Recently, I paid a visit to Tugu Negara, the National Monument memorial park in Kuala Lumpur. I have read about it and seen it on TV. Even the old RM1 note had a picture of the iconic sculpture on it. However, I have never visited it.
On the day of my visit, three busses with Chinese tourists were there and they were busy walking about, taking pictures. The environment was pleasant as we were surrounded by a beautiful garden.
Many Malaysians would have learned about Tugu Negara in their history textbooks at school. I did some research and found interesting additional information about it.
Tugu Negara was built for RM1.5mil and was officially unveiled on Feb 8, 1966.
The memorial park is located near the old Parliament building. Besides the monument, there are other components to check out on the grounds, like the pavilion, fountains and a cenotaph.
Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, was inspired to build a monument after visiting the Marine Corps War Memorial in Virginia, United States in Oct 1960.
He believed it was essential to commemorate those who had perished defending the country, particularly during WWII and the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960. It was reported that about 11,000 civilians and security forces were killed during that time.
The monument was designed by the late Tan Sri Felix de Weldon, an American sculptor of Austrian origin who had worked on the Marine Corps War Memorial. The construction of Tugu Negara began in 1963.
The bronze sculpture depicts a group of seven soldiers. In the middle stands a soldier in a victorious pose, his right hand holding a Malaysian flag (made from cloth). The height of the monument is 15m, making it the biggest freestanding bronze sculpture in the world.
The soldiers symbolise leadership, suffering, unity, vigilance, strength, courage and sacrifice. The statues are erected on stones imported from the coastal city of Karlshamn, Sweden.
The base of the monument is made from granite and bears the Malayan Coat of Arms, of which both sides are engraved with the inscription: “Dedicated to the heroic fighters in the cause of peace and freedom; May the blessing of Allah be upon them.”
On Aug 27, 1975, an explosive device was placed at Tugu Negara by a terrorist, causing major damage to the monument. Some of the statues were broken and dislocated from the base.
I was in primary school when that happened. I remember watching the news on TV and seeing announcements asking the public to donate towards the restoration of Tugu Negara to its original state. After almost two years of repair work, the “new” monument was unveiled on May 11, 1977.
As I was leaving the park that day, I was reminded of a scene from the movie Transformers. Optimus Prime, while trying to defend Earth from being destroyed by Megatron, said: “I rise, you fall.” To me, this phrase fits perfectly with Tugu Negara.