Decolonization (1957-1966)/ Merdeka Park
In 1932, 36-acres of land atop Petaling Hill, situated right in the middle of Kuala Lumpur was reserved to be made as ‘People’s Park’ under the Government Gazette No. 9287 dated 30 November, 1932. This is the historical place where the Union Flag was lowered and the Malayan flag was raised for the very first time at the struck of midnight of 31st August 1957. From then on, Merdeka Square has been the venue for the annual Merdeka Parade.
It was originally the Parade Ground, then the Selangor Club Padang and today the Merdeka Square. The Padang, which means field in Malay, was the focal point of much activity during the colonial era. Much of commerce centered around this area and as a result most of the heritage buildings are close by. One of the reason why the Merdeka Park withholds significant historical value is that it reminds the Malaysian of their colonial era and at the same time the Independence. Surrounding this place are the architectures built by their colonial conqueror. For example the Victorian Fountain with more than 100 years old was brought in from England during the Bristish occupation time; The Cathedral of St. Mary’s is one of the oldest Anglican churches in Southeast Asia, designed by A.C. Norman based on Early English Gothic architecture; and the Sultan Abdul Samad, built in 1897 and span across 137.2m, is the most prominent building right opposite the padang, the 41m high clock tower, arched colonnades and copper domes are of the Moghul style. Gombak River and Klang River which is the origin of the naming of KL City, runs through the park; and on the Padang is where the Malayan Flag was first raised. It is a place that tells Malaysia’s history from her birth, to the time when she loses and regain her freedom from colonial rule.
There is a recent controversy regarding the future of the Merdeka Park. Since the government is planning to reclaim the land of the Park as the site for the 118-storey Warisan Merdeka tower project. A lot of Malaysian was very concerned as the historical integrity of the area with Merdeka Park as the center, will then be greatly undermined. Apart from the historical considerations, people’s awareness of the importance of preserving public space and city landscape were also significantly aroused.
Chee Kien, Lai. Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1966. Kuala Lumpur: Petronas, 2007.
King, Ross. Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya: Negotiating Urban Space in Malaysia. Singapore: NUS Press, 2008.