A new life for the Grande Dame of Rangoon
Occupying a site as large as the Louvre in Paris, this colonial edifice with monumental wings was the centre of British power with thousands of civil servants working at the numerous governmental departments. Built in 1905, the entire colony was run from this sprawling complex for nearly a century. The ‘bureaucratic Byzantine’ was not universally loved by the people who worked there, but after office hours when the gardens were open to the public, it was an immensely popular place for downtown residents.
General Aung San
The Secretariat is a sacred ground for the Burmese. It was here in 1947 that the charismatic, young nationalist hero, General Aung San, the engineer of the country's independence, was tragically gunned down with most of his cabinet; an event that changed the course of history. The room in the south west corner of the complex where they were assassinated is still maintained as a shrine.
An engineering achievement
It took 16 years to build the vast complex.This is the lowest point of the city and builders were hampered by the already soggy ground, worsened by the seasonal heavy monsoon rains. Water had to be pumped out continuously. To stabilise the ground, pyinkado logs (very hard timber grown in Myanmar) that were 20 feet long had to be driven into the soil and topped with a grid of iron rails.Despite this engineering effort, the ground continues to sink…
A new destiny
For years the Secretariat was strictly off-limits to the public, except for one day a year on Martyr’s day (19 July) commemorating those who died here. A few years back, the Secretariat Conservation Group renovated the complex and turned it into a history museum and cultural centre with frequent art exhibitions. Book a tour online!