Yesterday was the first of Ramadhan. For our family, Ramadhan is a sentimental occasion.
The 18th of Ramadhan was the date father passed away in 1984. After 30 years or maybe 31 hijrah years, we still miss him and wish he had been around to witness the many achievements and milestones of our life.
The image of him on his Honda cup will always remain embedded in our mind. Only the last few years of his life did he owned a car. While the children, especially the younger sibings, they could own a car within months after getting employment.
Last Friday, we did what we had wanted to do for a long time and that was to track back to a short part of his life in Pengerang, Johor. It was his first posting with the Johor State Government.
Before that he was running a sekolah arab called Ma'ahadul Irshad in Bukit Timah, Singapore. That happened after Johor State Government denied the then teacher of Madrasah Al Attas Johor Baru a scholarship to study at the great Azhar University in Cairo.
He maybe have been denied but he would have been proud that his pupil and friend got into Azhar to return and rise to become Muftis; Dato Sheikh Murtadza of Negeri Sembilan and Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria of Perak.
Harussani's wife was his pupil. One pupil returned to be his boss and the district Kadi.
Years later, mother was also offered Azhar but conservative great grandfather did not bless his granddaughter further her education in a foreign land by herself. She was married off to her Azhar denied cousin and wasn't long she bore a future blogger.
They missed their chance for Azhar but they made sure all their eight children would never be denied tertiary education. Only thing was none went to Azhar or took up any branch of Islamic study but received "secular" education.
In his first posting, father was sent to the far end of Johor in Pengerang as Government Imam for Masjid Pengerang. It was a small masjid that should be a surau. It was so small that the masjid does not need nuja or Tok Siak to maintain the masjid.
Father opt to not have a government quarter in Pengerang so that the family could stay in the government quarters in Johor Baru next to Masjid Abu Bakar and have access to good schools in Johor Baru.
He was willing to live in the masjid's store room with a space converted into his living area. The sacrifice he made.
The masjid is no more under the State Government's care but given back to the kampong folks. The state government built another masjid along the main road.
Back then, one need to take a boat from Tanjung Puteri jetty to get to Pengerang. There was no state road to Pengerang. Back then, the access road to Pengerang can only fit a car.
However, one can reach Pengerang then by road through Kota Tinggi but the traveling must be done day time. We rode a bike to Kota Tinggi once at night with Father and it is awfully dark.
Pengerang lives in it's own secluded world at the southern tip of Johor. The stretch of Johor river from Pengerang to Pontian was smugglers' haven plying goods and human.
Father's stinct there was short and we remembered visiting him twice during the school holidays. It must be in 1970 because on May 13, 1969, we remembered watching Sekolah Ayer Molek, Johor Baru's sports day while waiting for Father to come fetch us from Singapore.
After Pengerang, Father was transfered to be Imam of the historical Masjid Telok Belangah in Singapore. It was only in 1972 that we finally get to live under one roof when he was transfered to his hometown of Batu Pahat till he retired in 1980.
By 1973, we left for boarding school and never returned.
We went to Pengerang with the hope to perform Friday prayers at Father's masjid but time does not permit and we had to stop and perform Jumaat near Pekan Sg Rengit.
For a place with hardly much economic activities than palm oil and coconut, Sg Rengit has a large modern looking Seafood Restaurant.
Sg Rengit is known today for it's lobsters and seafood restaurants for weekend Singaporean at Desaru.
It only indicative of a typical border town with striving smuggling as the real economic activities. Fish and seafood are usually camouflage for smuggling of illegal materials like drugs, arms, etc. In South Johor, it is to avoid tax at the Johor-Singapore immigration checkpoints.
The smuggling link to Singapore is the very reason DAP via the anti-Lynas Himpunan Hijau with Singaporean volunteers took a keen interest against Rapid Pengerang project.
Only three days ago, the anti Lynas group did a demonstration there. [See more on the exploits of anti Lynas overseas to sabotaje investments in this FB here]
If Himpunan Hijau is serious about environment, why do they not complain of the environmental devastation to Pengerang by ships parking in Singapore waters that have been polluting the sea by dumping sludge and killing fishes and Dugong .
We remembered Pengerang beach looking like this before.
Back then, we could walk from home to pekan along the beach as we collected sea shells and corals on the beaches. But not anymore.
From Sg Rengit to Pengerang, the seaview is lined with hundreds of ships parking in the deep sheltered waters near Pulau Tekong, Singapore and Johor. Singapore provide ship maintenance and supplies.
If Pengerang were to provide same services for cheaper price, Singapore would be denied such economic opportunity.
So Singaporeans got DAP to instigate their smugglers counterpart to cook up issue to demonstrate and sabotage Rapid Pengerang plan. Not knowing better, idiot PAS and PKR join the bandwagon without knowing the Chinese were thinking of their financial benefit to sabotage the plan.
Rapid Pengerang is a great idea to take advantage of the deepwater off Pengerang coast.
Given to the Pengerang villagers, the strategic value could never be harness.
Only illegal smuggling activities, which deny Government income, provide unfair advantage against genuine retail business people, and risk of illegal activities advancing to more dangerous criminal activities like smuggling subsidised diesel and fuel, would continue.
Development would stop smuggling activities.
The projected employment to be generated by Rapid is 40,000. Local Pengerang population must seize on the employment and business opportunities. State government have already embarked in training youth for skills.
Local politicians and NGOs must be the watchdog to ensure government honour the promise that locals is given employment priority. There must not be another Shamsul Azhar later, who would come up with a new understanding of the social contract with the people of Pengerang.
On that Friday morning, Dato Najib was there to visit the Pengerang Independent Terminals Sdn Bhd (PITSB). [Read here and here]
By the time, we reached Masjid Pengerang, Friday's congregation left home. So we had the space to have our remeniscence.
The first thing that came to our mind when seeing Father's old masjid was that it hardly changed. Other than some extension to accommodate the bigger congregation, the old feature of the masjid remained.
The house of Penghulu Ali next door remain as it is 40 years ago. It is no more occupied and his off spring has migrated to Singapore.
Other houses nearby still remained.
Only Father's store room-room is now rebuilt as the ladies toilet.
The mimbar masjid is the same one.
The pillar father rest his back while, we sat learning the Quran, was still there. We can't forget the spot we finished the muqaddam (refered as Juzu Amma this days) and advanced to the Quran there. It is now carpeted but those days it was only straw mat and rubber mat.
When we walked to the beach, then came the shocker. It was really in a sad sorry state and not the past serene place it was.
The pristine beach with lots of shells, and corals that we grew up playing and swimming is no more. The shoreline narrowed by sedimentation and it is polluted with rubbish. We notice the brands of mineral water bottles are foreign.
We found two shells we used to collect as children to play congkak to remember Pengerang.
Jeti Tg Pengelih
Those days we could walk along the shore to the pekan but not anymore.
Part of the shore line was used to built a road to end at the Pengerang Custom and Jettty Complex and TLDM Pularek
One can see that Singapore has been doing reclamation that the border is so near that it is within swimming reach.
Along the road, one can see TLDM Pularek, teachers' housing complex and part of an old British millitary bunker.
The bunker area should be developed into a historical site.
Gone are the kampong
According to the Rapid Pengerang masterplan, Kg Pengerang will be part of Rapid and it will no more be accessible to the public. Affected are:
When comparing the above map with the map below, Kg Pengerang and memory of Father short stinct in Pengerang will soon be gone.
So does the idylic Kampong road like the one below:
Earthwork on "town centre" for Rapid has begin.
When this portion is complete, construction in the areas along the main road will be begin. Rapid is targeted for completion by 2017. Our engineer brother, who got some contract work there, said, the kampong will cease to exist in 6 months time.
All will be left of Kg Pengerang to us will be the two shells we have in our keeping.
Having heard of the various discussions regarding the strategic plans for southern Johor thoughout the 90s, quite glad that many of the ideas are finally coming to fruit.
Hopefully the Pengerang Malays will not fall prey to instigation from outsiders and seize the opportunities. The troublemakers are harping on petty sentimental issues.
The displaced kampong folks were given a very good deal for their inconvenience; land, given home and fishing project for fishermens. Although there are still lingering issues with the displacement, new housing area, burial sites and land compensation, it is not beyond resolution.
State government must go out of its ways to resolve it. Most of it are non-issue for urbanites but in an area where time stood still, it needs lots of human touch, some sensitivity and common folk PR.
If he is still alive, quite sure Father would be happy that development has finally come to Pengerang. He used to complain of how passive and insular the folks there.
The development that is coming is an opportunity o keep their family and youth to remain in the area. Our friend that took us around returned to Pengerang to look after his aged parents and parent-in-laws. His is the only child in both sides of the family willing to return and stay in Pengerang
Economic development should attract more to return. There is real need for manpower for Rapid.
The state government and leaders including local leaders must play their role. They should not allow carpetbaggers to take opportunity to earn quick commission but merely enriching some capitalist from outside like what happened to other places.
Knowing the process of court and documentation involved in the land takeover, it is unthinkable that anyone could be taking a couple of ringgit cut from their land compensation. Pengerang YB Dato Azalina and some of the ADUN's names is being bandied around especially since she was initially against but later became a vocal supporter of Rapid.
On the ground, they don't seem to understand that state could hardly do much profiteering to sell their acquired land at RM10 per square feet to Petronas.
Something must be done by Menteri Besar Dato Khaled Nordin to explain to the affected folks and be transparent on the rationale of the land valuation.
His boys in the communication team don't seem to be sufficiently educated or in tune with the world outside local UMNO petty politics. They can't even counter PAS and PKR simplistic instigation on the ground.
Already they fail to see the public real concern for LPHJ proposal.
There is also the major problem with the infamous 32% dealmaker and land flipper, who thinks abusing his previlages is called doing business.
For all the sacrifice, the people of Pengerang had done, the state government must give due priority to their interest. And opposition instigators is forewarned as to not put to waste the sacrifice they have made.