KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A Changing of the Guard, complete with guards in traditional Malay attire and a sound system, will take place twice a day beginning today at the old Istana Negara here as an added tourist attraction.
Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who watched the maiden ceremony today, said the event would take place at 10 am and 3 pm daily in front of the National Palace.
The ceremony would be a display of military pomp with two smartly dressed guards marching in and two marching out, he said.
"The ceremony will exhibit our own tradition and culture of the olden days of the Malay Sultanate and also of the days when the Istana Negara was guarded by very able-bodied people," he told reporters after watching the ceremony in front of the old Istana Negara.
Also present were Deputy Minister Datuk Maglin Dennis D'Cruz, the ministry's secretary-general Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Siaraf and the ministry's deputy secretary-general Datuk Dr Rothiah Omar.
In the past, two members of the cavalry in full dress uniform would stand guard on each side of the entrance arch where there was a guard booth each, similar to the practice at Buckingham Palace in London. But, there was no Changing of the Guard ceremony then.
"Now, from time to time, two guards will occupy these booths and they will be in charge for two hours (on a given schedule) to allow visitors and tourists to watch the Changing of the Guard that represents the tradition of old," Rais said.
He said the Department of Culture had arranged with the Museums Department and the National Heritage Department as well as the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture to focus on the old Istana Negara and keep it relevant for the younger generation to learn and understand its importance as the official residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for 54 years.
On another matter, Rais said the Museums Department was getting input and feedback for setting up a Royal Museum within the old Istana Negara while the National Heritage Department would take care of the provision of Section 114 of the Heritage Act and prerequisite rules and regulations so that old buildings here were well preserved for posterity.
Besides, he said, the old Istana Negara would also have facilities such as a fine dining restaurant as well as facilities for people or groups to hold festivities on the lawn.
"All this will make up for the future utilisation of the old Istana Negara. We are proud of our country, and we exhibit what we have. I think people will be happy and contented when they visit this palace," he said.
Currently, nearly one million local and foreign tourists visit the old Istana Negara monthly to see an exhibition on everything about Malaysia's constitutional monarchy.
The exhibition, which started in April and will be on until the end of this year, is open daily, from 9 am to 5 pm, and entry is free.