Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wisma Yakin, a very short history...

Yes, I promise to write a history of Wisma Yakin and I am doing just that today. It would be very difficult to write the complete history of the place but I would try to do a short one, a very short one indeed. A sort of a Short History of Wisma Yakin. First the name of this complex or this Eleven Story high-rising building is call Wisma Yakin. Why did they choose Yakin. Well, I believe those folks who decided on this name has high hopes of the success of this building, so they name it Wisma Yakin. Yakin mean confident. So if you translate this into English it is call the Confident Building.

So how does this all begin. Well according to the story relate to me by the Chairman of the Owners Association of Wisma Yakin, the idea was mooted sometime in the early seventies after the New Economic Policy was passed by the Malaysian Parliament. At the states level, as a mean of helping the Malay/Bumiputra to make a breakthrough into the economic activities of the country, the state economic institution was established. For the state of Selangor, it is the Selangor State Economic Development Cooperation. It is popularly known in Malay as Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor [PKNS]. The small Malay business community in this part of the city at that time were doing business in a Bazaar that they had built. The bazaar were mostly of stalls and shacks. Their enterprise were doing alright and business was good. It was at that time a thriving bazaar. So sometime in the early seventies, the owners of the piece of land, the present site of Wisma Yakin decided to get the help of PKNS to build them a tall building on its site. Those folks to me were indeed visionary. Remember it is the early seventies and there are not many tall buildings around that area. And those Malay folks then thought of it and got it materialized.

With the help of the then Menteri Besar of Selangor, Datuk Harun Idris, got the PKNS to finance the building of this eleven story high rising complex beside the river. Which consist of a floor for retail outlets and the other floors for other business activities which includes offices spaces. In 1972 when it was completed, Wisma Yakin was an imposing building, the tallest in that area of the town. It is the first building ever built by the Malay. In this case it is the Malay owners of the land which Wisma Yakin now stand tall. And now these Malay collectively own thirty percent of the building, which includes all the retail spaces at the ground floor and the other seventy percent belong to the PKNS.

Well, let go back in times and see what happen there in a era gone by. Sometime in the early nineteen century. From the year 1830 onward. The place where the Masjid India area is now was known as Kampong Rawa. It was a settlement of the Rawa people, an ethnic group, like the Mendaling and the Kapar people who migrated to this part of the Malay Peninsular in the early years of the nineteen century. It is still stated as Kampong Rawa on the map of Kuala Lumpur of today. So as the name suggested it was the Malay that first settled here. Under the leadership of Raja Abdullah[1857], an entrepreneur of his time and at that time an influential figure in the royal court of Selangor, saw the potential of the place where tin ore were in abundant supply. He decided to exploit it for export. The British were rather happy of this venture and help in some ways to the establishing of the small town call Kuala Lumpur. Since mining is a big venture Raja Abdullah decided to invite Chinese miners from the state of Perak to come over and join him in the exploration of tin ore. Among the Chinaman is no other then the famous Yap Ah Loy[1862], who later on became known as Kapitan Cina the third. There was two other Kapitan Cina but Yap Ah Long is the most successful and famous of them all. When the Chinese miners and the Indian Moslem traders start coming to this part of Selangor, a place where tin ore were in abundant and business were thriving, the place soon became crowded. This is actually the beginning of the Kuala Lumpur that we see today.

The present owners of Wisma Yakin are descendant of the first people who had settled at Kampong Rawa. The Rawa and other ethnic Malay people are traders, as such they set up their their stalls or business shop house on the land of which part of it is where the Wisma Yakin now stand. Soon Indian trader grew in numbers and they are settled by the British around the place where the Masjid India is now. The Malay had earlier built a mosque for their use as well as for the Indian Moslem who had just settled there. It was later demolished and the government then built a new mosque, the Masjid Jamek. This magnificently building of what is now known as Masjid Jamek was built in 1907. Early on for wanting a mosque of their own where the sermon is in their language, the Indian Moslem decided to build their own mosque, which is now the Masjid India [1860]. An imposing building opposite Wisma Yakin. That is why there are two mosque in such a small area. Well, it served its purpose well than and now. The Chinese who came to mine were allow to settle on the other side of the river where the Central Market and Petaling Streets are today. The Chinese miners would search for tin along the river behind the Bank Bumiputra building is now. Actually the mining activities goes all along to the Ampang of today. And life goes on for the these three main communities, the Malay, the Chinese and the Indian, living in peace and harmony. Generating prosperity for all Malaysian to enjoy in this country call Malaysia. Making Kuala Lumpur, a cosmopolitan capital city of Malaysia, a wonderland that is truly Asia in miniature.

The whole complex is now more than thirty years old and I think it should be given a face lift with a new shopping concept/environment, especially so where the retail business area are now. The Association Chairman told me they had plan to do just that. I hope they get going soon by taking advantage of the newly constructed over the river bridge from the LRT station. This would give the retail section of Wisma Yakin a direct access from the LRT station, which I believe would give a boost to everyone doing business in that vicinity. Someone say that Wisma Yakin is a dead building. I do not believe so, it is still alive and kicking. But to survived in this millennium it has to adept to the changing business environment and to the life style of the city folks. I am optimistic as to the future of the building call Wisma Yakin. It should be look at as a heritage building, for it is the first high-rising building ever built by the Malay themselves. It shows that those folks of the seventies do have vision of their future. The present generation of Malay who inherit Wisma Yakin must see to it that this heritage is preserved forever.

I notice that City Hall of Kuala Lumpur is doing a face lift of the whole area of Masjid India, which includes Wisma Yakin. It would be good news for those folks who are do business there. Since business alone would not draw tourists dollar to this enchanting place, other aspect of attraction must be thought of as well. I think a historical monument erected at one corner of the area would add value to this part of the city. It would be nice to see a monument of a sort telling the story of the ethnic people of the Malay culture group, of the Chinese miners and the Indian Moslem, who together are actually the early developers of this thriving part of Kuala Lumpur. Singapore did well on this aspect when they set up a sort of a monument of the great Bugis people, in the heart of the Bugis Street, in the Malay area of that city state. Maybe City Hall should start thinking on the same line. A historical monument in this part of the city would surely enhance the place, as well as it would add value to the tourist trade.

I am grateful to Hj.Maideen Kadir Shah, the President of the owners Association for his time in relating to me his story of Wisma Yakin. Some data were obtain from the thesis of a student Zainal Fadli bin Zaini. Both the contributions from Hj.Maideen and the well articulate thesis of Zainal made the writing of this article possible. Many thanks to both of them. Thanks also to Tommy for triggering my thoughts to write on this subject. That, my friends is the very very short history of Wisma Yakin. Have a nice day.

[Note: In Malaya/Malaysia the ethnic people like Rawa, Mendaling, Minang, Kapar, Jawa, Bugis and others from the Malay archipelagos who are Moslem are group as Malay]


tommy said...

Thank Pak Idrus :) it is more than a history brief

Pak Idrus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pak Idrus said...

tommy, thanks for the visit and the kind words. Have a nice day.

Hi&Lo said...

Pak Idrus,

Thanks for the history. Every locale has its own story awaiting to be told.

You made the walls of Wisma Yakin speak.

Pak Idrus said...

hi&lo,thanks for the visit and the kind words. Just doing the little I could to provide contents about Malaysia in the Internet. Glad that you enjoy the posting. Have a nice day.

Chiang said...

Dear Sir,

Thanks for the detailed information. Am an architecture students doing research on Jalan Masjid India areas. Never knew Wisma Yakin has such a glorious history to share. Thank you!

Pak Idrus said...

Chiang, thanks for the visit and the good words on the subject of this posting.

I am glad this posting did give others to know more about this unique building in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

BTW the area you are doing research has so much history, for it was there the history of KL has its beginning.

Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making my morning a little bit better with this great article!!