Merdeka Stadium and National Stadium - the
fifth injustice and disservice in a week to the memory and legacy of Tunku
on birthday centenary commemoration - Cabinet and not PNB should designate
them national heritage and monuments
by Lim Kit Siang
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Monday
announcement at the "100 Years Remembering the Birth of Tunku Abdul Rahman
Putra: The Father of Malaysia and Founder of Racial Unity" seminar organized
by the National Archives and the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry in Kuala
Lumpur that the historic Merdeka Stadium, where Tunku Abdul Rahman
proclaimed Independence, and its covered companion, National Stadium, would
be preserved as stadiums should be an occasion for national rejoicing as it
seemed to represent a belated but welcome government decision to recognize
them as "national heritage" and "national monuments".
Surprisingly, Abdullah's announcement was largely ignored, whether by the
media or Barisan Nasional Cabinet Ministers, and only one newspaper group
gave it secondary place on its front-page yesterday with the headline "Thank
God, a national heritage is saved" and a secondary editorial today entitled
The low-key media coverage of this announcement, which failed to create any
waves, is quite surprising. However, anyone who takes the trouble to study
the manner and circumstances in which the two historic stadiums were "saved"
from demolition cannot but conclude that Abdullah's announcement was in fact
the fifth injustice and disservice to the memory and legacy of Bapa
Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj in a week on the occasion of his
Firstly, Merdeka Stadium and National Stadium were "saved" from demolition
not because of any government or Cabinet recognition of their status as
"national heritage" and "national monuments" but because of a pure
fortuitous set of circumstances completely unrelated to these developments.
In 1994, the government had granted the UMNO proxy company, United Engineers
Bhd (UEM), the right to demolish the two stadiums and develop the site into
a Plaza Merdeka, a RM1 billion complex of office blocks, a retail and
shopping complex and entertainment centre, condominiums and leisure
facilities, including a park, and an amphitheater designed for cultural and
social events that can seat 8,000 on a 13-hectare site.
Merdeka Stadium, National Stadium and the Changkat Pavilion were handed to
UEM in exchange for building the RM800 million National Sports Complex in
Bukit Jalil for the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
However, UEM had to defer plans to redevelop the site for the RM1 billion
Plaza Merdeka because of the economic downturn, which postponed the fate of
the historic stadiums from the ignominy of demolition.
When UEM tottered under its astronomical debts with the deepening of the
financial crisis, the site occupied by Merdeka Stadium, National Stadium and
Changkat Pavilion were acquired by Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) through
Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd.
As PNB had no financial capability to proceed with the billion-ringgit Plaza
Merdeka project, it agreed with the Ministry of Sports in 2001 to allow the
two stadiums to continue to be used for sporting events in the meantime.
In his speech on Monday, Abdullah said: "I have been informed that PNB has
acquired Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara, which it intends to maintain as
At a press conference later, Abdullah said the projects to redevelop the
stadium area had failed to get off the grounds in recent years.
"PNB feels the stadiums need to be preserved and it is capable of doing
it. Moreover, the buildings are regarded as a national heritage."
On whether Stadium Merdeka would be gazetted as a national monumument,
Abdullah said: "You have to ask PNB that." (New Straits Times 11.2.03)
From Abdullah's speech and press conference remarks, the following are
What Abdullah did on Monday was
merely to state the present factual situation - their current preservation
as stadiums, as PNB has no financial capability to proceed with the original
RM1 billion Plaza Merdeka project. There is no commitment by PNB that it has
abandoned the RM1 billion Plaza Merdeka project, which would involve the
demolition of the two stadiums, nor any commitment that in any development
project of the site in future , whether Plaza Merdeka or any other modified
plan, a firm commitment that the two stadiums would not be affected and
Neither the Cabinet nor the
government had made any decision to confer on the two stadiums the status of
"National Heritage" or "National Monuments". Abdullah personally regards the
two stadiums as "a national heritage", not backed by law, gazette or any
other administrative action.
This is why it has become the
fifth injustice and disservice in the past week to the memory and legacy of
Bapa Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj on the occasion of his
birthday centenary, the other four instances being:
Government forgetting about the
birthday centenary of Tunku Abdul Rahman until reminded by the DAP a month
The hasty and most disrespectful
organization of the government's birthday centenary commemoration for Tunku.
This is why Pos Malaysia is not ready to launch the commemorative stamp in
conjunction with Tunku's birthday centenary on February 8, as it would only
be ready on March 3.
The big flop of the "100 Years
Remembering the Birth of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra: The Father of Malaysia
and Founder of Racial Unity" seminar on Monday. After the opening speech by
Abdullah, only one quarter of the crowd was left after the tea-break for the
first session, with less than one-fifth of the crowd remaining for the
second session after lunch, raising the question as to whether the .some 800
people who were present at the opening of the seminar by Abdullah had
gathered to honour the memory, contribution and legacy of Bapa Malaysia or
to honour the next Prime Minister of Malaysia!
In the first session on "Tunku
Abdul Rahman: Bapa Kemerdekaan", one of the panellists, Datuk Dr. Ramlah
Adam of University of Malaya questioned Tunku's credentials as Bapa
Kemerdekaan. I respect Ramlah's academic freedom of opinion, but the
question that must be asked is whether the objective of the government
seminar on Monday was to pay tribute or to question Tunku's credentials as "Bapa
It is not too late for the government to make amends for these uncalled-for
and totally indefensible injustices and disservice to Tunku's memory and
legacy on the occasion of his birthday centenary, and the first thing that
could be done is for the Cabinet , and not a private entity, to designate
Merdeka Stadium and National Stadium as national heritage and monuments and
to gazette them under the National Heritage Act and by a special resolution
of Parliament - as well as submission to UNESCO for recognition.
In this way, there can be no doubt about the permanent status of the two
historic stadiums as national heritage and monuments - as at present, the
PNB has neither recognized nor has it the powers to recognise the two
stadiums as national heritage and monuments. Furthermore, the current
position could be easily altered and nullified either through the closure of
PNB or the transfer of ownership of the site to another company.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National