Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pudu Jail’s final curtain

June 22, 2010

The wall came down last night at 10.10pm, June 21, 2010. - Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 – The mural wall of the 115-year-old Pudu Jail was demolished last night amid protesting honks of cars along Jalan Pudu.
Demolition of the 394-metre Pudu Jail wall fronting Jalan Pudu started at 10.10pm as hundreds of onlookers shouted their dismay while snapping last photographs of the historic wall.
However, work halted about 20 minutes later as a large crowd ignoring the moving excavator walked through the gap in the wall and casually strolled on the wide path between the decaying mural and a newly-constructed wall near the deserted prison building.
Boasting notorious former inmates like armed robber Botak Chin, Singaporean gang boss Jimmy Chua and bomoh Mona Fandey, Pudu Jail was first used as an army command centre by the British but became the central prisoner of war camp during the Japanese Occupation from 1941 till 1945.
“They should not destroy (the wall) as it is a reminder to people…although it had a grim history,” said 30-year-old IT trainer Sharifah Sharina who had come here after work at Ulu Kelang to take a picture of the historic wall at about 9.30pm yesterday.
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The mural featuring peaceful scenes of nature was painted by prisoner Khong Yen Chong and other inmates as community service in the early 1980s.
It entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest mural in the world at 394 metres completed in one year using 2,000 litres of paint.
Unlike many others posing in front of the wall, part-time photographer Garry Lin had set up his mini tripod and camera a few feet away from the Pudu Jail entrance where the Berjaya Sompo building loomed against the night sky in the background.

The cameras flashed to store pictures of a past no more. - Picture by Choo Choy May
“It (Pudu Jail) should be a tourist attraction rather than to have (the wall) taken down,” 23-year-old Garry told The Malaysian Insider yesterday, while adding that he was taking shots from this angle to indicate the location of the wall, compared to mere shots of the wall.
Although Garry was aware that the actual demolition was targeted at the wall facing Jalan Pudu, Sharifah and a few others were not.
In fact, there were about 100 people last night taking pictures of the wall facing Jalan Hang Tuah compared to the 10 people snapping shots of the actual wall that would be demolished outside Jalan Pudu.
“I am not sure,” said administrative assistant Mazliza Muhamad Yusof aged 28 when asked if she knew which part of the wall would be demolished.
“However, they should preserve history,” she added, saying that the government could restore and beautify the prison.
The government had decided that the 115-year-old Pudu Jail was “not something to be proud of” and hence should not be turned into a heritage site, said Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Awang Adek Hussin yesterday.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) public works director Siti Saffur Mansor said that the demolition of the wall had been scheduled at 10pm because heavy traffic on Jalan Pudu would have ebbed by then.
“It (the demolition) will be done on three nights…tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday night,” said Siti, adding that they would continue in the wee hours of the morning once the crowd dispersed.
“There are many people going out at night on Saturdays, especially during school holidays,” she added when asked why the demolition was scheduled on a Monday instead of on a weekend.
While the wall makes way for an underpass project aimed at reducing traffic congestion at the Jalan Hang Tuah and Jalan Pudu interchange, the 7.6ha Pudu Jail will be turned into a mixed development project where 40 per cent of the development would house residential properties and the remaining 60 per cent would be for commercial purposes.
The development project which will be spread over 10 years beginning the first quarter of next year is to include a transit centre, serviced apartments, office spaces, recreational areas, hotel and commercial spaces, which will be developed by UDA Holdings Berhad.

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