Exploring palaces of Johor with SI IP

Soroptomists International Club of Iskandar Puteri (SI IP), recently hosted a talk on the Palaces in the History of Johor by Datin Patricia Lim Pui Huen.

Guest speaker, Datin Patricia Lim Pui Huen, presenting
her talk on Palaces in the History of Johor
Tickets to the talk were sold out as the audience was keen to hear from Datin Pat Lim, a professional historian and author of many books including, Johor: Local History, Local Landscapes 1855 to 1957 (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 2009) and Wong Ah Fook: Immigrant, Builder and Entrepreneur (Singapore: Times Editions, 2002).

In her welcome speech, SI IP Charter President, Nooraini Datuk Mohd Yasin, gave a brief outline of the social and welfare activities that the club was doing in the community.

These include an education centre for refugee children, helping single mothers develop more self-confidence through a range of training workshops and providing a shelter for girls and children rescued from prostitution.

Through the work of SI IP, Nooraini aims to empower women and advocates a stop to violence against women and girls while providing a safe and pleasant place for our children to grown up in.

While SI IP is one of the youngest clubs in Soroptomists International (SI), they have a number of plans in community work like greening the schools and parks, clean-up campaigns, advocating the stop of child abuse and creating a shelter.  Nooraini emphasized that all of these projects need funds to help them carry out the work more effectively.

The event was graced by some members of the Johor royal
family including [Seated Right to Left] Tunku Fatimah,
Tunku Tun Aminah, Tunku Abu Bakar and SI IP Charter
President, Nooraini Datuk Mohd Yasin
This community effort is in line with the objectives of SI, a vibrant organization for professional and business women who are committed to creating a world where women and girls can be guided to achieve their individual and collective potential and have an equal voice in building strong and peaceful communities.

Besides a multi-cultural group of people in the audience to listen to the talk, the event was also graced by members of the Johor royal family who were keen to learn more about the palaces built by their forefathers.

They were their Royal Highnesses, Tunku Tun Aminah, Tunku Shahariah and her son Tunku Abu Bakar as well as his cousin, SI IP president-elect, Tunku Fatimah.

Everyone listened attentively as Datin Pat introduced the subject and went into more details of the history of Johor and the palaces that were built in the 1800s.  Among the visuals used to support her presentation were old maps and photos.

She explained that former Johor rulers promoted the state through high diplomacy and hosting of parties and balls, which were then the highlight of social life in Singapore.

In a group photo comprising local and foreign dignitaries standing on the steps of the Istana Besar or Grand Palace, Datin Pat pointed out that there was an equal number of Malay and European people.

The audience’s attention was then directed to see sites of the Johor Baru Jail, the Abu Bakar Mosque as well as the palaces and nearby halls, highlighted on a 1908 map.  Datin Pat explained that during the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar, these buildings reflected the grandeur and prestige of the ruler.

A section of the audience, listening attentively to
Datin Pat's presentation on Palaces in the History of Johor
The Grand Palace, which was once opened as the Royal Abu Bakar Museum, was closed to the public now while the Balai Zaharah, a building which was once sadly neglected, was recently refurbished and used during the Johor Sultan’s coronation.

At the close of the presentation, there was a Question & Answer session where the audience was invited to ask questions if they needed any clarification.

To a question about public visits to the Royal Abu Bakar Museum, the Johor princess, Tunku Tun Aminah replied that the museum was being refurbished now and should be opened again at the end of next year.

Datin Pat reminded the audience that in those days, the palaces were designed for natural ventilation and by night, they would be lighted by oil lamps and candlelight.

Istana Tyersall was built in the Singapore Botanical Gardens as a presence of Sultan Abu Bakar in Singapore when he shifted his government from Singapore to Johor.  It was proudly one of the first palaces to boast of using electricity powered by generators, for lighting.

This interesting presentation on the Palaces in the History of Johor, was the first in a series of talks organized by SI IP to share more info about Asia’s cultural heritage.

Their next event on the subject: Experimental Hybrid Fashion – Beyond ethnic and traditional costumes in port cities, is by independent art historian Peter Lee on April 15.

For more information about the event held from 2.30pm to 5pm, and for tickets priced at RM50 each, please contact telephone numbers: 017 – 768 5643 and 012 – 735 4406.

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