Every crag and gnarled tree and lonely valley has its own strange and graceful legend attached to it. – Douglas Hyde
Hidayah Amin was born in Gedung Kuning. To commemorate her birth, Fatimah, her grandmother (Haji Yusoff’s eldest daughter) planted a mango seed in the garden in Gedung Kuning. This seed grew into a tree that bore sweet mangoes that were shared with friends and neighbours.
Read Cik Idah’s Mango Tree from the Gedung Kuning book.
Gedung Kuning was acquired by the Singapore Government under the Land Acquisition Act. Hidayah’s mango tree was also acquired (the photo above was taken circa 1998).
It was announced in Berita Harian that the Expansion Group Pte Ltd that runs the restaurant chain Fig & Olive has been awarded the tender to operate food business at Gedung Kuning.
During a meeting with Julina Khusaini, the General Manager (GM) of the Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF), the issue of whether the tree should be chopped down came up. A decision arose not to chop down the tree, as there was no termites infestation with the tree as alleged earlier.
Hidayah nominated the mango tree as a heritage tree for the following reasons:
– Historical significance of a mango tree in a historic building.
– Preservation of Malay cultural practice of planting a fruit seed to commemorate the birth of a child.
– Cultural significance – Malay cooking used a lot of mangoes and it was not uncommon to find mango trees in kampongs.
Read correspondences with NParks – 7 May, 9 May
Hidayah wrote to MHF and Fig & Olive owners to reiterate the decision of the April 6 meeting.
NParks (the government body responsible for the heritage tree programme) replied: “We visited the mango tree at 73 Sultan Gate. For a tree to be considered for Heritage Tree endorsement, its circumference has to be at least 5m. As the mango tree has a circumference of about 1.4m, the tree will not be considered for endorsement.”
Read email & Hidayah’s appeal.
NParks‘ response to Hidayah’s appeal.
Julina from the MHF emailed enclosing an arborist report of 8 June. According to the arborist, the tree was “observed to be overall healthy”. The GM said that the “Management has… made the decision to have the tree removed from the premises.” She also stated that they had “reviewed all the inputs, feedback and recommendation” – Read email.
Hidayah was under the impression that the tree was still standing (but to be removed soon) and was finding ways to save it.
Hidayah was informed by Facebook friends that the mango tree was chopped down on Saturday 23 June. Her former intern went to Gedung Kuning to investigate and found out the news to be true and that not even the roots of the mango tree remained.
Remains of the mango tree
The GM’s email of 25 June superseded the actions of chopping down an iconic tree. Had Hidayah been informed earlier, she could have considered alternatives to salvage her tree, perhaps replanting it elsewhere etc. The MHF has been in too much of a hurry without giving due consideration to the symbolic importance of the mango tree which carries historical memories of a Singaporean family that lived in Gedung Kuning for four generations.
Hidayah wrote an email to Julina, the Malay Heritage Centre (MHC) and the MHF to express her disappointment and unhappiness about the matter. There was no response except for a note from the Assistant Director of the MHC saying that “The management of Gedung Kuning is under the MHF and the MHC is not involved in the decision nor were we informed of the actions taken with regards to Gedung Kuning property. Again, we are sorry to hear about your loss and we hope the matter can be resolved amicably with Malay Heritage Foundation.”
Read Hidayah’s email & MHC’s response.
Hidayah wrote to the Straits Times forum page as well as Berita Harian about the situation.
Hidayah’s letter (Kesal pokok mangga ‘bersejarah’ ditebang) is published in Berita Harian forum page.
The contentious issues are
1. MHF chopped the tree down and only informed Hidayah 2 days later, leaving her with no alternatives. There is a question of dignity in the handling of the matter.
2. No reports were given to Hidayah (although GM said there were many reports) to justify her actions. Hidayah was only given TP Arbo Care report after the tree was chopped down. One report by an arborist engaged by the MHF does not warrant immediate termination. More time could be given so that the MHF could think of other measures such as transplanting, building support to strengthen the tree, correcting the structure of the building so as not to be damaged etc.
3. Blatant disregard for things heritage and the feelings of Hidayah’s family who called Gedung Kuning home for nearly a century
Hidayah emailed the GM to refute her response on Berita Harian forum page.
The Online Citizen published Hidayah’s letter (written for the Straits Times forum page)
Hidayah received a letter dated 10 July by the GM stating that “We have looked into the matter. As the reason why the mango tree had to be cut had been addressed in our response to the article… we will not be replying further to your queries in your email of 5 July 2012.”
It is also ironic how Mamanda’s website still shows the photo of the mango tree in Gedung Kuning when in reality it is no longer there.
Hidayah lodged a letter of complaint to the CEO of the National Heritage Board (NHB) about the MHF’s lack of transparency and accountability. Madam Zuraidah Abdullah, the CEO of MHF and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, the Minister-in-charge of Malay/Muslim Affairs were also informed of the complaint.
CEO of NHB replied to Hidayah’s complaint letter stating that “I can appreciate your disappointment that the mango tree was cut and it must have been very dear to you. The Gedung Kuning property is managed by the Malay Heritage Foundation (MHF) and I understand that MHF has taken pains to explain why the tree had to be cut in their reply to the Berita Harian on 30 June 2012 following your letter to the same paper. The National Heritage Board (NHB) is appointed only to manage the Malay Heritage Centre (MHC).”
Mamanda’s website shows photos of Gedung Kuning without the mango tree. Tables and chairs are placed at the area where the tree once grew. Perhaps the real reason to chop the tree is to create the extra space the restaurant needed for its customers, allahu alam (only God knows).
++ I, Hidayah Amin, the moral owner of the Mango Tree that grew in Gedung Kuning, hereby publicly announce that I “tak halalkan dunia akhirat” – do not forgive in this lifetime and the hereafter, the people who acted cowardly, maliciously and rashly in chopping down my tree. I invoke my great-grandmother’s curse, “If one has bad intentions, one will not be happy and safe in Gedung Kuning”. Gedung Kuning does not forget. ++
aku fikir, aku akan hidup sepanjang kau hidup
tapi aku tidak boleh lari dari kenyataan
tiada siapa yang dapat menahan putaran masa
ingatkah kau semasa kau kecil
aku lebih kecil dari kau
tapi kau belaiku, kau siramku dengan air kasih
hinggakan aku menjadi subur, besar
lebih besar daripada kau
aku gagah, aku bukan pengecut
aku tidak lari
dari petir atau banjir
dari hujan atau panas
dari kejujuran atau penipuan
sebaliknya, ingatkah kau
apabila aku memberi teduh
apabila aku memberi buahku
apabila aku memberi keindahan
apabila aku memberi kenikmatan
kepada mereka yang memerlukannya
bagaimana hatiku melonjat
melihat kau menangis lalu ketawa
melihat kau sedih lalu gembira
melihat kau gagal lalu berjaya
melihat kau menjadi seorang gadis remaja
tapi apa kan daya
waktu telah tiba
mereka membunuh aku bila aku tak terdaya
mereka pengecut, penipu
aku mati untuk kau hidup
kau adalah warisanku
my roots are marred
my leaves are all dried
my branches they are rived
t’is water that I’m deprived
alas, the time
I thought, I‘d be with you forever
but I cannot run away from reality, never
t’is you that I am touching
no one can stop time’s marching
do you recall
when you were small
I was very weak and slender
being with you I was much smaller
but you caressed me with water of love
giving me strength and health that I deserve
I’m strong, I’m not a coward
I don’t run away from things that hurt
from lightning or flood, it is quite a fright
from rain or shine, there is no delight
from honesty or deception
there is no exception
do you remember when I give the seed
to those in need
and the shade that hide
the fruits to bite
the beauty so bold
the pleasure untold
how my heart pounds
with every sound
seeing you are sad and then you cheer
seeing your tears and then your laughter
seeing you failed and then succeed
seeing you’re now in full blossom indeed
the time has come
and now it’s done
they take me down, I cannot fend
cowards and liars, they still pretend
I die, so that you live
my legacy, you shall receive
hold your head high with dignity
fare thee well till eternity
Dr Yahaya Sanusi