Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Selling off our heritage - the plight of Kampong Glam

Most would have missed the plaintive appeal (tucked way down on Page 42, Sunday Times 17 June), of Ms Hidayah Amin about how Kampong Glam may be losing  its story to the glitz of Omani wealth. Kampong Glam was a Malay enclave, originally designated for the occupation of Sultan Hussein Shah (himself of Bugis heritage) and his family. The area was primarily populated by immigrants from Java, Sulawesi and Bawean. There were Indian and Middle Easterners as well, but they mostly assimilated into the Malay culture. Ms Amin would know as, being the great grand-daughter of Haji Yusoff the belt merchant, she lived in the big yellow house, smack in the middle of Kampong Glam. At least until the government forcibly acquired the property.

She is so right, and her appeals should not go unheeded. The Malay culture needs to be protected, and it is fundamentally wrong to continue to assume that propagating a pseudo Middle Eastern Islamic facade is  equivalent to preserving the Malay heritage. The richness of Malay, Javanese, Sulawesian and Boyanese cultures need to be specifically protected as well. Unfortunately though, there are few who are wealthy and powerful enough on their side to fight for them.

Their voice desperately needs to be heard. We have lost too much of our true Singaporean heritage already.

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