The Star Malaysia - Star2
The rule of three
Discover Malaysia’s three federal territories through its heritage and function, as well as some great attractions found within.
KUALA Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan celebrate the Federal Territory Day on Feb 1 every year.
Also known as Hari Wilayah Persekutuan, it marks the anniversary of the formation of the KL federal territory in 1974.
KL, formerly part of the state of Selangor, became a federal territory when the then Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, handed it over to the federal government to make it the federal capital.
Meanwhile, Labuan and Putrajaya became federal territories in 1984 and 2001, respectively.
While the observation of the holiday is much appreciated by those who reside or work in the federal territories, many people – especially the younger generation – might have little knowledge about the significance of the day.
Professor Dr Zaid Ahmad, of the Department of Nationhood and Civilisation Studies, Faculty of Human Ecology, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) – in an interview with Bernama – said that it’s important to instil a sense of pride in the federal territories.
“Those born and residing in the federal territories should be taught (about the history) of the place they live in,” he said.
The formation of the federal territories, Zaid said, also promotes unity and stimulates economic growth between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.
However, he added that the sense of belonging and pride of the federal territories is still lacking among some Malaysians.
According to the academician, Malaysians can learn to appreciate the territories better through the exploration of heritage and history.
To learn more about the rich background of the federal territories, Malaysians should take some time to visit a few interesting destinations there. We’ve listed some top tourist attractions located in the federal territories of KL, Putrajaya and Labuan that are worth checking out.
The country’s capital city has certainly come a long way since its initial reputation as a “muddy confluence”. What essentially started as a tin mining hub has today become one of the most dynamic cities in the world.
Lonely Planet describes KL as a capital that’s a feast for visitors’ senses.
“Here you’ll find historic monuments, steel-clad skyscrapers, lush parks, mega-sized shopping malls, bustling street markets and lively nightspots,” the popular travel publisher wrote in its guide featuring KL.
Its shiny modern appeal aside, there’s certainly much heritage and history to uncover in the city. In fact, KL is the centre stage of Malaysian history.
In 1957, Tunku Abdul Rahman declared the country’s independence at the Stadium Merdeka, which still stands today.
Another historic venue to check out is the Dataran Merdeka and its surrounding colonial buildings.
From Dataran Merdeka, head on to the KL City Gallery to learn some historical facts and see old photographs. The gallery, a beautiful neo Renaissance-inspired building, was once used to accommodate the printing needs of the British administration.
Other colonial buildings to look out for in the vicinity are the Music Museum and the National Textile Museum. The three-storey Music Museum building was once the location of the Chartered Bank, as well as the National History Museum.
One of the city’s most iconic landmarks – the Sultan Abdul Samad Building – is nearby. Built by architects A.C. Norman and R.A.J. Bidwell, its striking clock tower is easily recognisable.
The other landmarks around include the Victorian Fountain and the former High Court building.
The KL Railway Station also has a fascinating facade and is a historical icon in the city. Do a photo walk from the station and admire the National Mosque and the Malayan Railway Administration Building.
Of the three federal territories, Labuan is probably the leastknown one. Located off the northwest coast of the Borneo island and facing the South China Sea, the territory isn’t high on most Malaysians’ list of places of to visit.
That’s a shame because Labuan does have its fair share of charm and is steeped in history. Local tour guide and self-taught historian Willie Teo said Labuan was eyed by British officials in the past.
“The British wanted Labuan for its port and coal. The island was previously under Brunei, and became a British colony on Dec 24, 1846; the place was named Victoria Town then,” Teo said in an interview.
Coal was mined in several areas namely Batu Arang, Merinding and Tanjung Kubong. That coal mining history can be traced to one of the island’s most famous landmarks, the Chimney.
The name of the 32.5m structure in Tanjung Kubong would suggest that it was used as a smoke chimney in the past. Curiously, no traces of soot were detected inside the structure.
Locals claimed the structure was built to provide ventilation to miners in the underground tunnel, but excavation works revealed no such tunnel. Another theory is that the museum was a watchtower to observe the arrival of ships.
Labuan was held by the Japanese for three years during World War II, and it was also the place where officers responsible for the death marches from Sandakan in Sabah went on trial.
Spots associated with World War II are the Allied Landing Point, Japanese Surrender Park and Labuan War Cemetery.
The Japanese Surrender Point hosted the signing ceremony that marked the end of the war in Borneo. The memorial point, located in a small park near Timbalai, also rewards visitors with a nice view of the South China Sea.
Within the Labuan War Cemetery is the Labuan Memorial commemorating men of the Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and the local forces of North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei.
While in Labuan, be sure to check out the pristine beaches and surrounding islands too. The smaller islands of Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Daat, Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Pulau Papan and Pulau Burong are popular among island-hopping tourists. Another important fact to know is that Labuan is a duty-free island, so shopping can be quite an experience here too.
The administrative centre of the country doesn’t shy away from the fact that it is a planned city. From well-manicured gardens to strategically placed majestic structures, everything about Putrajaya spells order and careful planning.
But beneath all that engineering feat, this federal territory holds an important position in the history books of Malaysia. Named after the first Prime Minister of Malaysia (Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-haj), Putrajaya has been the administrative capital for the federal government since 1999.
As of 2012 all of the country’s governmental ministries had relocated to Putrajaya.
The most notable building here is Perdana Putra, which holds the Prime Minister office. With its palatial-style green dome, the imposing building is an instant eye-catcher that features elements of Islamic and modern architectures.
Meanwhile, Seri Perdana is the official residence of the Prime Minister. Located on beautifully landscaped grounds, the building complex consists of three blocks with reception, banquet and residential facilities.
Another distinctive landmark is the Putra Mosque which is located at the edge of a scenic man-made lake. The iconic mosque’s dome is made of rose-tinted granite and stands at 50m high.
For history lovers, the Millennium Monument documents milestones and important periods in the country’s history. A multilevel platform is found around the base of the column. Visitors would pass engraved glass panels which trace important milestones in the nation’s history in chronological order.
The Palace of Justice is also an important landmark. Popular among photographers thanks to its majestic minarets, the complex houses various courts and the judicial departments of the country. The scenic bridges, which come alive at night with LED lights, at Putrajaya also warrant a stopover. The Seri Wawasan Bridge for one, resembles a sailing ship. Look out too for the Putra Bridge and Seri Gemilang Bridge. On weekends, head to the Putrajaya Lake for some cycling, jogging or walking. Most of the water sports activities have not resumed operations yet, but there are still plenty of other things to do there.
WE were lining up at the Kenyan border post, ready to enter Tanzania. Unfortunately, my friend Lai and I were stopped and queried because we failed to produce our yellow fever vaccination certificates ... which were actually in our checked baggage!
The certificate is a yellow 16-page booklet that has been issued to travellers since 1969 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Each yellow fever vaccine is valid for 10 years. The certificate guarantees a traveller passage into the 43 countries in the African continent, as well as countries in South and Central America.
Without this yellow booklet, you could be denied entry into any of these countries or get stranded at the immigration checkpoint for hours.
But why do we need a yellow fever vaccination certificate to visit African and Latin American countries?
Yellow fever was a lethal killer among humans and primates in Africa in the 17th century, and ran through all the way to the 19th century. Later, due to the transatlantic slave trade and migration, it spread far and wide to the Latin Americas and the Caribbean that it became an epidemic.
Back then, yellow fever was very easily spread through Aedes mosquitoes with extremely highly fatality rates, and could potentially wipe out the entire population of a village, even a whole French troop of 400,000!
Fortunately in 1937, South African virologist Max Theiler successfully developed a vaccine against the yellow fever. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1951 for saving countless human lives.
But even to this day yellow fever can only be prevented but not cured. Today, there are more than 200,000 people infected with the virus every year, with over 30,000 killed.
Whenever our group travels to Africa, we will always remind our clients to get inoculated against the yellow fever 15 days before the departure date. This is so that everyone is safe from getting infected while holidaying in the continent.
Moreover, WHO would not want travellers to “bring” the disease back to tropical Asia either.
There are numerous deadly viruses that have come up throughout history, which have caused people’s movements to be restricted. The smallpox, for instance, claimed the life of Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses V some 3,000 years ago, along with numerous other people like travellers and learned scholars.
Luckily, the airborne virus was eventually stopped with the discovery of a vaccine. Smallpox was declared extinct by WHO in 1980.
Meanwhile, the Black Death that ravaged the world between the 14th and 19th centuries proved to be even deadlier. Like smallpox, it also became extinct and now a part of our tragic global history.
Additionally, the much dreaded Spanish flu infected some 500 million people worldwide within two years from 1918, killing at least 17 million, and was inevitably the single most fatal pandemic in human history.
Something closer to my heart, the 2002 SARS outbreak almost paralysed the entire travel industry. I can still remember all the empty seats on the planes.
Everyone tried to shun public transport whenever possible back then. The tourist industry was completely halted, and I was momentarily out of work, too.
Barely 19 years later, today we are confronted with yet another global pandemic. I can say for certain that the United Nations and WHO will very soon issue another booklet to travellers around the world: the Covid19 vaccination certificate.
This vaccine is going to be the one and only remedy that will help our dying travel and hospitality industry. Under the new normal, one will have to be immunised first before one even talks about travelling, let alone plan a trip.
Seeing that the numerous available vaccines have now been deployed to all corners of the world, and more and more people are getting inoculated, there is a strong likelihood that we will all eventually break the infection chain and put an end to this pandemic.
This will open up our world once again, normalising our day-to-day lives. Travel will restart and the tourism economy will come alive again.
In addition to the WHO vaccination certificate, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is said to also introduce the IATA Travel Pass (ITP) to ensure all boarding passengers are immunised. However, some governments may have their own criteria for entering their country. They may appraise and decide whom they should open their doors to. Perhaps nation-to-nation relationships and a country’s overall performance in tackling the virus will have a say in post-vaccination days. Anyway, the advent of the coronavirus vaccines is definitely a cause for celebration, as the struggling travel industry begins to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Very soon this whole thing will be put behind us and we will get to travel once again.
This war with the virus has gravely bogged down the progress of humanity, throwing us back many years. But actually, what I’m more worried about today is the invisible “online virus warfare” that no vaccine is able to stop.
A reminder: After you get the jab, do keep the official receipt issued by authorities in good condition, for the purpose of WHO/ITP certificate application in future. The receipt must bear important information such as date and place of inoculation, as well as vaccine manufacturer and code.
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has travelled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored two books.