- 2006/12/07 Readers reply: Bastion built by the Dutch

Many of the Dutch descendants in Malaysia have been closely following the progress of the building of the RM21mil revolving tower in Malacca's heritage area since the plans for it first came to light.

Some of us have written in to voice out our dissagreement to it. Now, we can breathe a sigh of relief that the tower will not be built opposite the Stadhuys - the grand City Hall built by our forefathers.

The discovery of the remnants of the wall from the Middelburgh Bastion at the towers's construction site not only created nationwide interest but also captured the attention of the world.

Your, report, "Ancient wall find halts tower work" (nov 30) stating how "history has managed what local residents have tried but failed" serves as an appropriate catch phrase to remind us of the importance of history and how it would have saved our tax payer's money if the Museums Department had, from the very beginning, pointed out that the intended site for the tower was in fact the site of one of the fort's bastions.

On a positive note, the tower project was also responsible for unearthing the old walls, which otherwise would have remained buried and forgotten.

Your reports of this archaeological discovery fired the interest of many, but at the same time created some confusion on wether the wall was Portugese or Dutch in origin.

To help clear the air, we wish to state that the Malacca fortress was originally build by the Portugese but after the Dutch captured it, they restored its broken walls and made modifications to strengthen its defences.

Plans of the old Portugese fort showed they did not have a bastion built at this location.

The Middelburgh, the Dutch name given to this lookout point overseeing the entrance of the Malacca river, was built by the Dutch in 1660 but designed as only a half bastion.

The bastion's construction was undertaken by Governor Jan Thyszoon Payart (1646-1662), the forth and longest serving Dutch governor of Malacca.

It is our opinion that there is generally much misunderstanding about the history of Malacca's Dutch period, which stems from the lack of knowledge about its history.

For instance, the Dutch did not come to this part of the world as a nation but as traders employed by the world's first multinational corporation, known as the Dutch East India Company.

They did not bring with them ideas of colonialism and concepts of ethnocentrism. Instead, they forged diplomatic ties (especially with Johor) based on commerce, alliances and friendship.

They were established in Malacca for 160 years, making them the longest of the three european nation's presence there, where they also created Malacca's plural society, with Malays, Chinese, Indians, Peranakans, Eurasians and Europeans living harmoniously together.

In this persective, the history of one community is entwined with the others and becomes the collective heritage of the society at large.

The Middelburgh Bastion is truly a gem of an archaeological find that will help enrich the understanding of our history.

However, it is feared that the bountiful gains derived from this discovery would only be limited to those elite archaeologists involved in the find.

Therefore, the Malaysian Dutch Descandants Project wishes to appeal to the authorities to use this opportunity to publish books, conduct lectures and forums and have other programmes to help instil heritage awareness and create interest in the history of Malaysia.

Instead of attracting the casual day-trippers, such programmes could be included in the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 to help promote malacca to the longer-staying tourists - the researchers and historians.

(Source: Dennis De Witt, Malaysian Dutch Descendant Project / The Star)

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