Historical Timeline of Public Works Department Establishment

The position of Chief Engineer for the Straits Settlements was established in 1858. Singapore was a prominent holding camp for British colonial convicts in the Far East at the time. The British relied on soldiers to fill the positions of engineers and doctors.  In each colony, an army officer from the engineering team will be stationed to monitor the civil works. Major McNair has come to Singapore to fill the position for this purpose.

The Straits Settlements were designated as a "Crown Colony" in 1867, and the post of Superintendent of PWD Singapore was renamed Colonial Engineer of the Straits Settlements at the same time. However, the date cannot be considered the beginning of PWD because the majority of the works is concentrated in Singapore. Only five years later, In 1872,  a  new department, the PWD of the Straits Settlements, was founded.

This is the starting point of JKR as a Malaysia organization.  Major J.F.A. McNair, who had previously served as Executive Engineer and Superintendent of Prisoners, as well as the Colonial Engineer of the Straits Settlements in 1867, was the first person to lead the JKR organization in 1872, with Captain Shatterthwaite as the First Assistant Engineer at the state level in Penang.

The Department of Survey, which had been founded in 1839, was merged with the Colonial Engineer's office in 1871, as part of a consolidation policy launched by Sir Harry Ord and controlled by Major F.A. McNair. He reorganised the department in 1873, by assigned Captain W. Innes as First Assistant Engineer and Surveyor in the State of Penang and another in Melaka.


The job of Superintendent of Prisons was placed to the Colonial Engineer in 1848, and the prisoners were used for road and building construction. The Public Works Department retained this role until 1873, when the Prison Department was granted its own authority.


There were two separate Public Works Departments in Malaya until December 31, 1931. The Colonial Engineer of the Straits Settlements is responsible for the Straits Settlements whereas the Federated Malay States are under control of the Director of Works, Federated States and an Engineer is seconded to carry out duties for the Non-Federated Malay States.

On the 1st. January 1932 the two departments were merged into one Malayan Public Works Service based in Singapore with the names 'Director of Works, Straits Settlements' and 'Malay State Works Advisor'.


On the same date, the hydraulic branch of the Federated States of the Public Works Department was made a separate department called the Drainage and Irrigation Service headed by the 'Director of Drainage and Irrigation, Straits Settlements and Advisor for Drainage and Irrigation, Malay States' .

Summary of The JKR'S History

1872                    Major J.F.A McNair founded and headed the Penang State PWD. 

February 1948     The Organization of the Public Work Department was reorganized after the Federation of Malaya establishment. 
April 1951            Public Works Department under Member Portfolio for Works and Housing.
August 1955        This department is under the Ministry of Works.
1956                     Placed under the Ministry of Works, Posts and Telecommunications.

1963                     Under the Ministry of Works, Posts, Energy and Telecommunications.
1976                     Public Work Department and Public Utilities

1983                     Under the Ministry of Works (until now)

Complete Lists of Director-General

I.          The Colonial Engineers who have been in charge of the Public Works Department since the colony was taken over from the Indian Government are :  
(Straits Settlements (SS)- Malacca, Penang and Singapore) 
1.  Major J. F. A. McNair, R.A. (1867 to 1880)  (1881-1884 -acted by Mc Callum)
2.  Major Henry  Edward McCallum, R E., C.M.G.  1884-1897
3.  Colonel A. C. Alexander, R.E. (1897 to 1898) 
4.  Colonel Alexander Murray, C.E., Mem. Inst. C.E. (1898 -1909)
5.  Mr.F. J. Pigott (1910 -  1921)
6.  J.H.W. Park, O.B.E (1921  - 1926) 
7.  Harry Venus Towner (1927 – 1929)

II.        The PWD of the Federated Malay States was established:
(Federated Malay States (FMS)- Pahang, Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan)

8.  Mr. F.St.G. Caufeild (1901-1907) 
9.  Mr. J. Trump (1908 - 1914)
10. Mr. Robert Ogilvie Newton Anderson, B.A., A.I.B (1915-1920)

11. MR. W. Eyre-Kenny (1920-1922)*
12.  Mr. J. Strachan (1923 - 1924)    
13.  Mr. C.V.A. Espeut  (1925 - 1927)
14.  Leut-Colonel James Parry Swettenham  (1927-1931)   

Both the SS and FMS Departments were consolidated into one (1) Malayan Public Works service based in Singapore with the name of Director of Public Works, SS and Advisor on Public Works, Malay States.
15.  Mr. G. Sturrock (1931 -1935)  
16.  Major R.L. Nunn (1935-1940) 

Malayan Union
17.  Mr. W. Fairley  (1946 - 1948)

III.      Director of Public Works Department of Federation of Malaya:

(FEDERATION OF MALAY LAND Consists of 11 states in Malaya (9 Malay States and 2 British settlements of Penang and Malacca)

18.  Mr. G. Edwards  (May 1948 - 1950)

19. Mr. David MacDiarmid (1951-1953)
20.  Nankivell Kenneth  (Ken Nankivell) B.Sc. D.I.C., A.M.I.C.E,  (1954-1957)  
21.  R.E. Pitt (1958-1959)
22.  S.E Jewkes, O.B.E., J.M.N., B. Sc. (Eng), (1959-1962)
23.  S.F. Owens (1962-1964)

IV.       After the Formation of Malaysia

24.  Tan Sri Ir. Haji Yusoff bin Haji Ibrahim (1/8/1964 – 21/7/1971)
25.  Ir. Thean Lip Thong (22/7/1971 – 14/4/1974)
26.  Tan Sri Dato' Ir. Mahfoz bin Khalid (17/4/1974 – 5/12/1977)
27.  Tan Sri Dato' Ir. Hj. Halaluddin bin Mohamed Ishak (6/12/1977-31/7/1981)
28.  Tan Sri Ir. Haji Mohd Yusoff bin Mohd Yunus (1/8/1981 – 27/10/1983)
29.  Dato' Ir. Ho Thian Hock (28/10/1983 – 9/12/1985)
30.  Tan Sri Dato' Ir. Talha bin Mohd Hashim (10/12/1985 – 9/9/1990)
31.  Tan Sri Dato' Ir. Wan Abd Rahman bin Haji Yaacob (10/9/1990 – 20/6/1996)
32.  Tan Sri Dato' Ir. Omar bin Ibrahim (21/6/1996 – 9/9/1999)
33.  Tan Sri Dato' Ir. Haji Zaini bin Omar (10/9/1999 – 1/6/2005)
34.  Dato' Sri Ir. Dr. Wahid bin Omar (7/6/2005 – 30/4/2007)
35.  Dato' Sri Ir. Dr. Judin bin Abdul Karim (1/5/2007 – 30/4/2011)
36.  Dato' Seri Ir. Hj. Mohd Noor bin Yaacob (1/5/2011-31/3/2014)
38.  Dato’ Ir. Annies Bin Md Ariff (31/3/2014- 30/4/2015)
37.  Datuk Ir. Adanan bin Mohamed Hussain (1/7/2015 – 8/6/2016)
38.  Dato' Sri Ir. Dr. Roslan bin Md Taha (24 Ogos 2016 – Mac 2019)

39. Dato' Ir. Dr. Meor Abdul Aziz bin Haji Osman (25 April 2019)

40. Ir. Kamaluddin bin Abdul Rashid (22 November 2019)

41. Dato' Seri Ir. Haji Mohamad Zulkefly bin Sulaiman (24 Julai 2020)

42. Datuk Ir. Ahmad Redza Bin Ghulam Rasool (05 Januari 2023)