MALACCA: Nestled between the sprawling Dataran Pahlawan Malacca Megamall and a stone’s throw away from several iconic historical landmarks at the foot of St Paul’s Hill is the pyramid-shaped Independence Obelisk on Padang Pahlawan that thousands pass by without giving a second thought.
For many Malaysians addicted to the Pokemon Go game, the 1.5m Independence Obelisk in Banda Hilir is viewed as just another “PokeStop”.
Many do not know its significance in the nation’s Merdeka story, which began here 60 years ago.
The unassuming monument, which has a red mosaic “M” inlaid on each side, marks the location on this field where, in 1956, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman and his delegation were welcomed on their return from England after successfully negotiating for independence from the British in London.
The New Straits Times approached a young man standing at the mall’s side entrance near the monument, twiddling his mobile phone to load more items for his Pokemon Go game.
“I am not sure what this monument represents but according to the name in the Pokemon game, it is called ‘Independence Statue of Malaysia’.
“I suppose it must have something to do with Merdeka,” said Fabian Bong Soon Kiat, 32, an IT system administrator.
Bong, a Malaccan, said he had passed the area as a schoolboy but had never realised its existence until the game took him there.
But, on learning about the monument’s significance, Bong said more should be done to highlight its existence by placing signages directing tourists to it.
“There should be more information displayed near the monument,” said Bong.
Self-employed Saifuddin Mat Hashim, 29, who works in Tangkak, Johor, said his nephew told him that there were a lot of Pokemons around the historical sites here.
“I drove all the way from my sister’s house in Sungai Udang to catch Pokemons here,” he said.
However, Saifuddin said, he was unaware of the significance of the monument, as he was from Terengganu.
“I think more should be done to create better awareness about the monument,” said Saifuddin.
It was surprising that even a staff member of 20 years at the Proclamation of Independence Memorial building, located just 50m away, was oblivious to the monument’s significance.
When shown a picture of the monument, the staff member recognised it, but did not know why or when it was erected.
Malacca Museum Corporation general manager Datuk Khamis Abas said the monument marked the spot where Tunku Abdul Rahman announced the date of independence for the Federation of Malaya from the British in 1956.
He said it also marked the spot where British Commissioner H.G. Hammett handed over the Instrument of Independence to Malacca governor Leong Yew Koh on Aug 31, 1957, as the proclamation of independence was read out by the first chief minister of Malacca, Datuk Kurnia Jasa Osman Talib.
“It is a good proposal by the public that more should be done to highlight the significance of this monument,” Khamis said.
“The National Archives and the Independence Memorial here can set up a special committee to look into this.”