GEORGE TOWN: A heritage activist has slammed a developer’s attempts to change the name of Jerejak island – once famed for its maximum security prison – to “Queens Island” on its brochures.
Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) vice-president Khoo Salma Nasution compared this to a similar case in Kampung Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur, which was renamed Bangsar South by developers.
“Those who want to reinvent the image of the island for property development for the rich, quite likely foreign buyers who have no social memory whatsoever of the unique reputation of Jerejak, want to rename it,” she said when contacted.
She said Jerejak, together with Sungai Buloh, had been proposed as a Unesco World Heritage Site by the National Heritage Department as both were important historical leprosy settlements which had garnered international attention.
“But it appears that the Penang government does not want to entertain the idea of a Unesco nomination as they have a different vision for Jerejak.”
Khoo showed FMT catalogues forwarded to PHT by members of the public with the developer’s plans to build condos and villas, under the name “Queens Villa”. There is no mention of Jerejak in the catalogue.
Checks on the developer’s website shows that the “Queens Island” name only appears in the name of the project, while the location remains stated as Jerejak.
FMT has contacted the developer for comment.
Jerejak is a largely untouched island off Penang island’s eastern coast.
In November, the Penang assembly heard that a developer had plans to turn the southern portion of Jerejak island into a theme park.
Federal environmental regulators have given the go-ahead for the project, but no plans were submitted to Penang’s local authorities, the assembly was told.
Jerejak, once known as “Malaysia’s Alcatraz”, housed the country’s main leprosy sanatorium in 1868. The sanatorium, which was one of the earliest in the country, was built using funds collected by Chinese businessmen in Penang.
Five leprosy camps were also built on the island.
The island was also once a quarantine centre for immigrants entering Malaya and later used as a prison location. The prison was retired in the 1990s.
In 2004, a resort was built on the west coast facing Penang island. The resort was closed down in May 2016.
A shipyard on the east coast of Jerejak has been in existence from the 1970s until today.