THE Ampang New Village in Ipoh was one of the many settlements created during the British rule over Malaya in the 1950s.
Many of the atap houses here were encircled by barbed wire to prevent movement at night.
Resident Chee Yok Siw, 54, said he learned this from the stories his elderly neighbours used to tell him when he was just a child.
“They said the British had moved all the Chinese into different settlements to prevent us from getting separated from one another.
“Ampang New Village was one of them.
“It was also a way for them to establish control over the community,” he told MetroPerak.
Chee, who moved into the new village from Taiping at the age of three, also said back then, every person in the village was disallowed to cook meals on their own.
“They made everyone come together to cook rice and dishes in a big pot, walking around the pot in circles to stir the food.
“This was practised so that no one can sneak out and send meals to the communist party. The British didn’t want a rebellion,” he said.
Today, roughly 60 years after the British rule, Ampang New Village is one of the most well-connected new villages in Ipoh, as it has easy access to the North-South Expressway, Tambun, and is just a few minutes drive into the city centre.
What used to be simple atap houses here have been transformed into concrete houses since the 1970s.
They even have new shoplots schools, and recently, budget hotels to cater to Ipoh tourists.
The village is most famous for their big, succulent and sweet pomelos as orchards are easily found around the area, as well as at its adjacent township, Tambun.
Among some of the popular pomelo stalls in the new village is Xian Fatt Fruit Stall. It is open everyday from 10am to 7pm.
Its stall owner Chong Swee Lin, in her 50s, said she has been managing the family business for over 20 years.
“Planting pomelos has been my family’s trade since even before my grandfather was born.
“During pomelo season, we sell thousands of pomelos to local customers, and even those who come from outstation,” she said.
Another stall opposite Chong’s is the Hoe Hoe Fruit Stall, managed by Wong Kwai Hoe.
Back then, Wong and her 10 siblings were doing the trade since they were very young.
“Now many of them have started their own businesses in other fields. Only four of us in the family still sell pomelos.
“My brother has his own stall in front of the Perak Cave, and I have mine here.
“I have sisters who look after our family’s farm, while I am only in charge of selling them to customers,” she said, adding that she has been selling pomelos in the new village for more than 10 years.
Apart from pomelos, village chief Tan Soon Keat, 58, said before the year 2000, Ampang was also famous for fish and pig breeding.
“Our village made a name for itself as a place that produces agricutural products.
“But after the SARS epidemic outbreak, all our pig farms were forced to shut down, gravely affecting our livelihood.
“Many of our villagers lost their jobs, and they had to look for other jobs like opening a restaurant or resort to farming to earn a living.
“But our remaining vegetable and fruit farms did not need so many workers. A vegetable farm only needs around 10 workers, while a pig farm can easily require over 100 people to help out,” he said.
Ipoh city councillor Low Leong Sin said now land has become a critical issue among Ampang farmers, as empty lands in the village were granted to private developers for housing schemes.
“Many of the farmers here have been applying for land for more than 10 years but it seems that the state government is not taking an interest in the village’s agricultural growth.
“The land title for the same place these farmers have been toiling on for decades can easily be acquired by private developers the next day,” he said.
As a result, Low said agricultural land is shrinking in the new village.
“I hope the state government can consider hearing the plea of the farmers here, and allow companies with acquired land titles here in Ampang to own another piece of land outside of the new village as replacement.
“The land here is very suitable for the growth of pomeloes.
“It’ll be sad to see God’s gift to the people of Ampang New Village fade away,” he said.