TRADERS in Little India, an Indian business enclave in south Klang, are angered that Klang Municipal Council (MPK) has decided to rename Little India to Kelana Square in a rebranding exercise.
News of the name change has been the talk of the town for close to three weeks.
MPK secretary Adi Faizal Ahmad Tarmizi told StarMetro that the council has decided to rename Little India to Kelana Square as part of its rebranding exercise to lend a better image to the area.
“Having a new name is part of the rejuvenation process for Klang’s Little India and it is to create a distinct marketing uniqueness that encompasses all Malaysians,” he said.
This is not the first attempt at changing the name of Little India. In March 2009, the municipal council tried to rename it Medan Kelana, which sparked a public outcry.
Attempts to remove the name Little India from two signboards and put up new ones declaring the place as Medan Kelana were scrapped after then state exco Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar, a Klangite himself, intervened and called upon MPK not to go ahead with the plan.
Dr Xavier had told StarMetro that the name change would defeat all the hard work that had gone into building Little India into a tourist icon, and that the move would also erase the identity of the area.
One month later in April 2009, MPK tried to change the name of Padang Chetty to Laman Sari but dropped the idea after the Selangor Government ordered it to do so.
A board with the name Laman Sari was even put up then, but was taken down two weeks later.
Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Klang Chapter) and the Entrepreneurs Association of Little India Klang chairman N.P. Raman said there was no consultation with the businessmen regarding the name change.
“MPK’s move shows a callous disregard for the local traders and Klangites.
“For generations, we have been known as Little India and this is a brand known all over the world and even to sailors who call at Port Klang.
“Our businessmen are agreeable to efforts being proposed to refurbish Little India, but the name must not be changed.
“It is close to the hearts of local Indians and people overseas.
“We will write to the Tourism Minister and Selangor Mentri Besar to protest and prevent the name change,” he said.
Raman, who is managing director of Thangaram Jewellers Sdn Bhd in Jalan Tengku Kelana, said the name change would spell the death knell for Little India.
“Changing the name of Little India to Kelana Square is an affront to the Indian community. Our cultural identity will be erased overtime and there will be no uniqueness,” he said.
He added that it would become a hotly disputed issue if MPK chose to go ahead with the name change.
Swee Soon Hin Sdn Bhd director and chief executive officer Michael Lim Kum Loke whose 70-year-old shop is in Jalan Tengku Kelana, said the name of Little India had been established for three generations.
“Little India has evolved from a business area to an ethnic enclave. Chinese once dominated the area but the traders and labourers from southern India who came to start a new life here gave the area its name, as the Indians settled and made their homes around Rembau Street ,” he said. Rembau Street was the old name of Jalan Tengku Kelana.
Sri Kumaran’s Textiles Sdn Bhd owner N. Ravi Chandran said there was a need to sustain the cultural attributes of ethnic enclaves be it Chinese, Indian or Javanese.
“Cultural significance is important and MPK must understand that Little India has its own historical, aesthetical, social and spiritual values from past generations that lend character to the present and future generations to appreciate its cultural heritage value,” he said.
Wholesalers and retailers of sundries and provisions store Muthu Pillai Sdn Bhd owner M. Thiagu said the influence of south Indian migrants in the 1900s in Little India saw the building of an Indian Muslim mosque, Hindu temple and even a Catholic church in the area and this gave it colour.
“We must keep the name Little India and not choose to erase the cultural past,” he said.
Archana Curry House restaurateur S. Subramanian said Little India was popular among Europeans, Americans and even Japanese tourists as they loved the extensive use of traditional herbs and spices in the local delicacies.
“Changing the name will erase the identity of Little India as tourists over the years have promoted Little India through their memorable experiences, apart from the good food and colourful textiles. Even the traditional cultural celebrations such as ponggal are held here in a big way till today,” he said.