Like all countries, Malaysia has participated in some military conflicts throughout the years and has built a war memorial for its fallen soldiers. Beng and Voon took me to the National Monument, which consists of a sculpture and centograph dedicated to those who died in Malaysia’s fight for freedom.
The sculpture is of soldiers who stand and support their fallen comrades while proudly flying the Malaysian flag above them. Felix de Weldon, who designed the Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington, Virginia, USA, was the architect for the National Monument, and it is the tallest freestanding bronze sculpture grouping in the world. Engraved on the sculpture is the following tribute to Malaysians fallen soldiers:
Dedicated to the heroic fighters in the cause of peace and freedom. May the blessing of Allah be upon them.
Even though the setting for this stoic show of national patriotism seemed right, it didn’t stir up any emotions within me. The wide open spaces and water-spouting feature near the statue heightened the monument’s importance, but for some reason it still left me cold and unmoved.
Perhaps, it’s because I don’t know enough about Malaysia’s military history (or its general history for that matter) for which this monument exists? The dedication acknowledges the lives lost during the Japanese occupation during World War II as well as the guerilla rebellion during the Malayan Emergency. These are things that I sadly don’t know much about. However, my lack of historical knowledge didn’t stop the flood of emotions I felt in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial. The difference, perhaps, is that in Australia, the memorial feels alive because there are obvious signs of celebration and tribute paid there. Here in Malaysia, the monument is almost devoid of color and life. It’s as if no one remembers it or the lives lost, which is very sad.
After a somewhat indifferent experience at the National Monument, Beng, Voon and I walked over to the ASEAN Sculpture Garden, which featured many award-winning examples of southeast Asian artistry. The atmosphere here was much lighter and we were free to roam around the area. Some of the designs were a bit curious to me and I had no idea what they represented. Some statues had small placards with descriptions; others did not. But, I guess this is part of all artistic experiences as the piece of work is only as moving or inspirational as you make it.
As always, the humidity wrapped around us like a thick blanket and zapped us of our energy throughout the day. I know you’re probably tired of hearing me gripe about the heat here, but I just cannot comprehend it. There’s absolutely no breeze, and when you’re lucky enough to catch one, it blows around warm air. Your body is always damp with sweat unless you’re in air-conditioned buildings. In spite of this, people still dress in long-sleeved shirts, jeans and other cold-weathered attire even when they are not religiously compelled to do so. And, for the life of me, I cannot figure out how they look so refreshed when I am downright drowning in sweat. It confounds the mind. It really does.