More form over substance. A road name is just a road name, a marker for a location, unless the observer has some sort of personal connection with the honoured. I drive along Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, Jalan Raja Abdullah and Jalan Tun Sambanthan everyday, roads undoubtedly named for historic personalities. But they could very well be named Jalan Satu, Dua and Tiga and I would not notice nor care for the names do not carry any significance to me.
Naming a road after a historical personality will have a meaningful impact only if the public feels some connection to the person. So let’s focus on the substance. Let’s teach history better for a start. I barely passed my SPM history. It was such a boring collection of facts. My memory of Melaka history, as taught in school, was having to memorise a list of Sultans from 1400-1511; the Emergency and struggle for independence were dry academic treatises.
It was only long after I left school that I came across an Economist feature that brought to life the intrigues of the spice trade and why Melaka was so keenly fought over by the European powers. Most recently, Five Arts Centre’s Emergency Festival! offered entertaining and thought-provoking perspectives on that period.
There have been calls recently for the social contract to be taught in schools again. I fully agree – our history syllabus needs a thorough revamping in content and delivery. We should not need DBKL or politicians to rename roads. Roads should only be renamed when the people speak out and ask for their heroes to be honoured.