A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary holds pride of place at the school of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus in Johor Baru — a gift from the 22nd Sultan of Johor, Sultan Sir Ibrahim Abu Bakar (1873-1959) who had also granted the IJ Sisters the tract of land close to the Istana in the centre of the town on which to build the school.
Yesterday, the reigning ruler, his great-grandson and namesake Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, emphatically said the school would not be moved, in the face of protests by citizens and former pupils about reported plans to relocate to Nusajaya, 50km to the west. It was claimed that the school would also be renamed.
Interviewed by the Star about the proposal by the school’s parent-teacher association, Sultan Ibrahim said: “I have not been told about the move except for what I have seen in the papers. The school along with the statue was given by my great-grandfather Sultan Ibrahim.”
He said the school was a heritage building and should not be demolished. Renovations, if needed, should blend in with the original architecture and design. If the building was unsafe (as claimed by the parent-teacher association), he said it could be rectified.
“But it will not be moved.”
In 2007 old boys and old girls of the Convent primary and secondary schools placed a plaque on the statue of the Virgin Mary to mark Sultan Sir Ibrahim’s gift.
Sultan Sir Ibrahim was the son of the founder of modern Johor, Sultan Sir Abu Bakar, and a signatory to a written constitution instituted by his father to provide for a modern system of government, the first among the Malay sultanates.
During his reign, Sultan Sir Ibrahim frequently clashed with British colonial authorities as he tried to maintain Johor’s independence. It was during his reign that Umno was formed under Onn Jaafar and the Sultan faced criticism for going along with British plans for federation, which he later dropped. He lived to see Johor becoming part of the Federation of Malaya.
There has been mounting opposition since Nov 5 to plans to relocate the Convent school. On Facebook earlier today, a former pupil wrote:
The architecture of Convent JB has got to be one of the most exquisite ones around, I wouldn’t want to move to a typical block shaped building even if it meant better facilities. Being a building of such age, In my opinion, the government should also play a part to preserve this building as a historical asset, and fund it for any renovation or restoration works and not just relocating the school, leaving the building as an empty shell.
Head Girl, 2006
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