Arguably, the City of Kuching has gone through a transformation from a town of about 200,000 in the 70s to a city of about 800, 000 people now due to numerous steps being taken by the State government through the City Hall of Kuching North and the Municipality of Kuching city south to achieve a healthier development and at the same time maintain the unique feature to make Kuching city a modern city in the midst of history.
Both the city hall and the Municipal council are being guided by the philosophy that the city should not pursue progress at the expensive of its root, which has been part of the local history for centuries.
Generally, the State Government upholds the principle that the development of the city must take into consideration its unique features that should be preserved as its identity. The city, which has a long history and continuous development, has been able to witness a lot development and changes. But the people remain happy and friendly not only among themselves but with the visitors too.
The city has a wide and long river, which, at one time, was not really appreciated as its important feature. Actually, both sides of the city, one side being the Malay area and the other the Chinese area, are being surrounded by river banks. Hence, the development in Malay Kampong and the town area cannot be separated from the feeling of being peaceful and in tranquillity because they are being surrounded by rivers and natural environment. The river as the asset of the city must be preserved.
The development, being accelerated, must not ignore and eventually lose the river as the asset and the traditional Malay kampong, with their unique features that have been able to promote the close rapport and goodwill among the people.
The people may no longer bathe near the river banks or use the river for transportation like before but the river must remain as part of the environment of the kampong or the city as a whole.
The old architecture from the cultures of the Chinese and Malays, who had been living together harmoniously for hundreds of years, must be preserved, in order to preserve the aura that Kuching, no matter how much it is being modernized, still has its tradition and origin.
|Old Post Office and Plaza Merdeka|
Obviously, the city has been growing because of business activities, which have become its nerve and lifeline for expansion. However, it will not be a healthy development if the city only depicts business activities as the main feature to such an extent that the people do not show the feeling of being close and friendly toward each other; they have the attitude of being indifferent towards each other.
Admittedly Kuching city is not best shopping centre in the world and business and shopping is not what attract the people to the city but its overall pleasant environment. More importantly, it has the heritage and history that can be traced back to more than hundreds of years ago.
The city has a certain legacy, which is the people must endeavor to preserve and perpetuate for the future generations. Understandably, one of the reason the State government decided to upgrade Kuching to become a city was to provide the efficient administration for the preservation of its heritage and history.
Arguably, the thriving atmosphere of commerce could only be merged in areas within the jurisdication of Kuching city south, and not in the North, which has the relax and happy atmosphere. For this reason, Kuching city North and Kuching city South must work together in carrying out development without discarding historical, social elements and humanistic features in the greater Kuching city.
Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, during a speech in launching DBKU agenda, believed it had the potential to become the platform to promote unity and solidarity among the various ethnic groups in the State. The agenda reflected the commitment, the concerned and pledge of DBKU to penetrate the livelihood of the people, those who really need its servics in particular.
Understandably, DBKU has planned a number of programs to implement the programs as best as it could for the benefits of the people. In this connection, all levels of society, government agencies and the private sector must co-operate fully with DBKU towards realizing the goals of its development programs.
Basically, conscientious efforts must be made avoid making Kuching to become a city without the soul like other cities that develop very fast and with the emphasis on doing business only.
For this reason, the State government has decided to gazette an area as a legacy square of Kuching city in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Merdeka celebration.The permanent vision was based on the development achievement along the waterfront whether in the South or North of the city.
Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said the Legacy square is a way to remind the people there is something precious about the city that can be found in trees, buildings, roads, public facilities, whether shopping malls or bazaars; they are somehing much more subtle without too much mundane of commercial reference or busy lifestyle of the people.
He said the legacy square concept is not only trying to show the beautiful and charm of Kuching but also to generate activities right in the middle of the city. It will also generate greenery and lots of surrounding activities that can attract interests of the people from all walks of life.
The 10 - year plan to develop the Legacy Square will give time how Kuching is being develo0ped from a slow going, gentle and friendly place to become a city with thriving and happy environment.
Then the people will flock together in business centre that is more personal than material in nature. Undoubtedly, the development of the city has succeeded in transforming Sungei Sarawak to become an importantly feature of the city.
There is a beautiful river, a large span of green land, lots of beautiful buildings, old shop houses and many landmarks, which date back at least 100 years. This is what Kuching is like. It is old but growing forever young in another way.
The Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, in his speech during the Goodwill night organised by the Community Association of India Street last Wednesday night said Kuching has grown from a small town, combining traditional Malay kampong with Chinese shop houses with lots of boats in the river. Now it is consisting of the same population but the changing physical environment.
For example, the city from the old style of physical growth now has shopping centres as good as in other cities in Malaysia. The environment like Padang Merdeka, roads and bridges, flyovers, mosques, churches, temples all get renewal while preserving the aura of the multi -racial city with friendly residents from both sides of the rivers.
Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said the population, which used to comprise of Chinese and Malays only, now also has more and more Ibans, Bidayuhs, Orang Ulu and other ethnic groups that are coming to the city to share the responsibility of running the government and manning the business and industries, which are increasing reflecting the co-operation of all races in the society.
He believes Kuching city, no matter how much it is being modernized, will still keep the feelings among the people that it still has the tradition and origin to bring them to the midst of history, which is quite enlightening.
Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said he has often been asked how did it come about that Sarawak, at one time, had got a white Rajah? His answer was it came about because of the pirates. When the pirates became too many along the coasts of Sarawak, one adventurous British sailor came and fought them.
His efforts to restore peace to the coastal people made him to be elevated to become the White Rajah. That was the day and time Sarawak did not have sufficient power to defend itself from the marauding pirates.
But today, Sarawak, as a big part of the nation Malaysia, is fully equipped to look after its air space and territorial waters. Besides, history can still be seen in the way that the State is being developed; the people come together hand in hand to beautify the towns and cities throughout the State.
For example, the Datuk Bandar of City hall of Kuching North has become a mayor of Chinese as well as Malay areas. He is being assisted by qualified Non Bumiputra officers to administer the city that has got multi - facetted identity.
He is responsible to look after Chinese town surrounded by Malay kampong. It is not easy to find such a situation elsewhere in Malaysia. It is God’s creation for the people comprising of various ethnics and religious groups to come together as can be reflected on what Kuching city is to the people, visitors in particular.
Admittedly, the people in Kuching city during the last few years were not as close as they used to be but today they have been trying to get closer together again. This is a good sign.
Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib believed that Kuching, in spite of its massive development, will be able to retain the centre, which will be rich in history and vibrant in commercial and modern activities. The people will still be tied to the history and the past of Kuching. This is something seldom seen in any cities that are progressive all over the world.
A lot of them have lost their past because they are becoming too crowded and their activities become too fast with the dominant of commerce without giving the security of the people.
He said the city must provide security to the people to enable them amble around in the luxury of elective environment so that they can see each other in the shopping area and along the water fronts, which are getting more pleasant and beautiful for the local people and visitors to enjoy.
Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said the social and cultural activities are still lacking if the people walk from Hilton hotel at Bukit Mata Kuching to Ban Hock wharf, which are as good as any places in cities, which have riverfronts; they clean and beautiful.
He believed that the people in India street could play active roles in getting the activities to come up in keeping with the glamour and mixture of people doing their shopping in the street.
Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib believed the people along Gambier road would become recipients of benefits of changes that would come up. He suggested that they should study the tastes of new shoppers, who will probably buy more sophisticated things like hand bags or shoes or any other things.
Basically, they must recognize changes taking place in their midst and adjust themselves accordingly. Eventually, the local people will start to congregate all over the centre of Kuching and improve the identity of Gambier Street. Unavoidably, they improve the way they do business as a way to enhance the beauty of the city and reflect their pride in its progress and advancement.
His Excellency called on the people, regardless of their ethnic and religious groups to continue to play their roles in a pleasant way ensure that material progress will bring about spiritual and social changes in a more generous degree from what has been inherited from the past.
For example, the change of Kuching from the old conservative town, with all its tradition, to become the mixture of the old and the new city, could start from India Street, the friendly place, to become the bustling shopping area. May the people of India Street and surrounding areas prepare this evolution of Kuching to become the mixture of the old and new city of modern Sarawak.
Sarawak Monitor1st April 2015