Wednesday, December 07, 2005


In honour of our fallen heroes


Mention Tugu Negara (National Monument) and the picture of some huge tall bronze figures of soldiers standing and supporting their fallen comrades would come to mind.

Almost all Malaysians have been to the Tugu Negara complex in Taman Tasik Perdana in Kuala Lumpur at least once in their lifetime.Not many know that the first Tugu was not the one in the form of human figures but was a tall concrete column found within the present complex.On the column was a clear record of dates of great human tragedy: First World War (1914-1918), Second World War (1939-1945) and the Emergency (1948-1960).

Its original location was Jalan Tugu near the roundabout in front of the Kuala Lumpur railway station and opposite Masjid Negara.Most "KLites", if asked, will not remember Jalan Tugu although they may pass by the roundabout often. This is where the first Tugu was set up by the British Administration to commemorate the wars and honour the fallen heroes. Its base is still there, a 10-square-metre flat grass-covered ground. Obviously, it does not attract anyone’s attention.

When the present site was chosen for Tugu Negara, the column was moved there with a permanent base surrounded by a moat. On it are the names of fallen heroes.The present Tugu Negara complex in the Lake Gardens area was opened on Feb 8, 1966. It incorporated a Memorial Park as a symbol of the country’s gratitude to the fallen heroes. The RM1.5 million (human figures) monument within the complex is dedicated to the 11,000 people who died during the 12-year Emergency (1948-1960).

The monument was the work of sculptor Felix de Weldon, who also did Washington’s Iwo Jima Monument.

The Tugu Negara is considered the largest bronze monument grouping in the world. It went through extensive renovation in 1975 after it was damaged in an explosion set off by suspected communist terrorists.A sturdy fence was erected and the complex was declared a protected area between sunset and dawn.

Over the years, the place has somewhat lost its glory. The Jalur Gemilang is now raised at dusk and lowered at dawn, without elaborate ceremony, by a soldier. This contrasts with the scene about a decade ago when there would be a ceremony conducted by a squad of soldiers, officers and men in "Number One Dress" (ceremonial uniform) steeped in military tradition. The raising and lowering of the flag was accompanied by the "Last Post" on the bugle blown by a soldier.

On July 31 every year, when the country celebrates Warriors Day, the Tugu would be the focus as the King, the Prime Minister and heads of military and police lay wreaths in remembrance of the fallen heroes.

*Source: NST*