Istana Kampong Gelam to be gazetted a national monument on August 6

Istana Kampong Gelam was first gazetted as a conserved building within the Kampong Gelam Historic District by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1989.
Istana Kampong Gelam was first gazetted as a conserved building within the Kampong Gelam Historic District by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1989. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Istana Kampong Gelam, a former Malay royal palace and a reminder of Singapore's historic links to the Malay world, will be gazetted as a national monument on the eve of Singapore's Golden Jubilee.

The gazetting of the 172-year-old building, now home to the Malay Heritage Centre, was announced by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim at a Hari Raya dinner for community leaders on Friday night.

It will become the 70th national monument when it is gazetted next Thursday (August 6).

"Even as a minority community in a multiracial country, our heritage has never been at risk. We are proud of our history, customs and traditions, because these speak to us of treasured values like piety and dedication," Dr Yaacob, who is also minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said.

"Many of you would have seen these values and traditions captured in the beautiful collections at our Malay Heritage Centre. That the building will be gazetted just before Singapore's 50th birthday is, to me, a firm recognition of the Malay community's continued contribution to the diverse and vibrant social tapestry of Singapore," he added.

Prior to the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, Singapore was a part of the Johor-Lingga-Riau sultanate, and Raffles secured the agreement of Sultan Hussein Shah and Temenggong Abdul Rahman to set up a British trading port here.

Kampong Glam was a key area of settlement for migrants from the Malay Archipelago, and communities of merchants and traders settled in the area, which became a commercial hub.

Many street names in the area also attest to the varied cities and islands of origin of early immigrants, and the late 19th to 20th century, Kampong Glam was known as a hub for printing and publication.

The original istana was a timber hut, and the present two-storey structure was commissioned by Sultan Hussein's son and heir, Tengku Mohammed Ali, and completed in 1843.

As the residence of royals, it hosted important community events.

Madam Zuraidah Abdullah, chairman of the Malay Heritage Foundation's board of directors, said the gazetting of the building is timely "as it recognises Singapore's historical connection with the wider Malay world as we celebrate our nation's Golden Jubilee".

"Gazetting Istana Kampong Gelam as a national monument also recognises the integral role that our Malay communities and culture have played in shaping Singapore's history and development as a progressive and prosperous nation."

Istana Kampong Gelam was first gazetted as a conserved building within the Kampong Gelam Historic District by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1989.

After it underwent refurbishment works, the Malay Heritage Centre was opened there in June 2005 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The centre went through another round of refurbishment works between 2011 and 2012 to refresh its exhibition content.

The building is today under the care of the Malay Heritage Foundation, and managed by NHB.

Being conferred national monument status by the NHB means that a building will get greater protection under the law, and will have to abide by preservation guidelines. It will also have to undergo regular inspections to ensure its proper upkeep.

Ms Jean Wee, director of NHB's preservation of sites and monuments division, said in a statement that the gazetting of Istana Kampong Gelam "is part of our ongoing efforts to identify buildings and structures that are lasting representations of the growth of our country and people amidst a constantly evolving landscape".

"Collectively, the Istana Kampong Gelam, and our other 69 national monuments, reflect the architectural and cultural diversity of our society," she added.

zakirh@sph.com.sg