Tuesday, June 29, 2010

evening rainbow

I don't often see a whole rainbow, so it was a nice surprise to see this one just before sunset on June 29 2010. At first there was part of a second rainbow to the left of the main arch, but that soon disappeared.

Unfortunately the entire rainbow was too big for my camera. I was trying to take photos quickly from my condo window, as I know rainbows don't last long.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pudu prison - the farewell

These will probably be the last photos I ever take of Pudu prison, at least of the wall. Since the demolition of the outer wall started on 21 June 2010 and will continue each evening this week, we don't know how much will come down. Supposedly a small concession has been made to preserve a small section of the wall flanking the main gate. But for how long?

I took these photos today, 23rd, and the whole stretch of wall along Jalan Pudu has gone, and a short stretch along Jalan Hang Tuah. I took the opportunity to walk along the wall that faces the waste land and stretches down almost to the mosque.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Pudu Prison - the demolition

June 21 2010, a sad day for KL and Malaysia. The wall of the historic Pudu Prison was demolished.

Another of Malaysia's heritage sites being destroyed. But the government didn't see it that way. The authorities seem to consider it is a disgrace having it in the city centre. Maybe it's also because it is a link to the colonial days.

The NST wrote Although the Pudu Prison is more than 100 years old, it will not be turned into a heritage site, said Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin. “Firstly, it’s because it is the government’s view that the Pudu Prison is not something to be proud of and, secondly, it is not suitable to be turned into a heritage site despite its age,” he said.

Penjara Pudu was built in 1891 and completed in 1895.

The prison officially closed in 1996 when construction of the new prison in Sungai Buloh was completed. It opened briefly as a museum but this didn't last long. Then there were plans to use the land. One proposed project was a shopping centre. This then went quiet, and then the prison was used as a drug rehabilitation centre.

Many people died within the prison, and of course there are many spirit stories associated with the place. I've been collecting these stories. It is rumoured that because of the spirits, this is the reason the site has not yet been developed.

The news that the outer wall would be demolished on 21 June was announced in the media just week or two earlier. The wall is more than 300m long and has murals painted on the outside, done by prisoners.

June 21 evening
I went along with mixed feelings. People were lined on the pavement opposite and on the central divider. The traffic going past the prison was reduced to a single lane. There were two 'JCBs' and a group of contractors in yellow vests.

I had been wondering why the media had said the wall would be demolished at 10pm. I was curious why a time had been given. And I never expected it to be adhered to. But surprisingly, at 10pm, the action started.

First all the worked posed for many group photos. They looked like they were having fun. The JCB nearest the road moved along the wall. Then the JCB which was behind the wall moved into position and took its first bite of a chunk of the wall. This was the beginning of the end.

The crowd was strangely quiet and unmoved. A few Chinese next to me sang Negaraku. When the fall started to fall there were a few "ooohs", but no one really made any noise. I was expecting some louds boos or other forms of protest.

The JCB on the outer side then moved along and pushed down large parts of the wall. Then it stopped. It seemed the press had been invited in to take photos. But part of the crowd also starting swarming in and soon the work area was full of spectators. There was big excitement as they all started taking photos of something inside. We on the outside didn't know what was going on. As far as I knew there was nothing there as the ground had already been levelled. However one young man came out and said they had found some cells where the prisoners lived. I really don't think this was true.

By this time the work had stopped as there were just too many people inside. The contractors gave a half hearted attempt to remove them but it didn't work. Then a TV crew started filming which took ages. I gave up as I had to get home on the monorail.

As I left I saw a large crowd had gathered by the historic gate. I didn't know if that was to be demolished as I thought it was going to be left for the time being.

The evening was a strange one, I found it very sad, as I consider the prison to be a historic building and an important part of Malaysia's past. Watching the wall fall was quite moving. But the crowd on the other hand seemed strangely unmoved, and the workmen were acting as if it was some show put on for the people, almost a street party. It seems people have mixed feelings, some want the prison preserved, many others want it demolished.
The future
Star - The 394m-long wall of the prison was being demolished to make way for a road-widening project, including the construction of an underpass. The rest of the prison, which sits amid flourishing development in the Bukit Bintang’s Golden Triangle, will remain for now, but the site has been earmarked for a mega development project by UDA Holdings.

NST - UDA will build a mixed development project which will accommodate a transit centre, service apartments, offices, recreation centres, a hotel and business space.


The photos I took here are embarassingly bad as I didn't have a tripod.

Unfortunately I have no digital photos of the prison. Although I have passed it many times, I've always been in a car or on the monorail, and never bothered to take photos. Now it is too late.

The first break in the wall

I went back in daylight on 23rd to get some photos of the remaining wall before it is too late.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission