Putatan is a bustling town south of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. It is just a few kilometres from the international airport.
For Datuk Yahya Hussin, his hometown is a reflection of the growth and progress Sabah has achieved in the past two decades.
The Sabah Deputy Chief Minister was born in a shophouse in Putatan where his parents operated a coffeeshop.
The town began as a settlement that was the first stop of the Sabah Railways train service from Tanjung Aru to Beaufort.
Some townsfolk believe the town’s name originated from putat, a flowering mangrove tree that was once abundant in the area.
During the colonial era, British administrators called the settlement Putat town that eventually evolved to Putatan as it is known today.
Like many other coastal towns in Sabah, a tamu or traditional market made its appearance in Putatan where fishermen barter traded their catch with farmers for rice and other produce, which remains until today.
Yahya remembers how Putatan’s growth accelerated in the mid- 1990s after a row of shophouses there gave way for the widening of the trunk road between Kota Kinabalu and Papar.
“Getting to Putatan became faster and we saw more people choosing to live here and there was an increase in the number of housing estates and condominiums.
“It was in tandem with the growth of commercial activities with a number of hotels, dozens of new shops, supermarkets and a shopping mall being set up over the past 10 years,” said Yahya, who has served as Putatan assemblyman for about 20 years.
Today, Putatan is the administrative centre for the district of the same name that came into existence after being carved out from Penampang a decade ago.
The district, nearly the size of Kuala Lumpur, now boasts a population of almost 100,000.
Putatan is home to the renowned Lok Kawi Wildlife Park and Tanjung Dumpil, which is the site where the moon is sighted every year to mark the beginning of Ramadan and Hari Raya.
“I foresee a growth of industries and agro tourism activities in Putatan in time to come. There is so much this district has to offer,” said Yahya, who is also the Agriculture and Food Industry Minister.