Jerejak’s extraordinary past has ensured that today it retains not only a deep sense of history and of heritage but also much of its forest cover, offering respite and recreation for all. Jerejak is also unique in Malaysian history, having witnessed many key moments in the country’s development.
1.7 million — that is the total population of the Malaysian state of Penang today. Yet almost the same number of men, women and children have passed through one small island off Penang’s east coast — Jerejak — since it became a place of isolation for sufferers of leprosy in the 1860s. In 1876 a quarantine station was opened on Jerejak. More than a million largely Chinese and Indian migrant workers would pass through here before they radiated out across the Malayan peninsula to mine tin, build railways and clear the land for plantations. During the Malayan Emergency, Jerejak served as a high-security detention centre for ‘communist terrorists’. It then had a hospital for tuberculosis sufferers, followed by a notorious prison known as ‘Malaysia’s Alcatraz’. In more recent, peaceful times it saw a shipyard and holiday resort built on its shores. With such an eventful past behind it, Jerejak has now become a place of solitude for fishing, hiking and the enjoyment of its natural beauty. Mike Gibby’ s thorough research and documentation, supported by memorable images, reveals that Jerejak is truly unique in Malaysian history and has quite a tale to tell! This is that untold story.