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The Court Square (The Padang Court)

By Dato' Haji Wan Shamsuddin b. Mohd. Yusof
(Translated by Syed Zulfilda S.M. Noor)

The Court Square (Padang Court) is a special location situated in a spacious, central area of Alor Star from where the High Court used to be since it was built in 1893, after which the area was named. The court building is the earliest modern structure in Kedah constructed in Alor Star and is presently known as 'Balai Seni Negeri' (the State's Hall of Arts).

Interestingly the site of the Court Square is surrounded by a number of important heritage and modern buildings that have historical significant to Alor Star. These are the Istana Kota Setar or Istana Pelamin (now known as The Royal Museum), the Balai Besar (The Great Hall), the Balai Nobat (The Hall of the Royal Nobat Ensemble), The Great Clock Tower, The Zahir Mosque, the Balai Seni Negeri (formerly the High Court), the Wan Muhammad Saman Building and the present High Court. In former days, Jalan Raja (or King's Road) which began from the Sultan Abdul Halim Bridge continued through the front of the Wan Muhammad Building and the Balai Besar.

A number of important historic events took place at the Court Square and its environment since the nineteenth century. Some of these are presented here in chorological order:-

17 May, 1897
The restoration of Sentul and Perlis districts to Kedah during the reign of Sultan Abdul Halim Shah. The Raja Muda (the Crown Prince) Tunku Abdul Aziz (younger brother of Sultan Abdul Hamid) was present during the ceremony acting on behalf of the Sultan.

2 June to September 1904
A grand wedding ceremony was held for five princes of Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah at the Istana Kota Setar (the Kota Setar Palace), the Balai Besar (The Great Hall), the Balai Seni (the Hall of Arts) and the Padang Court (the Court Square). The Court Square was specially assigned for feasts for the people and for the construction of stages for entertainments. The ceremony which went on for three months cost a hefty 10 million ringgit.

18 October, 1943
A ceremony to mark the surrender of power of the Japanese Army administration to the Siamese administration was held. The late Sultan Badlishah was present during this ceremony.

19 January, 1946
The first rally attended by 50,000 Malays was held to protest against the Malayan Union proposal introduced by the British colonialists.

30 May, 1946
A second rally was held of the same purpose and was chaired by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra and this was held in conjunction with the visit of two British government representatives, namely Colonel Ross William and Captain Gammans. A resolution of protest was presented to them.

8 July, 1954
A procession and rally of the Alliance Party, comprising UMNO and MCA, was held which was led by Dato' Syed Omar Shahabuddin, to protest against the allocation of seats in the first General Election Report which was formulated by the British government. The letter of protest was presented by Tunku Kassim ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah to the late Sultan Badlishah, in front of the Balai Besar (the Great Hall).

31 August, 1957
A ceremony of lowering the 'Union Jack', the colonialist's flag, was held for the last time at 12 midnight; and on the next day the Declaration of Independence of the Federation of Malaya was held. The Crown Prince of Kedah, His Highness Tunku Abdul Halim was present during the ceremony, representing his royal father who was attending the same ceremony at the Merdeka Stadium, together with their Highnesses the other Malay Rulers.

In conjunction with the Coronation of the Queen Elizabeth as the souvereign of Geat Britain is 1953,a roofed stage was constructed in the centre of the Court Square. It was used as a place for presenting speeches during certain important ceremonies. Since 1955, this platform was also utilised for state and federal election campaigns.

To-day a fountain was constructed there to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the reign of His Royal Highness Tuanku Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah is 1983. The Court Square was subsequently called the 'Medan Budaya dan Medan Bandar (the Culture Square and the Town Square).

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