Pulau Jerejak in the eastern coast of Penang island is in danger of losing it remaining historical sites due to upcoming developments, according to an article written by freelance journalist Peter Ford on The Diplomat.
The 362ha island is historically important, revealed a local historian, who requested to remain anonymous due to the growing political tensions over area’s future development plans.
“Almost every Indian or Chinese person who came to Malaya between 1890 and World War II either passed through Jerejak or the equivalent St. John’s Island in Singapore. And all Malay Muslims going on Hajj also passed through. Everyone has a connection to Jerejak.”
In 1868 and until 1930s, the island was used by the United Kingdom as its primary leprosy centre for its Asian colonies of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. In 1877, it was used a quarantine centre for immigrants similar to Ellis Island in the US to protect the residents of the colonies from communicable diseases.
After Japan surrendered in 1945, it housed thousands of Asian prisoners rescued from Japanese prison camps who wanted to go back to their home country.
Subsequently, Pulau Jerejak was turned as a prison for people involved in the 13 May 1969 race riots. It later housed prisoners convicted of violent crimes and drug offenses, hence it was called “Malaysia’s Alcatraz” and it operated until 1993.
Previously, the site on the island’s east coast, was mostly demolished to make way for a shipyard, leaving only a small cemetery and the ruins of a church. Another area was flattened to make way for the US$7.5 million Jerejak Rainforest Resort and Spa. It opened in 2003 but closed in May 2016 due to losses amounting to RM40 million.
However, there are fears that Jerejak Island’s remaining historical sites would be destroyed due to more upcoming developments.
Last November, the Malay Mail Online reported that UDA Holdings has teamed up with Q Islands Development to build a bridge connecting Pulau Jerejak with Penang Island. The joint venture also plans to redevelop the Jerejak Rainforest Resort and Spa.
The 80-acre redevelopment will comprise a marina, four- and five-star hotels, a theme park and 1,200 units of residential properties plus an 11.5km cycling track around the island.
UDA Holdings announced back then that Penang’s state government has already approved the development plans and construction work is targeted to begin in late-2017.
Image sourced from The Diplomat.
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