Monday, June 21, 2010

An iconic wall will fall.

A section of Pudu Prison wall fronting Jalan Pudu in Kuala Lumpur is expected to be demolished tonight. The 394m wall of the prison, built in 1895 and closed in 1996, was once famous for having the longest mural in the world at 384m. The wall will make way for a road-widening project to ease traffic congestion in the city centre. - BRIAN MOH

Monday June 21, 2010 -

KUALA LUMPUR: When the clock strikes 10 tonight, the 394-metre long wall of Pudu Prison fronting Jalan Pudu will be demolished after having served its purpose for the past 100 years.

Construction on the wall, also known as Pudu Gaol, started in 1891 in Jalan Hang Tuah and it was fully completed in 1895 at a cost of RM15,360.90.

The 4.5m high wall had once set a record for the longest mural in the world (384m). It will be torn down to make way for a road-widening project, including the construction of an underpass.

The prison stopped operating in 1996 when the building could no longer cater to the high volume of up to 6,550 people at a time since 1985.

The prisoners were subsequently shifted to the Sungai Buloh Prison, 36km from here.

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.

A passer-by taking pictures of the wall with death sentence warning to drug traffickers. - BRIAN MOH

Last night, a group of activists gathered in front of the city’s iconic building to say “goodbye”. Some even performed Chinese funeral rites including breaking ceramic bowls and burning paper offerings.

A participant, who only wanted to be identified as Min Lik, said the group was not there to protest against the demolition but to mourn its “passing”.

“Pudu Jail is part of Kuala Lumpur’s landscape and it is a major heritage building for the city,” she said.

End of an era: A pile of paper money is burnt as a symbolic gesture to the ‘death’ of Pudu Jail by a few Malaysians who are calling for the preservation of the historical landmark.

A Pudu resident, however, said the jail should go. He said a promoter tried to open up the prison for tourists but stopped because the response was poor. “It’s a waste for an unused prison to sit in middle of the city,” he said, adding that he did not see any heritage value.

Businessman Lim Beng Tat, 47, drove from Kajang to take some photographs with his family at the front of the building.

“It’s sad to see this iconic building go,” he said.

Prabu Munusamy, 32, who was met near the area, expressed disappointment over the pending demolition, saying the prison complex could be a valuable tourist attraction.

“This prison had housed several prominent convicts,” he said.

Chew Chong Huai, 52, said he was saddened that a building with such historical value would be demolished instead of being preserved as a heritage site. “In other countries, like China for example, historical buildings would be preserved as tourist attractions,” he said.

Irwan Hashim, 32, also disagreed with the move to demolish the prison complex and wall, saying the city was already congested with development.

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