FEATURE: Why you should visit Tunku’s Memorial?

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/Malaysia/ANN) – The Memorial chronicles the road to independence in 1957 and pays homage to the man who peacefully secured our freedom from the British – Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, and my great-grandfather, Tunku.

I was asked a question: “If you were to recommend a monument to visit in your home country, what would it be?”

That got me thinking.

Most people know Malaysia for the Petronas Twin Towers, a symbol of modernity and progress. However, I would invite a first-time visitor to learn about Malaysian history at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial in Kuala Lumpur.

The Memorial chronicles the road to independence in 1957 and pays homage to the man who peacefully secured our freedom from the British – Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, and my great-grandfather, Tunku.

At the main entrance, visitors enter a large room where old photographs detail the significant events leading up to independence. Here, visitors get to know Tunku as a politician.

Nestled on top of a hill is The Residency, Tunku’s home and private office from the years 1956 to 1970. Here, visitors can see a more personal side to him, and will notice the smallest details that express his character.

Tunku was a Prince among men, humble in nature and generous. He decorated his home with gifts from his friends, showing that he was loved by many.

He believed in diversity and unity, as evidenced by the Chinese paintings and furniture displayed in his Muslim prayer room. It was in this room that he spent most of his mornings, preparing for his day.

In a separate hall, his personal items, including his clothing, can be viewed in glass cupboards.

He engraved his ties with the Malaysian flag, signifying his genuine love for the country.

He valued precious ornaments from around the world, from swords to a collection of rare coins. His trademark was the “tongkat”, of which he had at least 10 different types.

He had a passion for horses and sports, portrayed by photographs of him with his race horses, and his actual golf cart on display.

Framed on a wall is an iconic photograph of Tunku casting his vote while holding a cigarette. He had a strong, charismatic personality, and was not afraid to go against the norm.

But my recent visit to the Memorial was bittersweet.

When I arrived, I was told that there had been no electricity for almost a month. The staff were kind and obliging to accompany me on my tour with the help of a torchlight!

I was disappointed and felt sorry for those who wanted to visit but were refused entry, due to a logistical problem. At the same time, I was comforted by the enthusiasm of the staff.

Although the Memorial did not have any visitors, the staff were still determined to build awareness. They wanted all the help they could get to preserve the building, but more importantly, they were proud to run it.

Growing up, I heard stories about Tunku as a family man and leader. My family stressed his values of humility, freedom, diversity and unity.

Reflecting on my recent visit to the Memorial, I left feeling like I understood him. The values that he preached were a genuine reflection of who he was as a person. I recognised the importance of upholding these values and ensuring they are not forgotten in generations to come.

I encourage you to visit this prestigious monument on Jalan Dato Onn. You may leave with different opinions, feelings, and maybe questions. But I hope you will feel proud to embrace a significant chapter of Malaysian history. And like me, I hope you will feel inspired to tell Tunku’s story.

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