Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tanah Datuk Jenaton

Makam Datuk Jenaton is in Minden Heights, which is beside the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) campus in Penang.

Why is Datuk Jenaton important?

From a historical perspective, Datuk Jenaton was awarded a large piece of land on Penang island by a sultan of Kedah, for his deeds, for saving the Kedah Sultanate from Siamese attack. The Kedah Sultanate is probably the second oldest of the Malay sultanates in present-day Malaysia. It was under constant attack by Siamese forces from the north. Datuk Jenaton and his followers helped saved the Kedah Sultanate from the last of the Siamese attacks. In this respect, his deeds to the Kedah Sultanate cannot be simply forgotten in the folds of history. Had he lost that battle with Siam, we would not have old Malaya and modern Malaysia today - we would be part of old Siam and modern Thailand today. We would be speaking and writing Thai. Sawad dee khap?

What land was he awarded? Why is it important to know?

From various accounts written about him and his land, we know he was awarded a large piece of land covering  what is today Minden Heights, USM, and maybe Kampung Batu Uban. Kampung Batu Uban is another historical village. We will need all the old maps of Penang and all related documents that have his name written. Places which may still have these old documents would be Penang Town Council and also the construction company that had made Minden Heights. I have not the faintest clue which construction company was involved with building Minden Heights, but I suspect it is a Chinese company and my Chinese grandmother's handsome young Chinese friend named Mr Ang, who also had construction projects (bina masjid) in the Arab states. I don't have any other clues in mind at present.

Was he the original settler?

From a historical perspective, Datuk Jenaton and his elder brother-in-law (abang ipar) Nakhoda Intan, had arrived in Batu Uban and Masjid Batu Uban was constructed in 1734. When he was awarded the land by the sultan of Kedah, he would be the first settler to open the land which was awarded to him (the area was a virgin forest). The British arrived in 1876 when Francis Light dropped anchor in Penang waters. The British developed Tanjung Peniaga/Tanjung Pinang as their administrative stronghold.

How did his land become Minden Heights?

It is a long story. His land was probably taken by force(?) or negotiated to build Minden Barracks, which is now USM main campus in Penang. Then the Minden Heights housing scheme was made in the early 1970s - 1971 to be exact. The housing scheme was designed by my grandfather who is my mother's father. I will tell you a bit about Minden Heights where my late grandfather's and my mother's houses still stand - side by side. My grandfather's house is the oldest house on site, in Minden Heights - it was built around 1970.

History of the Minden Heights housing scheme

In 1958, Dr Che Lah retired from Pahang early and returned to Penang. He had 3 houses built consecutively in Penang, over some 20 years. His first residence was near Dr SMA Alhady's house, along Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. His second residence was up on Lengkok Pemancar. His third and last residence was built in Minden Height, or rather, Tanah Datuk Jenaton. Dr Che Lah worked in his post-retirement years, as a designer for the Penang Town Council. He worked at various jobs too.

When Dr Che Lah started working on designing the housing scheme for Minden Heights, he first built his wooden bungalow on site, at the corner of Jalan Minden 1 and Jalan Minden 7. His house still stands at the original site - dilapidated with time, and the metal parts rusty from the salty sea breeze nearby. The sea was nearby before Penang bridge was built and land reclamation activities started. USM new campus was just recently constructed in 1969.

In the early 1970s, Minden Heights was virgin forest, really thick jungle - this I saw as I was in Form 1 and I had spent my school holidays with my grandfather and stayed with him. We sat and discussed the design for Minden Heights housing scheme. It was a difficult project. He was at the designing stage and everything else in the area was jungle - very green and very thick! At first I had thought my grandfather was crazy to have abandon his mansion uphill and come to live in a wooden house downhill. Orang Melayu kata buang tebiat. I asked my mother if my grandfather was ok. He was ok. He wanted to sell off his mansion and had his 3rd residence built in Minden Heights.

At the time he (Dr Che Lah) was planning and designing, I had heard the name Datuk Jenaton being mentioned. It was mentioned in almost every conversation and that name left an impression in me. Not knowing the actual problem, I had misconstrued and had thought that Datuk Jenaton himself refused to give up his land and that caused my grandfather to face difficulties proceeding with the housing project he had to do for the Council.

As a young teenager (Form 1), I had no idea of the significance of Datuk Jenaton, but my grandfather and my uncle (Uncle Din) had great respect for him - they spoke of him with great respect. In actual fact, the Minden Heights housing scheme that my grandfather had to do, was actually on Datuk Jenaton's land - this very land we call Minden Heights today (in Malay, we call it Cangkat Minden, which refers to a hillock, not a bukit or hill and certainly not a bukit tinggi or highland). About half of Datuk Jenaton's land is USM and the other half is Minden Heights housing area or scheme.

Minden Heights is a well-planned housing area in this part of Penang island. Some of Penang's super rich tawkays live here. When my grandfather designed Minden Heights, he had allocated a lane and 2 rows of low-cost housing for the poor Indians and Malays. My grandfather's house stands at the start of this 'poor man's row'. I cried when my mother related this to me. It was sheer disbelief on my part that my once super duper rich grandfather wanted to live in a poor man's row. But my grandfather only smiled and never regretted his idea of living on the poor man's row (Minden Jalan 7). My mother had explained to me, my grandfather sold his 2nd residence to help pay for my uncle's education in Australia, and all he was left with was this wooden home in Jalan Minden 7. All his other lands and landed properties in Cherating and KL had been given away too - FOC. My grandfather was preparing for his last farewell, and evidently another life. Minden Heights was the last project he designed for Penang. I don't know what or which model he had used but I suspect he followed an Australian model for the Minden Heights housing scheme.

There are some credibly famous roads in Minden Heights. The main road is Minden Jalan 1. Rich and expensive homes lie along Minden Jalan 1. Houses on this road are in the range of RM3 million and above. Poor man's row is Minden Jalan 7 (even millionaires live here today). My late mother's house is in Minden Jalan 7. Minden Jalan 5 was where USM expatriates once lived when the USM medical school was based at USM in Penang, before it shifted to Kubang Kerian, Kelantan in May 1990.

When Minden Heights was first designed, the roads did not reach far inward. I remember, the perimeter of Minden Heghts was only up to the playground. Later, it expanded to join Minden Heights to Brown Garden (Taman Brown) which is next door, and which also opens into Taman Sardon and the adjacent biggest modern fresh market. Almost everybody in the vicinity of Minden Heights knows the Taman Sardon market. It is the cleanest fresh market in Penang. During my grandfather's time as Penang Health Inspector, the markets must be clean and not sting or smell. But that is old news.

Anyway, coming back to Minden Heights, this area is also famous for another thing - it houses Makam Datuk Jenaton, the Malay hero and warrior who saved Kedah from Siam (more in the next post).


Predeep said...

Very interesting write-up. Informative.