Jalan Raja Laut 1, Jalan Palestin – what’s in a road name? History!

Why Jalan Palestin? Why change Jalan Raja Laut 1? Where is Jalan Raja Laut 1? Who is Raja Laut?

More importantly – why ignore history?

There are just some of the questions raised by many in recent days.

The lack of respect for history is evident. It has been widely accepted that Malaysia, despite being a young nation, isn’t a nation of documenters.

The names of older roads and localities speak about the historical significance of the said area. Take Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur for example, which was once the land of brick factories. The bricks, and the technology it brought along then, saw the evolution of architecture in the city.

In fact, between 1959 and 1963, there were hardly any changes to the names of roads in the city as the government then was of the opinion that the names were linked to the early history of Kuala Lumpur.

More road names were changed from 1969 onwards, as documented by Alan Teh Leam Seng in the article ‘How KL’s Streets Got Their Names‘ published in the New Straits Times on Oct 21, 2019.

Fast forward to last Saturday, an inauguration ceremony for the new Jalan Palestin was attended by Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan and Palestine’s ambassador to Malaysia Walid Abu Ali.

The event drew some flak with Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa instructing the local council to find another road for Jalan Palestin and that Jalan Raja Laut 1 be left alone.

Now back to the initial questions:

Why Jalan Palestin?

The Jalan Palestin idea was mooted by the Federal Territories Ministry during the Majlis Himpunan Hari Quds Sedunia in May last year. According to City Hall, the move was to symbolise Malaysia’s support for Palestinians’ struggle against oppression.

For the record, the Federal Minister then was Khalid Abdul Samad.

Why change Jalan Raja Laut 1?

City Hall has yet to address this. It had only said that the process to identify a suitable road as Jalan Palestin took a long time as it had to be done meticulously and had to go through other procedures.

Where is (was) Jalan Raja Laut 1?

It’s opposite Menara DBKL2, next to the Employees Provident Fund building.

Jalan Palestin on Google Maps.

Who is Raja Laut?

Born in 1850, Raja Laut was a member of the Selangor royal family and a leader of the Malay community. According to Ahmad Kamal Ariffin in ‘Jurnal Sejarah‘, Raja Laut was also a pioneer member of the Sanitary Board Kuala Lumpur (SBKL).

So what is missing?

The history behind the names of the roads in Kuala Lumpur. For someone so important and symbolic like Raja Laut, there is barely any literature on him online.

And what about the names and the significance of the other roads in Kuala Lumpur?

Also, are changes made just to please certain quarters?

This is not an issue exclusive to Kuala Lumpur. Shah Alam is guilty of having ridiculous road names like Jalan Kontraktor, Jalan Juruterbang and Jalan Angkasawan.

In fact, the roads at the Batu Tiga Industrial Area are made up of various occupations. It’s like the town planners got lazy during a meeting, looked at each other and had a Eureka moment – “let’s name the roads after jobs!”

The enormous time spent changing road names for the sake of changing would be better used to educate the people about the personalities after whom roads and localities are named.

City dwellers should be able to tell visitors who these roads are named after and why instead of just shrugging their shoulders and saying “dunno”.

Or the authorities could pray and hope that this is quickly forgotten just like how they seem to have forgotten about a minister who defied quarantine rules upon returning from abroad.

Move on they quickly will, with more missteps along the way, as Kuala Lumpur’s rich history withers away.