willing to take, one reckon these must be very profitable outings. Today the men are long gone. Even the forlic mudskippers too suffered the same aweful fate.
Currently Phase II of the project is in full swing. (Apr 2008) A tidal lock opposite the Flor De La Mar's replica is up and running, and thus ensuring that the river level is always ideal for the tourist platoons to sail the entire length of the river.

Malacca would then claim the misnomer title of "Venice of Asia".

Even Parameswara and D' Albuquerque would be strangers if they set their foot again here on the sungai. The same sungai that gave birth to a proud Malay Sultanate and ushered the waves of European colonialism to this part of the world.
Guide to River walk

Here is the riverwalk guide for anyone who fancy taking the 1- 1 1/2 hour casual walk on the refurbished banks. Begin the journey from old Bailey Bridge (now a 2 way modern bridge) in Pengkalan Rama, walk further down stream and see ornamented stilt attap in Kampung Morten. Go up on the boardwalk for up close view of families living by the river and it should take you to the Old Express Bus terminal and the new Ferris Wheel.

Walk pass the Hang Tuah Bridge near the old Cathay and the boardwalk will takes you to more rear scenes of local homes in Kampung Ulu(across the river) and Kampung Jawa(closest to the boardwalk). Take a side tour at Kampung Jawa and you may be rewarded with delightful shopping experience i.e Excess military goods, coffin shops, pet shops. (In the 80s, Kg Jawa was also infamous for prostitution but unsure of the current status)

A decent square next to Kg Jawa Surau offers a break for your tiring legs. Either proceed up the pedestrian bridge to go the other side of the river to see rows of family owned shops ie jewelry and "pails and bins" shops in this narrow alley, or head straight pass the small Chinese temple besides the bridge.

After the Chan Koon Cheng Bridge you're within the sights of St. Francis Church. Make a visit there and discover the old wooden organ on the 1st floor and also the crypt. Murals around the church wall illustrate the many miracles the saint was known for. Back to the large public parking area which used to house Mara Shoplots. Continue your walk on the river front and you will exist close at the Stadhuys. Here you can see the original wall foundation made of the same coral stones used to build A Famosa. Across the river is a derelict warehouse waiting for its last few days. See also the stepped banks once used by coolies on gangplanks to load and unload goods from tongkang to the warehouse.


From DAP's Betty Chew Chinese New Year 08 Press Release - 6 Feb. 2008

UMNO’s achievement of zero opposition equates with zero democracy and zero hopes for justice and shared prosperity. For instance, Ali had said two days ago that the RM320 million Melaka River beautification project is expected to generate RM1 billion investment in spin-off projects along the river. The question is will the people be able to benefit from the RM 1 billion in spin-off benefits when contracts are not done by open tender and in a transparent manner? Worse the Chinese community can not even bid for such government contracts.
Furthermore is the spin-off from the RM 320 million Melaka River beautification project the cause of 143 shophouses along Melaka River in Lorong Hang Jebat, Kampung Pantai and Kampung Hulu the target of being forcibly acquired by the government. MCA first claimed that the acquisition covered only dilapidated shophouses before claiming that this was a mistake.
MCA could not respond when DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng had exposed this as a lie by producing the government gazette of such acquisition dated 17.1.2008 and that the acquisition covered many shophouses that were not old and dilapidated but had only being recently renovated at high cost with approval from local authorities. If the Director of Land & Mines can make such a mistake by wrongly gazetting the acquisition of 143 shophouses along the Melaka River, then he should be immediately sacked for gross incompetence. Failure to do so only revealed that the Melaka State Land and Mines Director was only following the directive of the Melaka State EXCO(comprising of both MCA EXCO members) to forcibly acquire the shophouses.


Ensuring Malacca River remains clean and tidy
By THOMAS TAN - The Star 2006

MALACCA: Public cooperation and support is needed to ensure the millions of ringgit spent on the beautification and cleaning of Malacca River does not go to waste. State department of environment acting director Abd Hapiz A. Samad said the throwing of garbage into the river, and restaurant operators flushing greasy stuff through their sinks would not keep the river clean. Another cause of worry is the discharge of untreated industrial waste into the river. “Many were found to have discharged waste directly into the river as they want to save the cost of building a treatment plant or grease trap,” Abd Hapiz said, adding that they were the main cause of the stench from the river. The agriculture sector contributed significantly to pollution with the use of chemical substances such as pesticides and herbicides for their economic gain, he told pressmen after presenting a paper on “The Management of Water Quality of Malacca River” at the “National Study for the Effective Implementation of Integrated Water Resource Management in Malaysia” workshop at Puteri Resort last Thursday. Abd Hapiz said, of the sources of pollution, 45% could be identified as discharge of solid waste and effluents from factories and the use of chemicals in farming and clearing land. The remaining 55% was hard to identify, he said. Phase one of the Malacca River beautification project cost RM120mil and it has since been completed. The second phase, which cost RM90mil, is near completion and the third phase has started with an allocation of RM40mil. The total cost for third phase is RM100mil.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stop Wanton Development around St.Paul's Hill

The historical significance of the area around the St Paul’s Hill should not be further diluted by inconsiderate attempts to bring wanton development to the already fragile surroundings. Despite boosting a unique heritage site rich in colonial history, on-goings structure projects i.e. the Taming Sari Revolving Tower in the area would only doom genuine efforts to promote the area’s essence and value.

One can easily observe all around the foothill - from the lonely existence of Santiago Gate to the adjacent colonial buildings and the Stadhuys complex; have all suffered terrible fate brought by myopia and ill-advised planners in the name of boosting tourism.

Perzim operated Museums (Umno Museum, Islamic Museum, Philatelic Museum etc) are erected along this corridor but none exhibits artifacts and information related to the past communities living around this Malacca landmark or its historical significance.

Ill-conceived shopping center projects i.e the Pahlawan Mall (Banda Hilir Field) with similarity to KL’s Merdeka Square opened only inches away from an excavation site housing the only physical remnant of a bastion (The Bastion of Santiago). The bastion, if preserved and proper viewing infrastructure is built, the potential of Malacca enhancing its historical attractions can further be strengthened, attracting both historical enthusiasts and leisure visitors alike and showcasing what a grandeur fortress the “A Fomosa” was then.

Sadly no known attempts were made to halt the intrusion. Needless to say, there are no written signs or plans to indicate, promote and preserve this truly important find.

Hence it comes as no surprise to me that the viewing tower now located in the former Glutton Corner area has opened to public (ironically on Apr 15, 08 - the Declaration of Malacca As Historic City Day). Heritage preservation of the Malacca’s historical richness must be given the highest priority and not make to accommodate the need for more leisure attractions to cater for the endless troops of camera happy tourists.

The colonial legacy of St. Paul needs like-minded Malaysians to voice their concerns and to help it preserved and protected against compromises made to turn Malacca’s most visited site into a theme park with sky high rides or amusement facilities that facilitate no whatsoever role to heighten the heritage value.

Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery

The Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery in Klang, Selangor has recently opened its doors for public viewing. Visitors to the gallery will find it a treasure trove of unsurpassed historical values and rightful deserves its unique position as the latest repository of Selangor’s proud Sultanate legacy.
The elegant gallery is housed in a refurbished colonial white fa├žade building located a stone throw away from the Klang Railway station. Once a dilapidated building on the verge of collapse, it began a new lease of life when the current reign of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin spearheaded a dedicated effort to turn it into a public domain showcasing the legacy of his beloved father - the late Salahuddin Abdul Aziz. The building is now meticulously preserved and for the magnificent efforts, the Royal Gallery has recently won the coveted FIABCI award for specialized category.

Historical aficionados will be spellbound by the excellent arrays of exhibits featuring the royal regalia and the historical milestones of the Selangor Sultanate. Every corner also opens up to more impressive personal collections and artifacts of the late Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz and provides impressive insight of a man who reigned as the 8th. Ruler of Selangor.

The exhibits in the gallery are evenly paced and more importantly, they are attractively positioned to allow visitors enough room to contemplate and digest the available information and exhibits. It may well deserve the accolades of being the best in its league and has definitely set new benchmark for must-see museums in Malaysia.

Although the royal heritage center was initially conceptualized as an act of filial piety, it now has a pivotal role to enhance rakyat appreciation for the immense public role that the royalty played in the state. Furthermore, the architectural landmark has become a bonus of sort and it is a welcome addition to uplift the status of Klang as the royal town.

Kudos to Sultan Sharafuddin for his foresightedness and salute the management and the architects of the gallery for a job well done. The only fault it may have are the lack of proper road signage to help visitors locate the gallery and the rather dismay public awareness of this impressive public domain.

Visitor Info:

  • Admission: Free (April 2008), Advised to allocate 1- 2 hours to visit the gallery.
  • The Royal Gallery is closed on Mondays. Opening hours are Tue-Sun- 10am -5pm.
  • The royal town Klang is located approximately 1hour from Kuala Lumpur.
  • Located nearby is Klang's famous Little India with its fabulous arrays of Indian foods and shops specialized in Indian sweet candies.
  • A Florist show now operates from what is probably the only surviving KTM caboose on display. (painted in silver on the side entrance of KTM Klang Station)


A royal life remembered - Article from NST


SELANGOR has a new museum and gallery which provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of the Selangor sultanate and the life and times of the eighth Sultan, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah.The Royal Gallery Sultan Abdul Aziz in Klang, opened in November, houses magnificent artifacts, gifts and personal collection of the late Sultan.A brainchild of the late Sultan, and originally funded by him, it was set up in 1988 as the Memorial Museum, in one of the late Sultan’s private palaces in Jalan Kota Raja (Kampung Jawa).
The palace was renovated, with the support of the State Government, and opened to the public in the year 2000, renamed the Royal Gallery Sultan Abdul Aziz, in honour of his birthname. However, a year later, the Sultan passed away and the gallery was temporarily closed.His eldest son, who succeeded him as the ninth sultan, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, took up his father’s wishes to safeguard traditional values and nurture heritage consciousness.

As the museum stood on the sultan’s private land, the Sultan Suleiman building, built in 1909 and named after Raja Suleiman who became Sultan Alaeddin Suleiman Shah was chosen for its historical significance and accessiblity to the public.Conservation and renovation works on the building adjacent to the Klang Post Office, began in 2005 and were completed late last year. “The Sultan took a personal interest in the museum and would often spend about three hours going through the artifacts, ensuring that they were correctly documented,” said Munasor Aliyasak, the museum manager.Exhibits on the ground floor provide background on the sultanate, the royal lineage, and brief histories of Selangor’s nine sultans.The late Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Alhaj was born on March 8, 1926, at Istana Bandar in Kuala Langat.The late Sultan’s ancestry can be traced back to the Bugis Sulawesi family of Opu Tanreburung Daeng Relaka which featured in the history of the Malay Archipelago.

The eighth Sultan also served as Yang di-Pertuan Agong XI, first Chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia, and Chancellor of the Universiti Teknoloji Mara.Among the historical items of interest at the gallery is a silver cigar case, a gift from Sir Frank Swettenham, the third Resident in Selangor, to the fourth sultan, Sultan Sir Abdul Samad, royal seals used during the reign of Sultan Sir Abdul Samad, and the royal canes of arecanut (pinang) with the royal seal as the hilt.

There is also the Queen Victoria Sword, a gift to Sultan Sir Abdul Samad from the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Frederick Weld, with an inscription that reads “...as a token of friendship of Her Brittanic Majesty’s Government and in recognition of His Highness’s enlightened policy on the question of debt slavery”.As visitors move up to the first floor, they will get an insight into the late Sultan’s early years, with one photograph showing him at the age of four.Visitors will also discover that Sultan Alaeddin Suleiman Shah agreed to the construction of the Mahkota Puri Palace in Klang, completed in 1903, and used as the sultan’s official palace before it was converted as a hostel for school children, and later demolished to make way for a new palace.

A large Hargine music box is an interesting feature: the box was bought at auction in 1928 (for the price of one Straits dollar) by Sultan Sir Hisamuddin Alam Shah at Port Swettenham (now Port Klang).“The late sultan used to tell stories about how he would usually take a nap in front of the music box apparently exhausted after dancing to the rhythm of the melodious music,” said Munasor.Also displayed are some of the late Sultan’s personal belongings including his favourite gold watch bearing the Selangor state crest, and a boxed watch bearing the picture of the late Sultan and the late Tengku Ampuan Rahimah.

Visitors will be dazzled by the beauty of hand-embroidered shoes as well as the several pieces of gold thread embroidered kain sampin and a gold-buckled belt with the alphabet ‘S’ embellished in the centre.The late Sultan also kept a pistol cane which was used for shooting practices while the German-made pistol was often carried for his personal protection. An American-made shotgun acquired in 1970 was used to drive away animals from the palace grounds.

The late Sultan enjoyed taking pictures and it is not unusual to find that he owned a few cameras, which are also displayed here.He often cycled to the rural areas to visit the people, especially to Lumut Island (now known as Pulau Indah) and Pulau Ketam and the bicycles he used are on display, such as the Raleigh New Yorker, an Underwood with leather seat and pouches as well as the La Giunchina.The late Sultan was also a coin collector and his collections include commemorative gold coins, dinars in conjunction with Kuwait’s 25th national day and Russian coins.Of particular significance were food containers in Selangor’s red and yellow with the State crest embossed on the cover. The containers were used for nasi beriani. Another is a colourful flat metal box which could easily be converted into a pencil case for children. “Although they were simple gifts it meant a lot to both the late and the present Sultan as they were donated by the rakyat,” said Munasor.

On display are also gifts from companies which include a set of golf balls (individually signed by the late Sultan) presented by Sime Darby, the classic F & N soft-drink bottle in gold presented during the late Sultan’s visit to the factory, as well as a copy of the paper currency that was used in the Sungei Buloh leprosy centre in 1936, which was presented to the late Sultan during his visit to the centre.A centrepiece of the display is royal regalia such as the Sultan’s crown which superseded the pure gold Mahkota Leleng crown used in the 19th century.

During the reign of Sultan Muhammad (1826-1857), a Muslim theologian, Sheikh Abdul Ghani, counselled the royal court to obtain a substitute for Mahkota Leleng. Diamonds and gem stones from Pontianak, Indonesia, and genuine rubies, set in pure gold from Pahang, adorn the present crown which is worn on royal occasions.Also on display is a replica of the diamond tiara worn by the Tengku Ampuan during functions such as royal banquets and investitures.The Sultan’s keris, Keris Tetali Emas or Keris Emas Pendek, has a blade forged from Lela Pestaka iron, deemed to have exceptional qualities.

The sheath is made of cork and it has a gilded rope that adorns the length of the sheath, which encases the seven-grooved blade. The tip of this sheath is axe-shaped, and the hilt is adorned with gemstones.One of the gifts that the Sultan received while serving as Yang di-Pertuan Agong was a model of the Dome of the Rock, presented by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.A jade cannon with a dragon carved on the top of the barrel was a gift from Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.Among souvenirs collected by the late Sultan during his travels abroad were silver spoons, samurai head gear as well as beautiful clocks which include the crystal ball clock, mantel clock, swinging clock with brass sculpture as well as the marble clocks.

There is a section of commemorative official plates and plates used at Mahkota Puri Palace as well as a gold-plated tea set.Visitors would certainly be interested in the 6.7-metre-long crocodile captured in the Klang River in 1961 by Mohd Salleh bin Abdul Karim and Ibrahim bin Abdul Karim, three months after Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Alhaj ascended the throne.It is said that the crocodile “surrendered” itself to the two mediums as an attestation to the sovereignty of the new Sultan. The crocodile’s skull was presented to the Sultan by V M Hutson, first curator of the National Zoo. Other items of interest are a cathedral-shaped bird cage, a Javanese tiger, as well as gold-plated flamingo, gold- plated deer and a porcelain horse.

The final section houses personal paintings and decorative chairs as well as greeting cards with Chinese characters embossed in solid gold, as well as the lela cannon.The gallery is open from 10am to 5pm daily except Mondays and on public holidays. Call 03-3373-6500 or fax 03-3373-6510.

The Remaining Legacy of A Famosa

The Gateway of Santiago is high on the list of must-see landmarks in the historically-rich state of Malacca (or Melaka). It is featured extensively in “Visit Malaysia” promotions to highlight diversity and conjure the strong historical presence in this rather young country.

Built in mid 15th century, this single structure made of coral stones was part of a larger impregnable fortress that stood against countless invasions from European rivals and local warlords, all spoilt for a violent quest for Malacca’s strategic importance.

Despite its historical significance the site has evolved somewhat less graciously into a convenient photography opportunity for the busloads of tourists. Many, unfortunately, are too caught up in frenzy photo snap shots and history is the farthest from their minds.

The Gateway or Porto De Santiago as it was coined originally is often mistaken for the grandeur A Famosa by tourism booklets and even history bluffs. Santiago and the ruins of St. Paul’s Chapel are the only remnants of a Portuguese fortress that once surrounded the hilly stronghold that loomed over Malacca river mouth.

Fate has never been kind to A Famosa and it suffered one cruel twist after another. The fortress served magnificently over a span of three centuries and endured large scale attacks from the Johorean, Bugis and Achenese armies before it fell into the hands of the Dutch in 1641.

The Strait of Malacca was constantly in turmoil with several masters clamoring for its reign but only for periodically. New ports and trade centers took shape elsewhere and soon contributed to the end of Malacca as a seafaring state. The rapidly silting of Malacca River the main artery where monsoon traders and sailors sought refuge also aggravated its dismissal.

By the late 18th century, Malacca and A Famosa lost most of its allure and was a distant memoir for many enthusiastic land grabbers. The cannons soon fell silent. The defensive walls crumbled due to neglect and Malacca faced real danger of having its struggling settlement forcedly evacuated.

Inquisitive visitors today are still rewarded with delightful architectural features similar to ones found in medieval Europe. Perched on the top right of the gateway is a guard post with gun holes. The zigzag cobble laid entrance reveals another deterrent gimmick to prevent would be invaders. The insignia craved above it tells the tale of Protestant Dutch proclaiming itself the new owner of what was essentially a Catholic Portuguese masterpiece.

Nearby, menacing cannons from an era long gone-by guard the gateway. A closer look reveals they are merely crafty duplicates made in time for Queen Elizabeth II formal visit to Malacca not too long ago. Visitors may have no qualms of the authenticity but with a clever imagination the cries of the fiery years where countless lives were lost defending the fortress still resonates.

Ironically the legacy of A Famosa is given a jump-start lately. Two previously buried bastions facing what was the coastal line of Malacca were uncovered when construction crew of state sponsored development projects stumbled upon the foundations. While excavation is painfully slow, the intriguing details of the magnitude of this ancient military complex have generated astonishing interest.