Future’s bright for Langkawi, but uncertain for Bukit Malut

Idyllic scene: An aerial view of Bukit Malut in Langkawi.

LANGKAWI: This island resort is set to draw more visitors again if plans to open an international motorsports complex here are brought to fruition.

Land in Bukit Malut has been earmarked for a racing circuit, luxury resorts and other state-of-the-art amenities, adding to Langkawi’s already popular attractions of scenic beaches and duty-free shopping.

Langkawi Tourism Industry Organisation president Ahmad Phisol Ishak said the development at Bukit Malut would benefit all the people of Langkawi regardless of their backgrounds, because it would boost the economy of the island.

“The residents should embrace it and be ready to be relocated to another place on the island for the sake of economic prosperity for all.”

For the inhabitants of Bukit Malut, however, their future and even ethnic background have been put under the spotlight with the announcement of the proposed mega project.

They proudly identify themselves as Kedah Malay Muslims and have tried hard to be a part of Langkawi’s community, although the other islanders view them as “Myanmar Malays”.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, anyone could see that Bukit Malut people were different from us. But now, outsiders cannot tell them apart anymore, ” said Ahmad Phisol.

He said the current generation of Bukit Malut people went to school outside of their community and gradually learned to assimilate with the local community.

“Some of them work in hotels, restaurants and shops, but most of the men are still fishermen or house builders. They are skilled house builders. If we need renovations or plumbing repairs for our homes, we call them, ” he added.

Recently, Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor said the plan was to turn Langkawi into the “Nurburgring of the East”, referring to the German Grand Prix racing circuit.

The RM1.3bil international racing circuit project is expected to be built on 30ha of coastal land in Bukit Malut.

It was previously reported that this proposed private-public project involves the construction of a 5.8km open road hill circuit full of challenging bends, and uphill and downhill turns that ultra-efficient cars can tackle easily.

Super car owners would be allowed to navigate this road for a fee.

On top of plush resorts, condominiums and villas, there would also be high-tech garage facilities where super car owners, who can buy their cars duty-free in Langkawi, can safely park the vehicles until the next time they return to the island.

There are also plans to obtain a Grade Two certification for the hill circuit from Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) so that FIA International Formula and Formula E events could be held there.

As for the future of Bukit Malut folk, Muhammad Sanusi said: “Whether they want to or not, they will have to move out.”

He said two sites had been identified as suitable areas for their relocation “and they will have to buy their new homes there like everybody else”.

Langkawi resident Mohd Sabri Saad, 56, was optimistic that the proposed plan would further uplift the livelihoods of the people on the island.

“This development is definitely good for us especially during the post-pandemic era. Tourists will flock here again, and this will benefit us a lot, ” he said.

Mohd Sabri said he hoped the government would not neglect the Bukit Malut folk and would prepare a proper relocation plan for them.

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