Monday, November 10, 2008

Pulau Besar Exhibition- Another Letdown by PERZIM

The Malacca Museum Board (PERZIM) is organizing an event titled “Pameran Menyingkap Sejarah and Misteri Pulau Besar” or Appreciating Pulau Besar History and Mystery Exhibition. It was launched by the Chief Minister of Malacca on Sunday, Nov 9, 08 (Berita Harian).

Pulau Besar, located off the coast of Malacca has for generations exude a mysterious shroud among locals and visitors that the island is the realm of an omnipotent ‘dato’.

Taboos were many if you’re holidaying in Pulau Besar. Non-Muslim visitors are well advised to abstain from their favorite ‘non-halal’ meals preferably a day earlier or else the 20 minutes boat journey from Umbai could be a catastrophic one.

A few individual cemeteries with extra large parameters dot the landscape at the southern tip of the island. They are believed to be the final resting place of renowned warriors or even royalties from the Malacca Sultanate, hence their magical prowess.

In the 80s, several large scale tourism plans were in the pipeline to transform the rustic island into a mega tourism draw. Spearheading the transformation is the state religious body with an ambitious task to clear the island from these kurafah elements. Sacred tombs and shrines or keramat were demolished but if you ask the villagers, the taboos and superstitions remain strong.

However, modern day Pulau Besar now boasts a 18-hole golf course. Visitors armed with glossy colorful brochures have turned blind eyes to these taboos. Villagers expressed shock and disbelief about this turnabout event and puzzled how tourists have no qualms about frolicking with their loved ones in this island.

Historically, Pulau Besar, the largest of the five Malacca islets was conspicuously missing in all known annals or maps compare to nearby islands i.e Pulau Upeh and Pulau Panjang (now Pulau Melaka after being reclaimed).

Pulau Upeh was instrumental to the Portuguese in the construction of a newly fortified Malacca and together with Pulau Panjang played crucial roles in resisting naval attacks on Malacca in the subsequent centuries.

During the closing hours of World War II, Pulau Besar was the site of horrid mass executions carried out by the defeated Japanese Imperial Army. Countless bayoneted bodies of locals (mainly of Chinese descend) charged or otherwise with collaborating with the Allied Forces were believed to have being dumped inside a large well.

Unfortunately, the details on this historical well and its vicinity have being whitewashed and they too have fallen victim to the state government’s mid-80s wonton rush to turn the island into a holiday paradise. Despite its dark chapter in the state’s history, there is no mention of the tumultuous event in the island.

There is vague information on what is the focus of this PERZIM event. My best guess is that the central theme would feature the tombs, keramat and the island’s role during and the aftermath following the fall of the Malacca Sultanate Empire.

Few have doubts about PERZIM ability to organize a thorough and well researched exhibition. Numerous past PERZIM activities have critically fell short of achieving the objective of presenting events relevant and concurrent to Malacca’s development as the nation’s premier historical state and for the betterment of the local population.

Pameran Menyingkap Sejarah and Misteri Pulau Besar” only reaffirms the cynics lack of enthusiasm with the state museum boards and its peculiarity towards mysticism and the unknown realms.

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