SHAH ALAM: During a a recent trip down south, my family and me visited the Emergency Gallery located at Bukit Kepong, Johor. The gallery was opened by the Sultan of Johor on the Feb. 23, 2017, 67 years after the attack on the police station at Bukit Kepong at the height of the first Emergency.
The three-storey gallery incorporated the old Bukit Kepong memorial, the building built to replace the police station which had been burnt to the ground in the 1950 attack. I am not sure when the police station was turned into a memorial but it’s likely it was after the 1981 film of the same name.
By the time I visited the old memorial in 2011, it was in a bad condition mostly due to neglect as it had been flooded in various times in the past as it is located on the banks of Sungai Muar. Even the newly completed gallery was inundated by flood waters in late 2016 some two months before the opening ceremony though the damage was minimal.
Plans to revive the Bukit Kepong memorial begun in 2011 after the graves of those killed (located in the cemetery across the road) were damaged in a storm. It was for this reason I visited the old memorial that year following complaints from the descendants of those killed and injured in the attack. Apart from damage to the graves, I also found the memorial in a bad state. The two armoured cars and police boat on the grounds were also in a bad shape as well.
Fast forward to 2017, some 815 artifacts are now displayed at the RM11.5 million gallery including firearms, uniforms and items used by the police and also the CPM during the Emergency.
In contrast, the old memorial only had a plaque in memory of those killed, remnants of the burnt police station while the displays were limited to the armoured cars and boat.
As for the old memorial, it had been repaired with the first floor used to show what police stations looked like in the 1950s.
Despite some shortcomings, I think the gallery is a worth visit. I would have preferred that they displayed more artifacts and used less information boards. I guess they do not have enough artifacts or interactive displays were too expensive to carry the story of the Bukit Kepong attack and the Emergency without relying on the information boards like the Army museum at Port Dickson and the police museum at Tasik Perdana in Kuala Lumpur.
Anyhow, I was intrigued by two of the artifacts on display. Both are firearms of course, an M1 Carbine fitted with what appears to be an under-slung grenade launcher and a HK33 assault rifle. I failed to find any reference to an under-slung grenade launcher for the M1 Carbine despite a Google search so it remained unidentified.(see comments section for updates)
As for the HK33, I was not aware that the police had also used them in the 1970s so seeing it there was quite interesting. A Wikipedia entry on PDRM stated that the HK33 was withdrawn in 1978 after it suffered stoppages in service. The entry could be correct as the HK displayed at the gallery was in a pristine condition, compared to the M16A1s used by the police, though not displayed at the gallery.
Anyhow, Merry Christmas to those celebrating and a Happy New Year to all Malaysian Defence readers.
* The Bukit Kepong Emergency Gallery is open from 10am to 6pm on a daily basis, though it closes on most public holidays. Admission is free.
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