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Wednesday, 07 November 2007

New Straits Times

by Roger Tan

Roger Tan, Head Prefect of his school in 1978 Yong Peng is my hometown and I am always proud to be associated with this town in which I grew up.

In 1800, there were only five Malay houses standing on the banks of Sungai Bekok and on Bukit Jambu. The town was then then known to the Malays as Sri Bertam, named after a tree called ‘Bertam Tree’ in Kampong Bukit Jambu.

In November 1847, four Teochews from China, led by Boo Koh Lak Loo @ Ah Loh, came to Sri Bertam by boat after paddling up Sungai Bekok . They then built three houses on the site of the present government clinic and later, with the help of their Malay friends, began to clear some thick forests at the river banks.

When this small settlement prospered and progressed, Boo named the place Yong Peng or “everlasting peace” in Chinese.

The present Jalan Ah Loh was named after Boo, who died in 1907.

But the peace in Yong Peng was shattered when hundreds of Chinese were tortured and killed during the Japanese occupation.

During the emergency Yong Peng was the second most notorious ‘black area’ after Sungai Siput in Perak.

Today, Yong Peng is a bustling district which has two main interchanges on the North-South Expressway. It was also made a State constituency seat in the last general election.

Yong Peng is now known as a ‘Foohow town’ and is a favourite stop-over for highway travellers for its Foochow fried noodles, red rice wine chicken and Foochow biscuits.

With the current soaring prices of commodities, the majority of the town folk, who are rubber smallholders, and oil palm plantations are doing well.

As for me, I will never hesitate to promote Yong Peng.

I remember one day when I was in Form 2, the students were asked to speak on this topic “How to pass your examinations?” in an oratorical contest in class.

I remembered standing up and arguing that students would pass their examinations if teachers did not ask them to help mark the examination papers.

Obviously, I came last in the contest, but not without receiving thunderous applause from my class, much to the annoyance of my culprit teacher.

But then there were many hardworking teachers who had taught me from 1973-1978. Among them were Yap Teong Hoon, Rose Anne Easaw, Lau Yen Fung, Abdullah Hamid and Low Ah Tee.

Despite it being a rural school with poor amenities, the relationship between teachers and students was very good. We hardly had any serious school disciplinary problem.

I still remember during my time, the school premises were shared by students from both the English and Malay mediums. We mixed freely together and there was no such thing as racial polarisation at that time.

Being someone who was more interested in arts subjects, I stayed behind to do my Form 4 and Form 5 whilst students undertaking Science subjects had to continue their studies in Batu Pahat.

In the school, I was also the president of Interact Club, chief pupil librarian, secretary of the Scouts Movement and vice-captain of our Green House sports team.

In 1978, a new school, now known as Sekolah Menengah Dato’ Seth was also built beside the river.

It was under the same school management, and I am proud that I was then the Head Prefect of both the English and Malay streams as well as of the two schools.

If the students of these two schools are reading this article, I hope they will continue to work hard and excel so that they can make a name for our school and our hometown, Yong Peng.

Most of all, may Yong Peng continue to shine in everlasting peace as a fine example of unity in diversity since its founding days.

Note: The writer is a prominent Malaysian lawyer. He is a member of the Malaysian Bar Council.

Comments (9)add
Intan Haryati: Phew...
Hi Roger! Glad to see that finally there is someone has the effort to make our hometown famous. As for me, some of my friends call me with Yong peng, as they said my real name is quite hard to remember. Eh, how come i do not see my parents in the picture? They are Cikgu Ibrahim Ahmad and Puan Rohayah Urip. They were damn strict, weren't they?

Tuesday, November 25 2008 01:51 PM
Roger Tan: Hi Intan
Hi Intan,

I don't remember having been taught by Cikgu Ibrahim and Puan Rohayah Urip. They probably joined SMI/SMK YP after I left.

Anyway, it's nice to note you have joined the Yong Peng Facebook group. For those who wish to join, just click on the this link.

Tuesday, November 25 2008 02:00 PM
Intan Haryati: Phew2
My parents taught there since 1961 and they retired at the same school in 1995. yeah, i remembered they were transferred to SMdato seth around 1980's for a while, but later were transferred back to SMYP as they, sort of, "missing home"...hahaha..

Wednesday, November 26 2008 06:32 PM
Abdul Rauf: Hi Roger
I was schooling there from 1976-1980. I think you were in same class with my sister. Her name is Norizam Ali. When I browse through this site , I called my sister. She cant remember the head prefect's exact name. Those days maybe you were known by your full name. She vividly remember someone by name of Tan Kim Wah. Are you Tan Kim Wah..when see your photo I really can't remember you. In 1978 I was in form 3. But I can still remember one of those days in school during assembly in one morning, a male prefect pull me to the front of the assembly and charging me for folding the short sleeve shirt. I was so embarrassed because I'm the only one standing in front of that assembly..till today I remember that...but I guess it wasn't you. I remember the head prefect in 1978 was a nice person..

Friday, February 27 2009 05:08 PM
Roger Tan: Hi Abdul Rauf
No, I am not Tan Kim Wah. Yes, I was the head prefect of the school in 1978.

Friday, February 27 2009 05:09 PM
Murray Thomson: Kluang Yong Peng
Hello Roger

I found your website after trying to find more information on my Uncle "Major Robert Genge" of the Fijian Army who was killed, according to the information that the family knows at Kluang Yong Peng during an uprising in 1955. He apparently had just visited his wife, daughter and another day old child in a nearby hospital when he was ambushed returning to his unit.

I don't seem to be able to find the place that I have mentioned, but the place you speak of in this website seems very similar. Do you think that it could be the same. I understand that my Uncle was initially buried nearby where he was killed, but later re-buried in the Pasir Panjang Military Cemetery, which I think maybe in Singapore. I would love to find out more about him and try and confirm if you Yong Peng is the same as the place I have mentioned.

Are you able to suggest any ways that I can check

Kind Regards

Murray Thomson
New Zealand

Friday, July 17 2009 12:11 AM
Roger Tan: Kluang Yong Peng
Dear Murray,

Kluang and Yong Peng are two separate towns. Kluang is located about 30km from Yong Peng. So, your uncle might have died either in Kluang or Yong Peng even though the older folk in Yong Peng used to talk about the "ruthless and brutal" Fijians when they were here in Malaya helping the British soldiers fight the communist insurgents during the Emergency.

Friday, July 17 2009 12:21 AM
Chang WM: thanks for writing about YP
Hi Roger, like you, I was from YP, but our lives did not cross. My mum knows your family tho.. in fact she read abt your dad missing all those years ago and told me she knew your family. Obviously we no longer live in YP and sadly, none of our family members are in YP anymore. I was researching on YP and chanced upon your article, that's why I was so glad for your contribution. My grandparents "migrated" to YP in the 1920s and lived by the river. I am sure your parents knew them too. I am interested to find out more abt YP history during my grandparents period. Would you have more info abt YP during the 20s to the 50s ?

Saturday, July 27 2013 06:48 PM
Chang WM: Facebook on YP not valid anymore ?
I tried the FB link provided but was unsuccessful. Is it still active ?

Saturday, July 27 2013 06:49 PM
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