Thursday, August 9, 2012

Changing Names of our Streets

We love changing the names of the various places in our country, from streets to hills and even whole cities. In Kuala Lumpur itself, names of various streets have been changed from time to time. During the early seventies, most streets had very colonial names like Gurney Road, Mountbatten Road, Perry Street, and many more.

It has been claimed that these British names made it appear as if we were still worshiping our colonial masters. We justify this name changing because we want to rid ourselves of this alleged colonial conspiracy. But modern, post independence buildings in the country seem to have English names such as the famous 'Time Square' is not bad invaders? We are also more familiar with the Putra World Trade Center (PWTC) than the Pusat Dagangan Dunia Putra. And why is it we use the term KLCC, which is an acronym for Kuala Lumpur City Center rather than Pusat Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur?

There have been times when street names have been changed for the most obscure of reasons. Lorong Haji Taib, for instance, was changed because the name was deemed to be not in accordance with the street's infamous reputation of housing several unhealthy activities, including prostitution and drug addicts. Shouldn't cleaning the area of its sins be a better step rather than a name change?

Also, the famous Jalan Alor in the center of shopping hub of KL has been changed into the Jalan Kejora. The Kuala Lumpur City Hall has not released any statement justifying the name change and it created quite a stir back then. After all, Jalan Alor is a famous street where visitors and locals alike come for the variety of hawker's food, making it a hugely popular tourist spot.

Besides, 'Alor' is not even an English word, nor is it Dutch, Portuguese or even Japanese. It is a Malay word. So on what basis has the City Hall decided to change Jalan Alor to Jalan Kejora? Many would agree that the original name should be retained because it is known among tourists. 'Alor' itself loosely translates into 'morning star' which is such a beautiful name.

Other town councils and city halls should take Penang for example, which has mostly retained most of its colonial names. Even when small changes have been made to the name of some streets due to the National Language Act 1967, the original English names are provided alongside the directly translated Malay new names in multilingual street signs.

It is admirable how much the people of Penang value their rich colonial history. So much so that even in some rare cases where a few streets have been given completely new names like Jalan Masjid Negeri, which used to be called Green Lane, Penangites largely continue to use the streets' old names during informal situations. It is interesting to note that even with these small changes, Penangites have been so unhappy that they deface the new street signs, forcing the local government to place replacements as high up as on lampposts to avoid future vandalism.

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