Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Leprosy settlement to be gazetted as heritage site

Saturday January 29, 2011

Petaling jaya: The leprosy settlement here will soon be gazetted as a national heritage site in March.

It would be a Chinese New Year gift for the former lepers living at the Sungai Buloh leprosarium when the settlement is gazetted as a national heritage.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the gazetting of the 78ha Sungai Buloh settlement would be done by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“The National Heritage Depart­ment had a meeting with my ministry last week and we are in the process of getting it gazetted,” he said after distributing ang pow to leprosy patients and former patients yesterday.

There are 121 leprosy patients in the leprosy control ward and 111 former patients currently living in the area, he said.

From the time the settlement was developed in 1930, Sungai Buloh was one of the biggest leprosy settlements in the then-British Empire, and the second biggest in the world.

In recent years, the original 230ha leprosy settlement has been subdivided and the Sungai Buloh Hospital and medical faculty of Universiti Teknologi Mara were built on the land.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Living with stigma of leprosy

31 October 2009
Straits Times
Review - Others

Living with stigma of leprosy
Cheong Suk-Wai, Senior Writer
899 words
(c) 2009 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

LOCATED on the eponymous isle that flanks Penang Bridge, the Jerejak Rainforest and Spa is an idyllic retreat hugged by thick Malaysian jungle.

The visitor is greeted by glossy darkwood floors, intricate wood carvings adorn its walls and the linen is spotless white-and-blue. But for those old enough to remember, from 1871 till World War II, this was a fearsome no-go area that served to isolate leprosy patients

It was, in fact, colonial Malaya's first such colony, to be followed much later in 1930 by the Sungai Buloh leprosarium set up in Selangor.

In Singapore, from where the British governed the rest of Malaya, there were holding areas for leprosy sufferers only in Kandang Kerbau Hospital and then McNair Road. Eventually, such patients were sent to Pulau Jerejak for good.

What a world away Jerejak's Balinese body scrubs, steam baths and jacuzzis seem from the frightful 4,000-year-old disease whose name comes from the Greek word lepis for scale.

Since 1873, leprosy has also come to be known as Hansen's Disease, after Norwegian scientist G.H. Armauer Hansen, who first discovered that it was caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.

Up till the early 20th century, leprosy was thought to be incurable, but a cocktail of drugs proved to be effective in stamping out this badly disfiguring and nerve- deadening disease that often results in the loss of sight and limbs.

Unfortunately, it was often confused with syphilis and thus erroneously thought to be highly contagious when, actually, scientists have since found that 95 per cent of people are immune to leprosy.

All this makes the disease's tortuous and sometimes callous course in Malaya all the more tragic.

It was only in 1949, after three British nuns from the Catholic order of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood settled down here and agreed to nurse leprosy and tuberculosis (TB) patients, that the British authorities were willing to set up a leprosarium proper, the Trafalgar Home in Woodbridge.

Such things are all but forgotten these days, but local historian Loh Kah Seng has just launched his book, Making And Unmaking The Asylum: Leprosy And Modernity In Singapore And Malaysia.

The book tracks how the British authorities were bent on compulsory segregation of all sufferers, which in effect rendered anyone stricken by leprosy effectively a walking corpse.

It was from late 2004 that Dr Loh had been researching the history of leprosy in Malaya for the International Leprosy Association's Global Project. His core finding is that, in banning leprosy sufferers from mingling with the rest of society as a means of minimising the risk of contagion, Singapore's early governments prioritised the control of society for economic progress and modernisation above the needs of individuals.

Dr Loh, who has also studied the effects of the Great Depression in 1930s Malaya, points out that even so, the British were selective in how they regarded leprosy sufferers in their colonies. For example, he argues, because Singapore was important to them economically, they made it illegal not to confine institutionally anyone with leprosy. In India, under its 1898 Lepers Act, by contrast, only paupers had to be segregated.

While the colonial government pursued compulsory segregation on the grounds that leprosy was highly infectious, Dr Loh points out that they backslid badly when they were short on funds. In 1937, when the Great Depression squeezed budgets and housing people became a great cost, the British government in Malaya admitted that leprosy was only 'very slightly infectious' and that compulsory segregation was 'unnecessary and costly'.

His book abounds with examples of the British taking a sledgehammer to flies in dealing with the hundreds of leprosy sufferers, especially considering that TB was vastly more contagious but patients were allowed to roam freely.

Dr Loh records former leprosy sufferer Kuang Wee Kee as saying that, of the most-feared diseases in mid-20th century Singapore, 'leprosy, TB and mental illness were the three brothers. Mental illness was...the little brother. Second brother was TB. Leprosy was the big brother. These were the three big clans'.

Once segregated, however, the leprosy sufferers were well fed and encouraged to be active in the open air as much as possible. They even grew vegetables and tended livestock, albeit within the confines of their delineated compounds.

Many gave up the struggle against the hopelessness to which society had consigned them. Many thus became incorrigible gamblers, instigating fights and killing themselves.

Yet many other leprosy sufferers 'unmade the asylum', as Dr Loh puts it, by founding musical troupes, writing and performing plays, and publishing inmates' stories in magazines for sale.

Unfortunately, the push of progress continues to belittle their efforts to live with self-respect. In September 2005, residents of the Singapore Leprosy Relief Association had to move from their leafy premises with generous spaces to a flatted factory-like building. There, even for married couples, privacy is no priority. Finding their own digs is often a pipe dream given the stigma that still sticks to the disease.

Noting how contagious diseases are rearing their ugly heads these days, Dr Loh muses: 'We have a social duty to be mindful of how ordinary people are treated, and mistreated, in the campaign against disease and infection.'

Sunday, October 4, 2009



Thursday, September 24, 2009

“我和嫦娥有个约会”- 双溪毛糯麻风病院社区月光晚会


事项:“我和嫦娥有个约会”- 双溪毛糯麻风病院社区月光晚会





拯救双溪毛糯麻风病院行动小组谨定于2009年10月3日(星期六)2009年10月4日(星期日)主办 “我和嫦娥有个个约会”- 双溪毛糯麻风病院社区月光晚会。此活动的主要目的是让平时工作忙碌的我们乘着这一个中秋佳节好好的和阿公阿嫲聚一聚,谈天说地庆中秋。

集合地点为该院的民众会堂旁的篮球场。晚会准备了简单的茶点招待出席者,欢迎关爱希望之谷的朋友一同到来,与 希望之谷的院民惺惺相惜,回首当年。











(1) 月饼

(2) 水果如:柚子/西瓜

(3) 灯笼/蜡烛

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

BOOK LAUNCH: Making and Unmaking the Asylum: Leprosy and Modernity in Singapore and Malaysia

SIRD, Save Valley of Hope Solidarity Group and the Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section (KLSCAH-YOUTH) jointly invite you to the launching of Making and Unmaking the Asylum: Leprosy and Modernity in Singapore and Malaysia, a book by Loh Kah Seng.

The book will be launched by YB Elizabeth Wong Keat Ping, Selangor state Exco member for Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment.

Date: 15th August 2009 (Saturday)
Time: 2.00pm – 4.40pm
Venue: The KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, No. 1, Jalan Maharajalela, 50150 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This very special event also brings together representatives of the former residents of Valley of Hope in Sungai Buloh—the world's second largest leprosy settlement that was partially demolished in 2008 despite calls to preserve it as a heritage site—to share their life testimonies and thoughts resulting from state and public stigma against leprosy. The audience will include social activists and friends/families members who shared solidarity with the Valley of Hope.

Making and Unmaking the Asylum recounts the entangled histories of leprosy in colonial and postcolonial Malaya/Malaysia and Singapore—decades of heavy-handed biomedical policies and laws enacted in the name of modernity, science and development, interwoven with the personal accounts of those who were sent to the asylums. The leprosarium was a living hell for many. It is also no coincidence, Loh argues, that the majority of patients were poor and working-class.

Yet this book also richly demonstrates how patients resisted being victims—creating new families, forging friendships, working, joining unions, and actively engaging in their communal religious and cultural lives.

Having struggled to remake the asylums into homes, ex-sufferers in both countries have been evicted or moved again, their personal and collective histories erased, and their real homes exchanged for hospital wards.

About the Author
Loh Kah Seng is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, Singapore. His doctoral thesis at the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University examined the role of the 1961 Kampong Bukit Ho Swee fire in the making of modern Singapore. He has published on little-studied subjects in the urban social history of Singapore and Malaysia.

For further details please contact Ms Lee Siew Hwa at 03-7957 8342/8343 or 016-465 5107; or Mr Chong Ton Sin at 016-379 7231.

All are welcome. Please feel free to circulate this invitation.

2.00pm Guests arrive
2.10pm Guests are seated
2.40pm Video screening: Valley of Hope
3.00pm Introduction to Making and Unmaking the Asylum & a tale of solidarity by a representative of the Save Valley of Hope Solidarity Group, Teoh Chee Keong
3.15pm Book launch by YB Elizabeth Wong, Selangor state Exco member for Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment. Discussion session with author, ,Loh Kah Seng and representative, ex-resident of Valley of Hope, Lee Chor Seng
3.50pm Discussion and Q&A
4.20pm Tea, chit-chat and book signing
4.40pm Ends

Monday, May 11, 2009

NTV7 追蹤檔案-呼喊正義,解放麻風

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4 (end)

乡音之年,乡音考古,民俗演祭 II @ 希望之谷 图片集

希望之谷,一个使我忘却凡尘世俗烦恼的社区,也是我学习摄影的最佳景点。有人问:“玛拉工艺大学无视院民反对征用东院的土地作为校园扩建用地,我们还能为院民做些什么?” 现在您的问题应该得到答案吧。