On the 14th of August 2011, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a speech in Malay for the Island Republic's "saudara-saudari sekalian" where, amongst other exaltations of Singapore's progress, LKY"s PM son mentioned this: "another reason the Malay community's perspective has become more national is because Malays have shared in Singapore's progress".
When has the Singapore Malay ever been less 'national' ? What do you have to do and say (or not to do and not to say) to be regarded as being more 'national'. This begs the question "What are the attributes of being 'more national" ? Also there's a lot of difference between 'sharing' in and 'contributing' to Singapore's progress.
Anyway in this National Day Speech the PM made this important announcement.
Item 12. Another issue that concerns the Malay community is preserving its heritage in the midst of rapid development. Right now during Ramadan, Geylang Serai bustles with the Hari Raya bazaar. The community has strong emotional attachment to Geylang. The older ones may have lived and played there, and have many precious memories of the kampung spirit. As the Malay proverb says: One remembers fondly one's childhood home.
Item 13: There is presently a "Malay Village" in Geylang. Its lease expires soon. The Government plans to develop a new civic centre and plaza on part of the current site. The working name for the centre is Wisma Geylang Serai. It will house Geylang Serai CC and a heritage gallery to remind us of the old Geylang Serai.
As for the Malay Village - its demise will not be mourned. It has become a 'brown' elephant or as the Malay proverb puts it : "Hidup Segan, Mati ta'Mahu".
And so a campaign was set up to promote and publicise this Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) concept among the populace. What else but a competition? A website "Name it! Name the upcoming civic centre in Geylang Serai" was set up to publicise this endeavour.
...Dr Maliki Osman's (Mayor of South East District and Chairman of the Civic Centre Workgroup) speech to Parliament on 17 October 2011, he said "Through the competition, apart from engendering ownership within the community, I hope we can find an original and creative name which reflects the Malay heritage, the nature and flavour of the civic centre, and can connect with the Malay community, the area's residents and the general public. Everyone has a part to play in this centre. Right from the beginning with finding a suitable name, we want to reach out and involve as many people as possible in this important chapter of Geylang Serai and Singapore's heritage,"
In http://www.namegeylangserai.sg/voting a number of names were submitted, such as Hab Warisan Geylang Serai, Kampung Geylang Serai, Mutiara Geylang Serai, Wisma Gemilang Geylang Serai, Pusat Sivik Geylang Serai. and many others.
And the website heartily announced "Stay tuned for the final results and the lucky draw winners soon!"
And on 4 April 2012 - the lucky winner was announced. Ladies and Gentlemen, - the winning name is .... wait for it ....... Wisma Geylang Serai !!!
Hmmmhh ..... Sir/Madam, please forgive me for being so 'blur one' or BLF - wasn't that the name given by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Speech 2011?
Sorry, what did you say? Oh.... a proper competition was set up and 'the name was finalised by a panel chaired by former Member of Parliament Yatiman Yusof ....... as well as the results of the online public voting in February 2012."
So sorry lah. I ask only mah. But... but .... Dr Maliki Yusof talked about "a name which reflects Malay heritage." Where got heritage because I look for the meaning of Wisma and I found out from this old lady :
"WISMA is a caption most people would attach to a Shopping Centre. Here's a random sample of the various connotations of WISMA.
1. A Shopping Mall. In Singapore there's a well-established Wisma Atria at Orchard Road, a swanky, pricey shopping hotspot for young female wannabes with loadsofmoney.
2. On a higher plane, there's Wisma Putra, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
3. There's also the sports Wisma-FAM, the headquarters of the Football Association of Malaysia.
4. In Indonesia, strangely enough, Wisma refers mainly to a guest house or a hotel - for example the Wisma Cinta Alam in Sumatra.
Which one of the above can be associated with Wisma Geylang Serai? I dare not hazard a guess. But most certainly, heritage does not come into the picture at all even though the 'Malay Heritage Centre' is inserted into this Mall - like an after-thought to glorify what is basically a glamourous Community Centre and Malay Mall. It will stand out like a carbuncle in this mega-Malay Wisma! All in all, it smacks of "Fine words butter no parsnips" or what we Malays describe as "Lebih indah kata daripada rupa".
I do hope that this has nothing to do with the attribute of Wisma as a 'guest-house' - which transmogrifies Malays in Singapore into temporary, paying guests!!!
The Chinese have Chinatown, the Indians have Little India. Can the Malays call Geylang "Malay Town" or "Little Nusantara" instead?
As for a Malay Heritage Centre - that will have to be a completely different project. The heritage of Singapore Malays is located not only in Geylang or Arab Street , but also other sites on the Singapore River, Telok Blangah, Keppel Harbour, Pasir Panjang, Pulau Samulun, Pulau Merlimau, Pulau Ayer Chawan. Pulau Sudong and Semakau and many other Southern Islands."
In seven year's time, in 2019, Singapore will be celebrating her 200th Anniversary. Those who are concerned about Malay Heritage in Singapore have a lot of thinking and delving to do like commemorating and marking the location of the Temenggong's House near the present Singapore Cricket Club, where in Telok Blangah the Temenggong was shunted in 1823 and why. Also it might be worth designing a map (has to be interactive in this age) of all these locations. I also reckon there should be included details such as how initially, only a strip of land about 5 miles in length, stretching from Mount Palmer to Tanjong Katong were ceded to the British. Not to be forgotten is the story behind the 'creation' of Pulau Jurong. That Pulau Semakau, the birthplace and home of my Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak students was turned into a landfill would make a nice drama, like the tales of the early migrants from China. There are loads more to be investigated.
Singapore Malays have to write their own script of their place in modern Singapore. They have seven years to get it going and get it right. Good hunting and good luck from the little old lady."
Tanjong Katong ayer-nya biru ..........