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Friday, 12 February 2016

Kampar area residents want site of a fierce battle in WW2 to be gazetted as a heritage site

A chimney for a factory built by the Japanese army at Kampung Tanjong Bakong in Malim Nawar, to produce carbide during World War II.

A chimney for a factory built by the Japanese army at Kampung Tanjong Bakong in Malim Nawar, to produce carbide during World War II.

THE JAPANESE Occupation of Malaya between 1941 and 1945 is something 80-year-old Halimah Jaafar Ali will never forget.

Even if the memory were to fade, the chimney for a factory built by the Japanese to produced carbide is enough to remind her of their atrocities, as it is right beside her home.

“During World War Two, British and Japanese soldiers fought in our area, Kampung Tanjung Bakung Baru.

“Whenever fighting started, the four of us in our family would hide under the house.

“The bombs and gunshots were frightening, but once the fighting ended, we would come out,” she told reporters when Perak Tourism officials visited the site on Wednesday.

1 The unfinished brick walls built by the Japanese army for their administrative office at Kampung Tanjong Bakong in Malim Nawar.
The unfinished brick walls built by the Japanese army for their administrative office at Kampung Tanjong Bakong in Malim Nawar.

When her family came out to see the conditions after the attacks, they would be horrified by the grim sight of the bodies of animals and people everywhere.

They were even once forced to flee their village as the Japanese army warned that a ‘bloody battle’ was about to take place.

“The Japanese soldiers dragged us away from our home to another big house. When we were walking to the house, we saw a goat get shot.

“We were scared and every day felt like doomsday for us,” she said.

The Battle of Kampar lasted for four days and four nights from Dec 30, 1941, to Jan 2, 1942.

It has been studied in foreign military colleges worldwide as an example of how 3,000 British forces were able to hold back 6,000 Japanese soldiers.

Halimah said she had mixed feelings about the Japanese soldiers.

“Some were cruel, but some were nice. Though we had language barrier we knew they were good people.

Manequins were put in a trench at Green Ridge to depict how the Battle of Kampar was fought during World War II.
Manequins were put in a trench at Green Ridge to depict how the Battle of Kampar was fought during World War II.

“Some of them loved to have our kopi-o. They would say arigato gozaimas (Thank you) and we would just nod our heads.”

Halimah said her family and the village were relieved when Japan surrendered because they had suffered enough.

“My father got slapped by the Japanese, twice. When news came of their surrender, he touched his cheeks and said Allah protected us.”

In the village, a chimney, fort and uncompleted operations centre built by the Japanese still stand and Halimah lived to tell the story to Tourism Perak.

Perak’s Tourism and Culture Malaysia director Mohd Hizaz Mohd Ibrahim said the Village’s Development Committee has been monitoring the site and they want to assess its potential as a tourist spot.

Perak Ministry of Tourism and Culture director, Mohd Hizaz Mohd Ibrahim.
Mohd Hizaz said that the site should be developed as a war memorial.

Known to many as an education hub, Kampar also has the potential to become a war memorial town if the Green Ridge site is protected and looked after.

Hizaz said it would be a waste if the state does not develop the war memorial into a tourist spot.

“We could easily promote Green Ridge as a tourist destination if we develop this spot.

“We want to build a track and also do up the monument located there,” he said to reporters during an event to clean the track and bunkers at Green Ridge.

Hizaz said it believed that someone else currently owns the land where the site is located and they have asked the District and Land Department to check on the status of the land.

“We will discuss with the state government to take over the area. Based on what I know, there were efforts to develop the spot.

“However, it got interrupted and I do not know why. Private entities and groups have made an effort to keep the place clean, but they face certain restrictions too.

“Today, we have paved the way and we will inform our headquarters that we want to continue this effort and improve the place,” he said.

Halimah Jaafar Ali, 80.
Halimah said she had mixed feelings about the Japanese occupying forces.

A hundred personnel from the army, Tourism Malaysia, Tourism Perak and the state government cleaned the track and tidied up the bunker areas so that people are able to walk easily along the track.

Hizaz said the Indian Embassy in Malaysia sent a letter to Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir requesting the state to turn the area into a war memorial.

In 2009, it was reported that the late historian Chye Kooi Loong spent nearly half his life fighting for Green Ridge to be recognised and preserved as a war memorial.

One of his friends A. Thangaiyah, 72, a member of the Malaysian Army Veterans Association said they had fought for many years to make this place into a memorial park.

“I would like to thank Tourism Perak for taking the initiative to ask the state government to make this into a memorial park.

“Kampar’s name needs to go up. People need to know how the war was. It was historic,” said Thangaiyah.

A. Thangaiyah, 72.
Thangaiyah along with his friend, the late historian Chye, had fought for years to turn Green Ridge into a war memorial. — Photos: SAIFUL BAHRI /The Star

The 4.85ha piece of land, sandwiched between two equally historically significant sites, Thompson Ridge and Cemetery Ridge, does not belong to the state government.

State Tourism, Arts, Culture, Communications and Multimedia Committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi said it is a tourism asset as it will attract international and domestic tourists and Wednesday’s event is the first phase of improving the area.

“It has been left abandoned for a while. We want to clean the place and improve the infrastructure there.

“There are land ownership issues that we have to sort out. It is under lease, but the lease is up so the state government is looking into gazetting it as a heritage site.

“It is part of world history and many academicians have studied this area. Many people from Britain, India and Japan have come to study it.

“I hope this will be an attraction in the future and we would like to preserve everything that is there,” she said.

Tags / Keywords: Perak , Kampar

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