- 2008/10/06 For a walk down historic Malacca

As a boost to its status as a Unicef World Heritage Site, Malacca will add another tourist attraction when work to restore Middleburg Bastion and parts of the ancient fort's walls are completed within a month.

Two years ago, parts of the bastion and the walls were discovered during construction of the RM24.5mil Taming Sari viewing tower in Jalan Quayside next to Malacca River.

Following the find, the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry issued a stop-work order to preserve the 17th century Dutch-era fortress.

Middleburg Bastion, estimated to be 1.5km long, was a strategic military landmark in Malacca 250 years ago.


Image: Historical: A government survey map of the 1950s showing the oncemighty fort of Malacca (in red line) with the unearthed Middleburg and Fredrick Hendrick bastions in view.
Historical: A government survey map of the 1950s showing the oncemighty fort of Malacca (in red line) with the unearthed Middleburg and Fredrick Hendrick bastions in view.


It was built as an extension to the A'Famosa fortress left by the Portuguese.

According to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Associate Professor Dr Nordin Hussin, the restoration is 90% complete.

"The research committee is also working on Frederick Hendrick Bastion, a major bastion along the Malacca fortress.

"It is very big in the real sense. In fact, the former HSBC building is in the bastion," he said.

Dr Nordin is part of the committee undertaking archeological excavation and restoration under the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry's RM12.8mil project, including acquisition of the former HSBC building.

He said both Middleburg and Fredrick Hendrick bastions were strategically located to prevent enemies from entering Malacca River and repulsing naval attacks.

The area around the fort, demolished by the British in the beginning of the 19th century, was put to commercial use.

"We have found the inner wall and are looking for the outer wall. We have excavated 40% of the area while the other 60% is thought to be under part the road and in the area adjacent to it," he said.


Image: Excavation work : Restoration work on Frederick Hendrick Bastion.
Excavation work : Restoration work on Frederick Hendrick Bastion.


In July, excavation teams from University Sains Malaysia (USM) found four human skeletal remains that are 600 years old based on carbon-dating analysis in the United States.

Nordin said the Ministry hoped Jalan Quayside would be closed to traffic for a day to allow excavation to unearth the bastion.

It was part of the HSBC building, which would be converted into the Ministry's heritage gallery and interpretive centre, he added.

"What we will do finally is in the planning stage, but if we get a good response from the state in the form of ideas and support, we would like to restore the bastion to its original form," he said.

"We plan to provide visitors a walk through Malacca's heritage from the 15th Century Malacca Sultanate to the construction of the fort by the Portuguese and its successive use by the Dutch before it was blown up by the British in 1807.


Image: Hard grind: Workers in the final stage of restoring Middleburg Bastion and the fort's massive walls.
Hard grind: Workers in the final stage of restoring Middleburg Bastion and the fort's massive walls.


"It is the soul of Malacca. We are attempting to bring the soul of Malacca to its original form. This is what heritage is all about.

"It is not only about the buildings but also what life was like for the cosmopolitan society of the city," he said, adding that the gallery would serve as a window through the passage of time.

However, not everyone shared his view.

One such person is local Malacca-Dutch history expert and author Dennis De Witt, who is of Dutch-Eurasian ancestry.

"While it is good that proper archeological and excavation work is being done to restore the bastions, it must be done as accurately as possible and not merely be a representation of what the walls were like," he said, adding that the walls of the fort might have been more imposing and higher than what they were being restored to.

Rather than restoration work, he suggested that part the walls to be left in their ruined state so that locals and tourists would appreciate what archeology was about.

"It will be better for some of the allocation to be spent on creating a virtual walk through the fort and the ancient city as this will give visitors a more complete understanding of the size of the fort," he said.


Image: Massive: Another view of restoration work on Middleburg Bastion.
Massive: Another view of restoration work on Middleburg Bastion.


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