Leprosy history group wants halt on all development plans on Pulau Jerejak

BALVIN KAUR


GEORGE TOWN: The Sungai Buloh Settlement Council is calling for an immediate moratorium on all development plans on Pulau Jerjak in order to preserve the historical structures on the island.


The council has started an international petition listing down the historical significance of the island, which used to be the largest leprosarium, when it was established in 1871.


“We, the Sungai Buloh Settlement Council, represent the Sungai Buloh settlement's community, whom some of us were originally from Pulau Jerejak settlement, demand that the Penang Chief Minister, Heritage Commissioner, and Minister of Tourism and Culture to impose an immediate moratorium on the development plans and preserve all historic structures on the island under National Heritage Act 2005,” stated the three-page petition.


The petition had more than 35 signatures from various organisations from over 15 countries.


The petition also states that since the Pulau Jerejak settlement was established, it has been the resting place of thousands, who shared the same fate.


"Pulau Jerejak is the oldest full-scale leprosy institution in the nation for 102 years, from 1867 to 1969, and also a quarantine station for immigrants, who first landed in Penang between 1877 to 1940.


"From 1948 until the early 1950s, it was a detention camp for suspected communists and left-wing political activists.


"It was called the “Alcatraz island” of Malaysia when it was converted into a high-security prison from 1969 to 1993," it read.


The petition pointed out that the island still has many historical relics and buildings such as the leprosy camps, the tombstones of those who died there dating back to 1891, the prison complex, the barrack buildings from the quarantine centre, the water reservoir and underground water container and other remaining structures such as the old jetties.


The petition demands that the Sungai Buloh Settlement along with Pulau Jerejak Settlement be nominated as Unesco world heritage sites.


“Gazette the remaining historical buildings and relics including its immediate buffer as a national heritage site under the National Heritage Act 2005,” the council also demanded in its petition.


It was reported that UDA Holdings had entered into a joint-venture agreement with Q Islands Development Sdn Bhd (QID) to redevelop Jerejak Rainforest Resort & Spa.


The Penang state government had approved the redevelopment master plan and work was expected to start late this year.


The project will include 1,200 residential units, a theme park, a marina, hotels and a cycling track.