Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Should the walls of A Famosa be re-constructed?

20th. June 2007

In 2003, the foundations of “Bastion”, part of the walls of the Fortress Melaka was discovered during the development of the Dataran Pahlawan in Melaka. Located just a stone throw from Melaka only remaining gateway, “A Famosa”, it was an important discovery.

In November 2006, while the Melaka Government was building the 120 meters high “Melaka Tower” project just inside the heritage zone besides the Melaka river, the piles of the tower hit something hard below the ground. Only upon excavation, the workers discovered the walls and foundations of the tower “Middleburgh”. This tower was built by the Dutch to monitor the movement of trading boats into and out of the Melaka river.

This new discovery was so important that the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage has alloted more than RM 12 million to excavate and do research of this new founding. Plans were revealed to re-construct at least half of the 1.3 km long perimeter walls of the Melaka fortress walls.

If this plan succeeds, the re-constructed walls of A Famosa, will benefit Malaccans and visitors to Melaka. The former HSBC Bank Building will be used to house a museum that will hold relics and highlight the walls. The re-constructed walls will allow visitors to walk above ground and feel how the walls were in yesteryears. It may not be the Great Wall of China but we have the Walls of A Famosa and it will add to the importance of Melaka in her quest to be listed as one of the heritage cities in UNESCO List.

The walls were important in the defence of Melaka from 16th. to the early 19th. Century. It was first built by the Portuguese a year after capturing Melaka in 1511. Ironically, these walls prevented the Sultan of Melaka to re-capture Melaka and it was then reinforced and expanded by the Dutch after 1642.

Only in early 1800’s, during the brief stay of the English in Melaka, orders were given out to destroy the walls. The English wanted to destroy the walls so that Melaka defences will be weakened as they were promoting Penang as their centre then. It was Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore, who was recuperating in Melaka then, saw the folly of destroying these walls. He wrote a letter to Lord Minto in India against the destruction of the walls. However, by the time when Raffles idea was agreed by Lord Minto, only the Gateway of A Famosa remained. Since then, this gateway has been the most photographed and recognised symbol of Melaka

I am for one in favour of rebuilding the walls eventhough it will be a part of the great fortress surrounding Bukit Melaka. Wouldn’t it be wonderful that we can walk on these walls if they are completed by 2012, 500 years after her creation?

Melaka used to be called the “Sleepy Hollow” when nothing happens in Melaka but her past now is benefiting Melaka and Malaccans in particular. Her history and relics are now invaluable heritage for the future generations.Surely, Melaka has arisen from her deep slumber.

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