A park named after Merdeka

One of the landmarks of Kluang in Johor, is Taman Merdeka, a park named after the nation’s independence.

Generations of children including Pow Chiau Yee, have
enjoyed endless fun on this slide structure in Taman Merdeka
When Central Johor was being developed with rubber and oil palm plantations in 1910, Kluang was then an administrative centre.  A railway line was established since 1915 to transport fresh produce and labour to cities and ports and the Kluang railway station remains virtually unchanged to this day.  

The kopitiam in the railway station continues to serve their Kluang Rail brand of coffee not only to locals but has also established itself as a nostalgic tourist attraction for visitors to Kluang.

Bordered by Jalan Dato Teoh Siew Khor, Taman Merdeka situated in the heart of town, is a focal point for people of all ages to gather for relaxation and recreation.  An iconic concrete structure designed with two heights of slides above and tunnels below, is believed to have provided hours of healthy outdoor fun to generations of children who grew up in Kluang.

Closer view of one of the concrete benches in the the park
Old fashioned concrete benches line the edge of the park at intervals for visitors to rest and watch while children played on the slides or the sturdy rocking boats made of wrought iron.  It was the trend in those days for the back rests of these concrete benches to be inscribed with the town council logo, names of the sponsor or special events like the UMNO logo with words that commemorate its Silver Jubilee.

Pow Chiau Yee, a local who is passionate about promoting Kluang to visitors, said that a tall structure that was built with a square space on the adjacent Dewan Jubli Intan Sultan Ibrahim, is believed to be designed for a clock but to this day, no clock was ever installed!

These rocking boats are another attraction in Taman
Merdeka; Note the benches around the park for visitors
to rest and relax in this popular destination in Kluang
In World War II, Kluang was occupied by Japanese forces who were advancing south of the Malay Peninsular and General Yamashita moved his headquarters from Kuala Lumpur to Kluang on 27 Jan 1942.  The military airfield in Kluang was used by the Japanese to launch air attacks on targets that ranged between Singapore to Sumatra.

In the mid 1950’s, the airfield was used for helicopters that were searching for terrorists who were hiding in nearby Bukit Lambak.  In the six months leading up to Merdeka in 1957, terrorism was largely driven out of the area.

Kluang’s Taman Merdeka remains a popular destination for the community that continues to enjoy the park as a green lung to the sprawling town that has developed almost three-fold in the last three decades.

A version of this was published in The Malaysian Insider on 22 Aug 2015 

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