Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pulau Jerejak

Although most people of Penang will be able to point out Jerejak, few have actually stepped onto the island. This isn't surprising, considering that for much of modern history, the island was out of bounds to all but a lucky few, and quite a number of unlucky few.Pulau Jerejak started as a leper's colony from the early part of the 20th century until the Second World War. When the colony was moved to Sungai Buluh, Selangor, the island became a quarantine area for contagious diseases. It is believed, but not confirmed, that Jerejak was used by the Germans as a submarine base during the Second World War. There is a grave marker to two soldiers from the Russian ship Zemschug who were killed when the German ship Emden sneaked into Penang Harbour in 1914 and attacked.There are however cemeteries all around the island for those who succumb to their sufferings, whether in the jail cells or wards.

What Happen In 1914?

The tragedy broke late at night on 27th of October, 1914, when German warship entered the harbor of Penang quietly. The point was that, the French patrol vessels allowed Germans to pass into the harbor without any hindrance as the German warship was camouflaged "a la British". In such a way the high speed German cruiser "Emden" found itself in a very short distance to "Zhemchug" and launched one after another torpedo which didn't miss their target. Moreover "Emden" was lobbing shells into "Zhemchug", which was ablaze already and in a few minutes vanished under the water. A big number of Russian sailors were lost, 3 officers and 112 seamen were wounded. The surprise attack was so short and effective that German cruiser "Emden" didn't meet any serious counteraction and left the harbor of Penang successfully.

After World War II

After the Second World War, there was widespread cases of tubercolosis in Malaya, and once again, Jerejak became the convenient choice to set up a contagious disease hospital and sanatorium. And finally, to complete the catalog, Jerejak was also used as a penal colony. The Jerejak Rehabilitation Centre began operations on 12 June, 1969, and was in use right up to August 1993. The "pioneer detainees" were those involved in the May 13, 1969 riots. Later arrivals included hardcore criminals and those in the "narcotics industry".