Malaysiakini Letter

Lost City to remain lost?

Pin Pan Dan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Not too long ago there was wide publicity in the Malaysian media, especially by The Star , about the Lost City of Kota Gelanggi and the painstaking efforts of researcher Remy Che Ross to trace it.

In response to these media reports, the authorities indicated they would conduct an expedition in April to the site somewhere in southeast Johor to confirm the discovery and that Remy would be part of the expedition.

That was that. The ensuing dead silence over the whole issue has perplexed Remy, myself and countless others who are following this event with much interest. The authorities now behave as if the discovery never happened at all.

I suspect that although the authorities may concur with Remy's findings, they are nevertheless reluctant to acknowledge his discovery. They feel that since the Lost City of Kota Gelanggi belongs to the era of Srivijaya more than 1,000 years ago, its glory of ancient Buddhist/Hindu civilisation would outshine that of the Islamic Malaccan era from which Malaysia's official history begun only 600 years ago.

From the perspective of these local historians and archaeologists, it is clear that with the discovery of Kota Gelanggi, history would definitely have to be rewritten in that the Malaccan era would have to be replaced as the starting point of Malaysian history.

However, political and religious imperatives make the authorities unwilling to rewrite Malaysian history to begin from the era of Srivijaya because that would mean undermining the prominence which the government has given to Malacca and role of Islam in Malaysia's official history.

Kota Gelanggi and Remy's painstaking efforts at discovering remnants of a by-gone glorious Buddhist era are therefore on the verge of being shamelessly sacrificed because it would be out of sync with the government's idea of history and it efforts to promote and glorify Islam.

History, therefore, will not be re-written as this would mean Malacca and Islam - which the authorities have asserted as the cornerstones of Malaysian history - playing second fiddle to the Buddhist/Hindu Kota Gelanggi.

Had Kota Gelanggi been an Islamic civilisation, the authorities would no doubt have widely highlighted and publicised it and Remy would be an instant celebrity today with a 'Datuk' in front of his name'

Unfortunately, it is not.

Still, Remy should not fret or be unduly disappointed by the decision of the authorities not to give Kota Gelanggi its proper due in Malaysian history. Sooner or later, his painstaking efforts will be internationally recognised now that he has already taken the first step of having his findings published in well-acclaimed journals.

International recognition is certainly better than local recognition.

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