Walls Come Tumbling Down, History Bypassed
21 June 2010
Badan Warisan Malaysia has for the past several years been advocating against the demolition of Pudu Jail. We have been led to understand that a small concession has been made to preserve a small section of the wall flanking the main gate, although we do not have any details on what the plans for this will be. This token concession makes a mockery of heritage preservation.We wonder if a few years down the road, this may also be demolished to make way for further development, or will it, like the remnants of the old railway arches on Lebuh Pasar Besar, be left standing, ignored, with no explanation of its origins or why it is even there, and to suffer the same travesty of being painted some garish reddish purple colour, as it passes out of the memories of the local community?The excuse that heritage enclaves or heritage properties have to provide the same economic viability viz new development in adjacent areas is surely passé. Everywhere else in the world, communities are striving to retain their heritage structures as physical, tangible evidence of their history and identity. Would this decision to demolish have been made were the building to have been the Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad? Both these buildings were built at the same time, and the design credited to the same engineer, C E Spooner. And yet one is retained, despite having had extensive changes made to its interior, while the other has largely retained its original form.If the decision to retain or demolish one or the other was based on which has the higher levels of authenticity, Pudu Jail would come out on top. Unfortunately, Pudu Jail does not have the "wow" factor. It does not have the wholesome appeal being a building with a brutal and insalubrious story. But is this not a legitimate part of the story of Kuala Lumpur?The latest news which we have read (The Malaysian Insider) is that it appears the government does not consider Pudu Jail to be a heritage building, and that it is not something which as a nation, we are proud of.It would be useful to know what criteria a building or site needs to possess before it can be considered a heritage building by our government. In the case of Pudu Jail, is it not heritage just because it is a jail, with all its negative connotations?Surely jails are a part of the tangible evidence of our penal history which is part of our justice system. I think that we should also not forget that in its over 100 year history, it was not only a prison where convicts were incarcerated, but also where, during the period of the Japanese occupation, allied servicemen from many different nations who had fought to defend our shores were also imprisoned. Is this a part of our nation's history which we are not also proud of?Sadly, the custodians of our nation's heritage have not seen fit to respond to the many different voices which have spoken up against the demolition of Pudu Jail. The only official comments have been ones justifying the need for expansion of the roads to alleviate traffic congestion.But traffic congestion is not something which those of us who live and work in KL are unfamiliar with. Would these same authorities be so quick to agree to demolish the old Railway Station so that we can widen Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin and help ease traffic? Or the Central Market building? I would be very surprised if the city's traffic woes just disappear with the widening of Jalan Pudu or Jalan Hang Jebat.
Badan Warisan Malaysia has highlighted the plight of Pudu Jail in various correspondences with the authorities and via letters to the press for the past decade. We have also formally advocated against the proposed demolition of this property, along with many, many other properties in KL via our commentary and recommendations for the KL Structure Plan and more recently the Draft KL Local Plan.While it may be too late to save Pudu Jail, Badan Warisan hopes that the awareness raised by this will strengthen the resolve members of the public to be conscious of how fragile our heritage is and to speak up for its protection, conservation and preservation.Badan Warisan Malaysia
Do we need a new Culture Minister?
He calls that hand-painted mural that made Malaysia proud- when it was acknowledged then as the longest hand painted mural in the world as insignificant...graffiti
He added that the drawings on the outer wall demolished on Monday night were not significant.
“I’ve asked Balai Seni Lukis (National Art Gallery), they said it’s graffiti with lots of scenery.
“It’s not something that is artistic in the real sense,” he said. - Star, 24/6/2010, Pudu Prison gate to be retained as memorial, says minister
Dr Rais said the prison was not a building that was under the ministry’s heritage list.“Pudu Prison is not something that should be made a national heritage.
“It’s a prison. You can commemorate it with an artefact and the entrance is good enough,” Dr Rais told reporters on Wednesday.
He said that for a historical building to pass ‘the heritage test,’ it must have significance and contributed to the welfare of society.- Star, 24/6/2010, Pudu Prison gate to be retained as memorial, says minister
Former Australian prisoner-of-war Charles Edwards told AFP in 2008 that Pudu jail should be preserved.
Edwards was a private in the Australian 8th Division, part of Commonwealth forces that defended Malaya, as it was then known, at the outset of the 1939-1945 war.
He was captured by the Japanese and endured torture and deprivation while being held at Pudu along with thousands of other prisoners-of-war.
After the war Pudu continued to be used as a prison and in July 1986 Briton Kevin Barlow and Australian Brian Chambers were hanged there, the first Westerners to be executed under Malaysia’s anti-narcotics laws.
Pudu, built in 1895, was closed in 1996 to make way for a prison museum which shut in 2005. It was then used as a holding centre for prisoners undergoing trial before closing in 2008 - AFP, East Asian Times, Authorities begin tearing down historic Malaysian jail
"There are many other places in Kuala Lumpur that can be redeveloped for commercial and residential purposes but there is only one historic prison with such significance,” Singapore-based military historian Brian Farrell told AFP. - AFP, East Asian Times, Authorities begin tearing down historic Malaysian jail