Monday, February 02, 2009

Pattani Malays marking 150-year bond to land

Pattani Malays marking 150-year bond to land
Jaspal Singh, NST, 1-Feb-2009

But, for the Pattani Malay folk, Batu Kurau is their homeland in this country.

From a number of about 100 when they arrived to found the town in 1859 under the leadership of Tok Amar Wan Kasa, the son of Raja Hulubalang Pattani, the community has grown to more than 25,000 today.

Wan Kasa, a contemporary of Larut chieftain Long Jaafar, became the first penghulu of Batu Kurau, serving from 1859 to 1867. He died at 70.

Making up more than 70 per cent of the Batu Kurau population today, the community continues with its agrarian lifestyle just like their ancestors when they opened up the area in the 1850s.

The only difference is that the Pattani Malays no longer tend to padi fields or venture out to the Titiwangsa Range to look for jungle produce. Today, their main sources of income are oil palm and rubber plantations and, of course, the ubiquitous "durian Batu Kurau".

Despite the lack of industries, infrastructure and other physical development, the Pattani Malays are very proud of their age-old Batu Kurau heritage and contributions to the state and country for over a century.

"Batu Kurau is our motherland, not Pattani (a province in southern Thailand). For more than 10 generations, the Pattani Malays have toiled this land. It has become one with us. Batu Kurau and Pattani Malays cannot be separated," said Ahmad Hasbullah Alias, who is heading the efforts to commemorate and celebrate the founding of Batu Kurau 150 years ago.

The excitement is certainly evident among the town's folk. The programmes lined up for the three-day celebrations, starting on Saturday, include Pattani Malay games, theatre performances on the community's history dating back to the 1850s and a cooking competition.

The highlight of the celebration will be scaling of the nearest hilltop by a group of youngsters to fly the national and state flags and also a special flag to mark the 150 years of the founding of Batu Kurau.

The three-day event was expected to be opened by National Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, said Ahmad Hasbullah.

He proudly added that Batu Kurau had given birth to famous personalities such as former Perak menteri besar Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Mohd Isa (1970-74), state mufti Muhammad Saman B. Muhammad (1978-86), playwright and director Datuk Rahim Razali, Umno Veterans Club chairman Tan Sri Tajuddin Ali and former Federal CID director Datuk Mohamed Fauzi Saari, among others.

"In fact, we have one of the oldest schools in the country, which is SK Tok Sajak. It's former name was Sekolah Melayu Sungai Akar. It was established 130 years ago."

He said the community also took pride in having served the Perak sultanate as caretakers of the elephants used by the royalty long ago.

The elephants were kept in stables on the fringes of the town in those days.

Ahmad Hasbullah said the organising committee had also invited descendants of Wan Kasa to participate in the celebrations and attend a special gathering organised for them.

"I believe the celebrations will heighten awareness in the younger generation about the beginnings of Batu Kurau and the role played by the Pattani Malays.

"I also hope that Batu Kurau will one day be able to shed its sleepy image and laid back look and become as developed as Taiping."

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