Patrolling History

24 May 2017

A treat for history buffs, there is much to learn about the roles our authorities played in the past at the Royal Malaysian Police Museum.

As you enter the Royal Malaysian Police Museum, a display tracing the evolution of the police uniform is the first exhibit you see on your way to the museum’s Gallery A. Once there, you’ll be greeted by a tall statue of a man that represents what a Temenggung looked like during the time of the Melaka Sultanate.

In the 1400s, the Temenggung was the proto-chief of police, and the Melaka Sultanate – as with most Malaysian history – serves as the primer to the galleries ahead (three in total) on how the police force came to be what it is today.

Built in 1958, the original Royal Malaysian Police Museum was first housed within the Police Training Centre (PULAPOL) on Jalan Semarak (then named Jalan Gurney) in Kuala Lumpur. In 1999, it was moved to its present location on Jalan Perdana (then named Jalan Venning), occupying a larger space to house its expanding collection.

The museum is divided into three galleries: Gallery A displays weapons and replica models of artefacts from early history, Gallery B focuses on the establishment of the modern police force, and Gallery C covers the Malayan Emergency. The museum grounds outside the building also serves as an outdoor exhibit, showcasing the police force’s historic vehicles like their first aircraft, and even the car in which the third Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim, was murdered.

Artefacts that make up the museum exhibits are largely medals and weapons, either historically used by the police force or those seized from insurgencies. The contextualising of the police force’s history however, is mostly through text-heavy posters. If you’re planning a visit to the museum, here’s what to expect.

A history lesson on race relations and the police
The museum does a fair bit of presenting the racial contexts from different historical periods of the peninsula. For example, how the disintegration of established police forces during the Japanese Occupation worsened race relations when Malay personnel were used to weed out Chinese efforts of rebellion. You can also look out for details on factions during the Selangor Civil War of 1867 (better known as the Klang War) and how police forces were used in strengthening one multiracial alliance over another.

A humanised look at guerrilla fighters during the Malayan Emergency
With Gallery C dedicated almost entirely to the Malayan Emergency, it has the most artefacts for you to look at. Presented in glass domes, what’s interesting here is the juxtaposition of everyday items against actual makeshift explosives used by their movement – a rare attempt to humanise the communist guerrilla fighters, perhaps?

Case in point: you’ll find folded clothes (worn out over time), and confiscated items like food containers, prophylactics and even a tube of Darkie toothpaste on one side of the gallery walkway. On the other side, landmines, hand grenades and tools used for making bombs are on display.

You’ll even find novelty handkerchiefs with illustrations on them hung up on a wall; when folded the right way, the drawings become pornographic. It’s an interesting display that makes you question whether it was exhibited to justify the movement as evil and immoral, or illustrate a cheeky side to the humans we demonised.

How the British handled public order
As mentioned, Gallery B is themed on the establishment of the modern police force. It’s mostly text and preserved uniforms until you get to the Weaponry section, but do spare a moment to pore over the text. If you can get through the dryly written descriptions on the posters, you’ll get a rough idea of how these early police forces were used to quell dissent from locals.

One example is Pahang’s police force, constituted in 1888 by the state’s first Resident J.P. Rodger, to address the rebellion of the time. This police force was used to suppress riots against the British in the state, which later influenced the formation of the Federated Malay States in 1896 that consolidated the police forces of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang as the Malay States Police. You’ll also learn a thing or two about the Malay States Guides, a paramilitary force to the Malay States Police formed in the 1870s to crack down on revolts against the British in Malaya.

Throughout Gallery B, you’ll find similar stories like these that took place in British-ruled Malaya. Whether the methods in which they were handled are good, bad, fair or oppressive is up to the visitor to decide.

Address: 5 Jalan Perdana, Bukit Persekutuan, 50480 Kuala Lumpur (03 2272 5689/90). Open Tue-Sun, 10am-6pm; closed on Fridays between 12.30pm-2.30pm.

By Aizyl Azlee

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