Gravestones find 'will not affect construction'

StarMetro's report on April 13

StarMetro's report on April 13

DESCRIBING the discovery of the 18th century Muslim gravestones at the River of Life (RoL) project site as a remarkable find, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz, however, said that construction work at the site will proceed as scheduled.

“It is exciting no doubt, and it reinforces the presence of the early Malay settlers who founded KL around 1857. However, we need to move on with development to meet the needs of today,’’ he said.

“That does not mean we will forget about the past. We will not compromise on our heritage and history. I have been told that the National Heritage Commission will be studying the stones (gravestones) and it will be preserved and put on exhibit for future generations,” Amin Nordin said.

“Kuala Lumpur was founded around 1857 at the confluence of the Gombak and the Klang rivers. It began as a humble tiny, tin-mining town of 87 residents.

“Now, after 159 years of building the city together, look at how far we have come. This stones are a reminder of out ancestors hard work to develop the city,’’ he said.

“We have a lot to be proud of. The diversity of our living culture and heritage, culture enclaves, heritage buildings, but at same time we also need to focus on the big picture and that is what we call sustainable development,’’ Amin Nordin said.

The mayor was commenting on the call by some conservation advocates who want the Government to be transparent about the discovery of the 45 Islamic gravestones found around the vicinity of Masjid Jamek area where the Government is constructing the RM4bil project.

On April 13, StarMetro reported on the discovery of the gravestones by contractors who were working on the RoL project.

The workers who were constructing a water fountain at the site stumbled upon more than 45 gravestones from the 1800s.

Heritage expert and author Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, who is writing a book titled Sutan Puasa: Founder of Kuala Lumpur 1800s-1908 said it was common knowledge that the Masjid Jamek site was previously a Muslim burial ground.

Lubis had called for the construction to be stopped in order for studies to be conducted.

“There are laws covering antiquities, historic and heritage sites,’’ he said.

“Masjid Jamek is sacred and historic, and as such should be treated with the utmost care and respect. Kuala Lumpur has lost most of its old treasures. This is probably the last remaining one; therefore its inte­grity should be protected,’’ Lubis added.

Badan Warisan Malaysia too had called for the authorities to carry out a mapping of the grounds below the mosque to salvage whatever lies beneath.

“The discovery of these old batu nisan (gravestones) in the vicinity of Masjid Jamek is incredibly exciting as it is clear, tangible and inarguable evidence of the historical timeline of the development of the city and its early Muslim settlement at the trading post which is now this modern metropolis,” said Badan Warisan Malaysia executive director Elizabeth Cardosa.