Wednesday, 1 February 2017

One local destination a month - Part 1 : Bukit Kepong, Muar

On the final day of last year, a friend and former schoolmate, Cordelia Mason posted some of her aspirations for the coming new year on her Facebook wall. One of these was `one local destination a month'. I thought it was a splendid idea and commented that I would like to borrow it. And if we actually manage to see it through, we could perhaps compare notes.

This is my first step towards that initiative. I have chosen to visit a place in my home state of Johor which, ironically I've never been to before.

Bukit Kepong, Muar

In the early hours before dawn on 23 February 1950, the police station in the small village of Bukit Kepong was attacked by about 200 communist insurgents led by a man known as Mat Indera. Although overwhelmingly outnumbered, the station chief Sgt Jamil Bin Mohd Shah and his men put up a brave fight. Despite being told to surrender, the policemen did not give up. In the end, 14 police personnel, 5 auxiliary policemen, 5 family members and 2 local villagers were killed. The communists razed the station and living quarters before fleeing back into the jungle.

The Bukit Kepong tragedy is well-documented and has been made into a film. It is an example of the bravery and sacrifice that our policemen are prepared to face.

In recent years, the Royal Malaysian Police has constructed a memorial and museum at the site of the original police station. It is called Galeri Darurat Bukit Kepong. The soft-opening was done in 2012 by the then IGP, Tan Sri Ismail Omar. To date, the museum is not officially opened yet, which explains why not many people know about it.

On 27 January (eve of Chinese New Year), we made the trip to Muar with the intention of visiting this gallery. Little did we know that another event put a slight dent to our plans.

Bukit Kepong is located upstream of the Muar River, about 42km from Muar town as the crow flies. However, if you are to travel by boat (the common mode of transport in the 1950s), the meandering river route would likely double the distance.

The police station is located by the river bank. In fact, there is a small jetty for berthing purposes. This strategic position meant that it is prone to floods. That was what we encountered on the day of our visit. It was actually a dry day but the flood waters from previous days at the upstream district of Segamat had flowed down and accumulated at Bukit Kepong and Lenga. At the gallery area, water was about knee-deep. According to the staff, most of the exhibits at the ground floor were moved to the upper level in time.

Front gate of the gallery

Welcome signboard to the town

The new building on the left with the old barracks on the right

Upstream view of the river which has overflowed its banks

The Bukit Kepong - Labis road is not passable by traffic

Kg Raja, Pagoh

Although we did not manage to enter the gallery, the day trip was not a total waste. We made a slight detour to Kg Raja in Pagoh on our way to Muar town. Within the compounds of the mosque at Kg Raja, there is the grave of the 7th Sultan of Melaka, Alauddin Riayat Shah. According to history, this sultan died of mysterious circumstances but how he came to be buried in Pagoh was not explained.

The final resting place of a king from Melaka

After the short stop at Kg Raja, we headed towards Muar town where we had a lovely steamboat dinner at a foodcourt with a lovely view of the river. On the way home to JB, we made another stop at Air Hitam to buy some local produce. All in all, a nice day out...

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