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Monday, August 29, 2016

When the hall of power was a restaurant

The historic Federal Hotel's Mandarin Palace was the venue for Tunku Abdul Rahman's cabinet meetings.
VIDEO INSIDE
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KUALA LUMPUR: Today people go to Bukit Bintang to shop or to enjoy the night life, but more than 50 years ago, it was where leaders of our newly independent country discussed national issues.
Long before the construction of Parliament House began in 1961, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman would hold his cabinet meetings at Mandarin Palace, the famous Chinese restaurant at Federal Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
The restaurant, its red walls adorned with 1,188 intricately carved wooden dragons and other carvings, indeed served as the hall of power.
Nancy Huang, who has been with hotel since 1967 and is now its Room Division Manager, told FMT that all the wood carvings in Mandarin Palace were imported from Taiwan because Malaya did not have any relations with communist China then.
“There was no parliament building and in those days, there was no such things as conference rooms,” she said. “So the Tunku and his Cabinet would have their meetings inside the restaurant.”
While other outlets in the historic hotel have been renovated over the decades, the Mandarin Palace remains much like it was when it was opened in 1957. Only the chandeliers have been changed.
Huang said her seniors who were working in the Mandarin Palace during Tunku’s tenure would often praise the country’s founding father for his friendly demeanour.
It was the Tunku who asked the late tycoon, Low Yat, to build the hotel in preparation for Merdeka.
It became the country’s first international class hotel.
“It was a mad rush to complete the hotel,” Huang said. “It opened its doors on August 28, 1957, a mere three days before Merdeka.”
The hotel played host to the VIPs who attended the Merdeka celebration and was the venue for the Merdeka reception dinner.
Around the hotel, pictures of the Father of Independence can be found hanging on the walls, with the iconic photo of the Merdeka declaration plastered at the hotel’s main lobby.
In those days, Huang recalled, Federal Hotel and the surrounding BB Park were the life of the city.
“The city folk would head to the nearby BB Park for entertainment such as joget dances, cinemas and games,” she said. “Everything was happening around Federal Hotel.”

1 comment:

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