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Erasing history by replacing street names
Published on: Sunday, November 01, 2020
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Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa was displeased with Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) decision to rename Jalan Raja Laut 1 in the city to Jalan Palestin. He would prefer that a road with an English name was changed instead.

To be truthful, Malaysians have multiple objections to the change of road names.

One person wrote: “What’s next after Jalan Palestin? Will Jalan Hartamas be renamed Jalan Hamas? If the KL Mayor was keen to name a road Jalan Palestin, why can’t one of the new roads being built in a particular industrial, residential or shopping area be given the name?”

Malaysians are not difficult people, but renaming roads causes distress and inconvenience. Don’t the people at the top know the suffering of the people whose road names are changed?

Why wasn’t the public consulted first? Where was the discussion about renaming an existing road? Was the public not asked for their views because the authorities are aware there will be resistance?

Many Malaysians know of the struggle of the Palestinian people, but that is as far as most people are concerned. On the other hand, Raja Laut is part of Selangor’s history. He was one of the pillars of the Malay community when Kuala Lumpur was established.

Annuar’s request to rename an English road name is just as daft as the directive from DBKL to change a major road name in KL. Road names remind us of our past and English names are part of our history, too.

Have DBKL and Annuar decided who will pick up the tab for the name change? Companies will suffer because of the extra cost of changing letterheads, name cards and addresses in business directories.

Livelihoods will be affected and maps will have to be altered or reprinted. Taxi drivers will have to mentally register this name change and visitors will get confused. The Tourism Malaysia staff can barely remember any place of interest in Malaysia, so can they be expected to remember name changes?

Will the rakyat, both ordinary people and businessmen, be able to pass on the administration costs for the name change to DBKL? The rakyat have enough to worry about, with the increase in prices of ordinary goods and services, and the economic downturn made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, without this extra hassle.

Each name change wastes valuable taxpayers’ money. The costs will be passed down to the rakyat, and the public will bear the brunt of the idiotic decision.

Renaming a road shows the disconnect between the mayor, DBKL, Annuar and the rakyat. There are numerous road-related problems in KL, and nationwide, that need immediate attention, such as flooding, poor drainage, traffic congestion, bad lighting, potholes, missing signs and faded road markings. Renaming a road should not be top priority.

Why would anyone want to rename a road? Many road names are of historical significance and they form part of our cultural identity. Annuar’s proposal to rename English road names is just another attempt to erase our history. Is Umno Baru ashamed of our colonial past? Are they afraid of the comparison with the more efficient past? Is it because the government wants change just for the sake of change? Or is it another sandiwara?

In Ipoh, several arterial roads have been renamed, but most people know the roads by their old names. One Ipoh taxi driver said that many of the roads named after VIPs are too confusing and long. He said: “Many people use the old names anyway. Everyone knows Hugh Low Street, Brewster Road, Tambun Road and Tiger Lane. Most of us cannot remember the new names of roads which are too long.”

Instead of renaming a road after a country or person, the authorities could name a new building, the new wing of a hospital, a scholarship fund, a bursary or some other white elephant. Why not rename the new Warisan Towers, or Petronas Twin Towers, Palestine Towers?


- Sabah is not spared of examples where road names have been replaced according to whims and fancies. For instance Jalan Lady Mountbatten which would have been good for tourism was renamed Jalan Pintas by a Mayor.

The street named Jalan Wooley was replaced with Jalan Tun Mustapha when a new road could have been named Jalan Tun Mustapha, considering Wooley’s immense contributions during the chartered company days. – Ed


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