Monday, April 12, 2010

Bukit Kepong, Muar

Have you ever heard about the heart-wrenching tragedy of Bukit Kepong? Chances are, if you are a Malaysian, I bet you must have at least watched the 1983 movie directed by Tan Sri Jins Shamsuddin.

The truth is, the battle at Bukit Kepong took place on February 23, 1950 between the local Police Force and the Malayan Communists during pre-independent Malaya. It was deeply considered by many as one of the most tragic battles in Malaysian history.

This unruly incident took place at the area surrounding the Bukit Kepong Police Station. Almost all the Policemen were cold-bloodedly shot to death by the Communists. The timber-laden Police Station and the family barracks, located by the banks of the Muar River, were set ablaze during the final hours of this fierce and awesome battle. Many were perished in this incident, including wives and children. And what was so special about the battle? It was told earlier that the Communists thought that they could capture the Police Station within a few hours. How terribly wrong they were when they had to fight until the wee hours of the morning before they could grab hold of the forte.

It was indeed devastating to learn how the Police Force had to overcome the overwhelming odds and fought the battle to the very last man. It really, really showed the spirit, strength and resilience of the 18 Policemen and their families in their heroic battle against some 200 Communists. Their stories will forever remain in our memories.

During my visit to the historic site, I had a big lump on my throat after reading all the stories and viewed all the pictures in the small museum. The whole scenario was just so poignant and upsetting. I too have watched the ‘Bukit Kepong’ movie years back and I could still remember how truly awesome it was that such a tragically true story was beautifully portrayed and transferred onto the silver screen. They kept playing it on TV especially during our National Day Celebration, just to remind us all about what our forefathers had to go through in order to gain Independence i.e. through Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Bukit Kepong is located about 59 km away from the Muar town. With much determination, we decided to pay a visit to this historical site, regardless the distance. We took the Tangkak exit which was two and half hours away from JB. After the exit, we had to take the trunk road. The road was rather quiet and secluded. Throughout the journey, there were oil palm tree plantations on our left and right sides of the road. We had to go through the route that leads to Hutan Lipur Gunung Ledang and then towards Labis. It was quite a journey actually.

With the Johor Map as a guide in my hand, I was assisting my hubby in navigational directions. Lucky for us, we somehow managed to get ourselves to the small settlement of Bukit Kepong after less than an hour. But still, the Police Station was nowhere in sight. We had to ask the locals around the area to direct us to the Police Station because, although my hubby would never want to admit it, we were kind of lost. The Bukit Kepong Police Station was quite far inside the kampung area. After much hassle, we finally found the place with the help of one very kind ‘Pakcik’ who asked us to tail his bike and brought us to the place.

The Police Station we saw was of course not the original built, obviously. It has been reconstructed with bricks and had been beautified with white and blue paint (following the current Malaysian Police Force corporate color).

We went straight into the building right away after we parked our car, and without haste we pushed ourselves into a small room that has been turned into an exhibition hall with plenty of pictures, newspaper cuttings and posters highlighting the relevant details and stories about the tragic incident. The room was one of the many rooms built on the actual side where the old family barrack was located. The ambience was rather distressing. And to see the name lists and photos of those who didn’t survive during the battle, I felt really devastated and dismayed. It made my eyes teary and my heart pounding. We took a moment to quietly say our prayers to the departed heroes and may their souls continue to be blessed by Allah.

There was also the original Log Book on the showcase that holds the record of the day just before the incident happened. It was written by one of the policemen who were on sentry during the day. It recorded how normal the day was in actual fact. I bet no one expected what could have happened during that very day. It was as though they were taking it as another regular day until the incident occurred at dawn. The Police didn’t even have enough weapons at that point of time. They were unprepared for a battle. They were ambushed so badly and couldn’t ask for any help as the nearest village, Kampung Lenga, was two and half hours away by foot. It was truly impossible for the villagers to come to their rescue on time. And when they did eventually, hours later, they only managed to see how gloriously bad the aftermath was.

After the brief visit and some photo snapping, we signed off and we made our way back home. This visit has made me realized that how lucky we are (i.e. my family and I precisely) to be born after Malaysia has gained its independence. It will definitely be an opposite feeling if we were to experience the hardship of the earlier days. Everything is so easy for us now and yet we are still grumbling and arguing about who should run the government. Can’t we just agree eye-to-eye and accept the fact that who has been chosen to lead the country was the best for us? Our ‘nenek-moyang’ fought hard for the county, and eventually for us. The least we can do is stay united. After all, at the end of the day, we are Malaysians, aren’t we?

Ohh... ohh... I would like to share with you on another thing. The photo below shows the water level during the series of floods that hit Johor in 2006. The floods were caused by an above-average rainfall which was attributed to the Typhoon Utor that had hit The Philippines and Vietnam. Can you see the mark indicating how high the water had risen??? It was the worst flood in the century, it seemed. Being situated next to the Muar River, the Bukit Kepong Police Station was badly hit by the great flood.

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