Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kuala Selangor Historical Gem

The chequered past of Bukit Malawati, the popular Kuala Selangor outcrop with the domineering century-old lighthouse, makes a worthy story.

Early Bugis raden or rulers first identified the importance of the hill overlooking the Selangor estuary, and saw it fit to reap the strategic location to establish their power base in the areas. Kuala Selangor was a thriving port by the 17th. Century, and it has assumed the role as the undisputed domain of the new Selangor ruler.

Not surprisingly, it invited prying eyes and sowed the seed for many invasions to come.

Soon, bloody tussles between the Bugis warlords and Dutch invaders flared over who gets the hill and the lucrative tin trade. As the warring tides wavered, the hill’s namesakes, Bukit Malawati and Bukit Belanda -Dutch Hill -in Malay, too moved back and forth.

Three hundreds years later and much of the history artifacts have disappeared with time.

For years, the hill suffered one too many lacklustre attempt to brace up the place for the role it played in history, like the cannon replicas at the hilltop. They were dismay attempts and fail to conjure accurately the violence that plagued this military stronghold.

However, with the boom in tourist arrivals, fame soon dawned on Kuala Selangor and everyone is thinking how to milk the new cash cow. History suddenly has an economical value.

The state museum board - Perbadanan Muzium Selangor was among the first to join the bandwagon - and opted for a brilliant plan to excavate the entire hill. Few artifacts related to the location like cannon balls, broken chinaware and colonial coins were found. They are now placed in a museum housed in the former home of the District Officer, next to the iconic lighthouse.
All five galleries of this Historical Museum (Muzium Sejarah) are devoted to the hill’s tumultuous history, and why Kuala Selangor is touted as the cradle of Selangor Sultanate.

However, the information and displays in the museum can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. The museum is also let down by the lack of historical artifacts, like weapons and archaeological findings to add weight to the message about the turn of events.

My other bane is the dioramas inside the galleries, particularly the two depicting the early trading days and the battle between the Dutch and raden’s men. Unfortunately, the diorama presentation is amateurish, and worst, historically inaccurate.

It is puzzling why the curators had overlooked the diorama showing European galleons berthing at Kuala Selangor when no record validates such event. Other dioramas also beg for answer especially the one depicting Dutch troops wearing cowboy hats. I doubt that was the soldiers' uniform when they were slaughtered by the locals in gruesome bloodbath scene.

Despite these drawbacks, the historical Malawati Hill and the museum is a great weekend getaway for those looking for an adventure with Selangor history.

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