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					Rediscovering Historic Communal Sites and Commemorating their histories:
                  The case of the Clan Jetties in Penang
                                   By Chan Lean Heng

Table of content
   1. Abstract
   2. Introduction
   3. The Vanishing HiSTORY - a Multi-Clan Communal Site
   4. Settlement History
   5. Socio-Economic Lifelihood
   6. Social-Cultural Disintegration
   7. A Dying Communal Site
   8. Reclaiming Our Heritage
   9. research and documentation
   10. commemoration houses on communal sites/cultural communities
   11. Penang Story People's Museum
   12. Conclusion

Abstract                                      historic Penang as a global multi-cultural
Penang has a rich cultural heritage of
various ethnic and migrant communities
- the Achehnese, Arabs, Armenians,
Burmese, Chinese, Eurasians, Indians,
Japanese, Javanese, Jews, Persians and
Siamese. Yet many of these are no
longer visible or even remembered. The
recent series of colloquia on "The
Penang Story" have 'rediscovered' these
diverse cultural communities and
communal sites. Many of these sites
                                                       Chew jetty and fishing boats
were also settlements of resilient
immigrants that have adapted their
                                              Today, in 21stcentury Penang, many of
varied     social-cultural   forms      of
                                              these communal sites are either in the
organization and practices to help them
                                              process of disappearing or have
thrive, while contributing to the growth
                                              vanished. Even for communities like the
of early Penang. Indeed, their stories
                                              Clan Jetties in Weld Quay that have
have     unearthed     their   significant
                                              physically survived the threat of
contributions to the vibrant social-
                                              urbanization,    their   social-cultural
cultural formation and development of
                                              mechanisms      have     long      been
                                              reconstituted. Among the remaining
jetties, only the Chew Jetty continues to    Penang has a rich cultural heritage of
have any clan-related activity - the once    various      ethnic      and     immigrant
a year annual worship of its Temple          communities - the Arabs, Achehnese,
Deity and to Heaven God. Indeed, the         Armenians, Burmese, Chinese, Chinese-
identity and history of this communal        Muslims, Eurasians, Indians, Indian-
site may soon be forgotten. How can the      Muslims, Japanese, Javanese, Malays,
rich cultural heritage of historic           Persians, Siamese, Thais and many
communal sites like the clan jetties be      others. Yet many of these are no longer
preserved? How can they be preserved         visible or remembered. The recent series
not merely as static exhibits of dying       of colloquia on the various ethnic and
cultural communities for the tourist gaze,   minority communities in Penang have
but more importantly, recovered in a         'rediscovered' these diverse cultural
manner that take cognizance of their         communities and communal sites. A
respective lived experiences and roles in    communal site is a physical and cultural
building early Penang into a truly           space occupied by a particular social
multicultural port city.                     group that is usually very closely knitted
                                             through shared cultural practices and
Using the Clan Jetties in Weld Quay as       social institutions, including even similar
the reference case, this paper aims to       and specialized occupational activities or
initiate a discourse on ways to preserve     trades. A distinctive feature of a
and commemorate the rich heritage of         communal site is its cultural practices
these diverse cultural communities and       and ethnic life that has evolved (and
communal sites. The first part of this       modified) over time and become
paper outlines the development of a          identified with a particular social group
communal site by 'sinkeh' (literally new     in a particular locale. Many of these sites
guests, meaning foreign immigrants)          are\were also settlements of resilient
who were bonded by a common lineage          immigrants that have adapted their
and clan history. Together with their        varied      social-cultural    forms     of
Indian counterparts, these Chinese           organization and practices to help them
sinkeh provided the invisible coolie         thrive, while contributing to the growth
(labourer) force for the daily running of    of early Penang. Indeed, the stories of
the historic port. The second section        these cultural communities have
describes the disintegration of the          unearthed their significant contributions
communal site as a social-cultural           to the vibrant social-cultural formation
community as illustrated in the case of      and historical development of Penang as
the Chew Jetty. The paper concludes by       a global multi-cultural city.
addressing the issue of preservation and
commemoration of communal sites that         Today, in 21-century Penang, many of
not only celebrate their diversity, but      these communal sites are either in the
also restore memories of their social        process of disappearing or have vanished
histories and contributions - the cultural   because     of    urban     development,
capital for future generations of            modernization and social transformation.
Penangites and tourists alike.               Even for communities, like the Clan
                                             Jetties in Weld Quay that have
Introduction                                 physically survived the threat of rapid
                                             urbanization and remain somewhat in
tact, their social-cultural institutions and    communal sites in their original form (or
practices have long been transformed or         locale). However, it is important to
disappeared. Apart from the legacy of           recover and reclaim their legacies and
their lineage identity and characteristic       place in the history of Penang. The
floating       dwellings       distinctively    attempt to position Penang on the map of
positioned      in     Penang's      historic   world heritage provides the timely
waterfront, the clan jetties are now like       opportunity for Penang and its various
any other low-income urban community.           stakeholders to take up the challenge
Among the existing cluster of jetties,          before the tangible evidence of the past
only the Chew Jetty continue to have            is totally erased. Using the Clan Jetties
any collective clan based event. Even           of Weld Quay as the reference case, this
then, this takes place only once a year in      paper aims to initiate a discourse on how
the annual worship of their temple's            best to preserve and commemorate the
deity and "Tee Kong" (God of Heaven             rich heritage of these diverse cultural
or Sky-God ). Unless some form of               communities and communal sites in
revitalization takes place, the social-         Penang.
cultural distinctiveness of the jetties will
eventually dissipate. Its identity and
history as a communal site will be
forgotten even though the area may
flourish as a popular catchment for low-
rent housing.

Penang is now at an interesting juncture
that recognizes its historic potential for it
to be positioned as a world heritage site
to increase its competitive edge for
cultural and sustainable tourism. The                      Yeoh jetty signboard
question is how does one preserve the
rich cultural heritage of these diverse         The first part of this paper outlines the
historic communal sites in a manner that        development and disintegration of a
can capture and record the living               historic communal site established by
memories, identities and contributions of       'sinkeh' (literally new guests - meaning
these various groups? How can these             new immigrants) who were bonded by
communal sites be preserved not merely          their common lineage and clan history .
as static exhibits of dying cultural            The second part of the paper addresses
communities for the tourist gaze, but           the preservation and commemoration of
more importantly, reclaimed in a manner         historic communal sites like the clan
that take cognizance of their social            jetties that will inevitable disappear or
histories so that their lived experiences       have already vanished. Concrete
and roles in building early Penang into a       proposals are raised to draw attention to
truly multi-ethnic global city can be           a community-centered approach in
recovered.                                      preservation that aims to recover
                                                people's social-cultural HISTORIES and
It may not be possible or even desirable        CONTRIBUTIONS - the cultural capital
to preserve or regenerate all these             for future generations of Penangites and
                                                tourists alike.
                                             Perhaps exceptional is that they were
The Vanishing HISTORY                        once closely knit clan communities,
-a multi clan Communal Site                  which shared a common lineage and
                                             settlement history, which stood out as an
This communal site is a waterfront           isolated and distinct ethnic enclave.
settlement created over a century ago by
Chinese immmigrants sharing common           Occupants of the clan jetties are
historical, geographical and lineage         descendants from Fukien Province in
origin. Currently there are eight            China. The Chews, for example
surviving clusters of residential jetties    originated from the south-eastern coast
and seven clans - the Seh Lim Keo , Seh      of China - from Heng Nar Sia of Tung
Chew Keo, Seh Tan Keo, Seh Lee Keo,          Arn, in the Perfecture of Chuanchou.
Chap Seh Keo , Seh Yeoh Keo and Seh          They were also maritime clan
Koay Keo. Except for the Chap Seh Keo        communities in China. Thus when they
(mixed surname jetty), each jetty used to    emigrated, they also tended to 'chiam hie
be exclusively inhabited by its respective   kau' (literally situate themselves at the
clansmen. In fact this is the distinctive    waterfront) when establishing their
identity of the clan jetties and             overseas economic settlements and
differentiates them from other jetty         pursuits . Possessing little skill or
communities like the Noordin Ghaut           capital, they were immediately drawn
Jetty, Peng Arn Jetty, and Ban Liaw          into the pool of port coolies much
Jetty , which are located further south,     needed to service the flourishing
along the Jelutong seafront. Collectively,   entreport trade then. The Weld Quay
they constitute Penang's foreshore           waterfront provided ample work
floating population. In the past, there      opportunities. The clan coolies became
were more jetties along the Weld Quay        the 'muscles' and 'lifebelt' of the port's
waterfront - like the Poh Lan/Lallang        entrepot trade. Subsequently the
Jetty, the Hup Choon Jetty, old Lee Jetty    waterfront clan communities became
and the old Ong Jetty.                       very dependent on the port activities,
                                             and were directly affected by changes in
As a communal site there is interesting      the entreport trade and the changing port
homogeneity and diversity, as well as        policies. Some of the jetty clansmen like
differences and conflict amongst and         the Koays, Tans and Yeohs were also
within the clan jetties. From the outside,   involved in the charcoal and firewood
the jetties are a maze of dilapidated        business.
planks, resembling an old deteriorating
neighbourhood. The area was once (and        As typical of early Chinese immigration
still is, though far less) reputed as        and      settlement   patterns,    fellow
dangerous and unsafe, a haven for thugs      provincials tended to band together.
and underground activities. In the past,     They emigrated as bachelors with their
government officials have declared it a      'hia lee' (clansmen). They helped each
hotbed of secret society gangsters,          other to find employment and
smuggling and drug addiction. For            accommodation. They also utilized clan
many, the place abounds with awe and         ties for mutual help and protection. Like
mystery. But it is actually not different    most pioneer immigrants, many of them
from any other low-income community.         only intended to work hard for a few
years, and return to China with their        Quay's entrepot trade would not have
accumulated savings. However, attracted      thrived without the coolie labour from
by the abundance of work in the              the clan jetties who supplied almost all
flourishing port, most of them settled       the labour of the quay as cargo handlers,
and began to arrange for the immigration     boatman, sampan (small boat) rowers
of their kinsmen and later their families.   and related casual odd job workers.
This increase in immigration was             Together with their counterparts from
encouraged by the expansion in the           India, the Chinese clan coolies were the
volume of trade in the 19th and early        lifebelt of the port's entrepot trade in
20th century. The upsurge in trade with      Weld Quay. Weld Quay was also the
Asian countries towards the end of the       age-old harbour front of bustling
19th and early 20th century and from         maritime activities big European trading
1933 onwards increased the demand for        companies like Boustead, Behn Meyer
port labourers, especially for the coastal   and Peterson Simons. (This why in the
barter trade.                                second part of this paper it is proposed
                                             that      the      conservation      and
The historic recognition of this             commemoration of the clan jetties be
communal site comes from its legacy of       integrated into a revitalization of the
lineage (clan) organization (and             whole milieu of Weld Quay which will
settlement) and from the fact that they      then include the contributions and
have survived the threat of modernity for    HISTORIES of other communal groups
over a hundred years. What is often          in the cultural and economic landscape
forgotten is the people's history and        of Weld Quay.)
contribution to the growth and prosperity
of Penang as the center of maritime trade    In a description of the congested and
in the 19th and early 20th century. In       busy waterfront, Courtenay (1962: 88-
fact the formation and transformation of     89) wrote:
the clan jetties are closely intertwined     ".. At all times the basins are crowded
with the development of the Penang           with lighters and junks, which unload
port. The demise of the Penang free port     their cargoes directly onto lorries at the
status also marked the breakdown of the      wharf side. Chinese labourers in an
communities'        communal       (clan)    endless chain, perhaps consisting of 20
organization although there have been        or more men, carry sacks or bundles
various attempts of reconstitution to        along a gangplank to the shore, pass a
maintain its survival (see Chan 1980).       tally clerk who checks the number, and
                                             leave their burdens onto the lorries
It is not possible to talk about the         drawn up at the very edge of the wharf,
historic significance of the clan jetties    where they are weighed and stacked.
without mentioning the historical and        Operations are often directed by the
economic importance of Weld Quay,            Chinese merchant or his foremen."
even though the Chinese multi-clan
settlement is the historic landmark of       This paper presents an overview of all
Weld Quay. In fact their existence was       the clan jetties but does not deliberate on
symbiotic - the clan jetties could not       the nuances of each. However the case
have been established without the            of Chew Jetty is often referred to as
entreport trade of Weld Quay and Weld        illustration.
                                                   construction at the waterfront was
The Settlement history of the                      possible. Over time settlements grew on
clan jetties                                       the foundation of the short public
Although the jetty settlements became a            landing stages provided by the colonial
place of residence only in the late 19th           government to help ease the entrepot
century, a community of sorts had                  trade traffic further north. These jetties
existed among the clan labourers much              were first used and then became
earlier. Prior to 1882 , there were                identified and dominated by the
references that waterfront coolies lived           respective clan members for the loading
in attap roofed, stilt houses immediately          and unloading of goods and for the
behind the original seafront . This is well        mooring of their sampans. Later a shed
supported by some elderly jetty residents          was built to provide shelter and rest for
who remembered their fathers' accounts             those waiting the arrival of the cargo
of their earlier residence in places like          sampans. Soon the shed was converted
Tok Aka Lane, Acheen St and Armenian               into a communal house for residence and
St., which are all located in the vicinity         from then, the number of houses
of the Weld Quay waterfront and are                increased.
Penang's first set of roads, immediately
behind the original coastline. The                 The following is a personal account of
earliest available account of the jetty            this development by an elderly first
dwellers was by Mohammed Naurgh                    generation immigrant who is no longer
(Weld Quay committee, 1927) who                    alive:
noted that he had known the foreshore
since 1917:                                        ".. My father told me that when he first
                                                   landed here, there were no houses along the
                                                   foreshore. The place was a char hionh
.. At the end of a great many of these             (wood yard) littered with planks and
piers are a lot of people living in houses         firewood. The foreshore was always filled
there .. The people living there are               with sacks of cargo, interspersed with
Chinese. They have temporary licences              bullock carts and firewood dumps. There
renewed annually .. According to some              were only short stone jetties which were
of the residents,                                  constantly surrounded by sampans and
                                                   which were a hive of activity. According to
".. these jetties were built during the 'lau eng   my grandfather, at first there was only a
chiu' (old British administration). We used        kongsi choo (communal house) occupied by
them to berth our twakows and sampans.             the bachelor labourer who had traveled here
After a while, some gangs began                    with their clansmen to seek their fortune,
monopolizing certain jetties. As each gang         like my grandfather. If they earned enough,
usually comprised of people of the same            they would arrange for their families to
clan, soon certain clan laid claim to their        emigrate and would then move out to a
sole use. Only sampans belonging to that           separate room. These rooms were erected as
clan and coolies of that surname used that         the need arouse. Soon the kongsi house
particular jetty."                                 looked like a long house with numerous
                                                   adjoining rooms. After accumulating
It was only after the construction of the          sufficient money, they would build their own
Quay, which linked the ends of the                 house and move out."
ghauts and the reclamation of the city's
seafront in 1882 that physical
Over time more huts sprung up and              The first residential jetties were the Lim,
fulfilled the dual functions of work place     Chew, Tan and Yeoh, though the Ongs
and residence. Soon the jetty also             and Lees already had their work jetties at
expanded as more immigrants came and           the northern section of Weld Quay much
brought their families over. A map dated       earlier. These have remained at their
1928, by Mitchell and Vaghan Lee               original location, though each of them
shows that the Lim, Chew, Tan and              has undergone major changes. The Lim
Yeoh jetties were already clearly              jetty with its original 42 houses were
established with sheds lining one side of      burnt during the Japanese bombing of
each jetty. This was probably                  Penang in December 1941 (Land Office
encouraged by Francis Light's policy of        File, Penang). After the war, 26 of the
allowing settlers to occupy the land and       houses were rebuilt. The Yeoh Jetty was
promising them future title to it. Though      also ill fated. According to the residents,
assured by the British of legal                their bridge, once the longest, was
recognition of their houses, these             wrecked by a ship and has not been
squatters were only given temporary            rebuilt. The damage became permanent
occupation licenses following the              with the laying of underground water
Independence of Malaya. The TOLs               pipes.
have to be renewed annually and fees
vary according to the size of the house.       The Koay Jetty was only built in the
                                               1950s, followed by the Lee and the
The jetty settlements expanded in the          Mixed Surname Jetty in the 1960s.
early 20th century at the peak of the          According to the Chews, the Mixed
Nanyang immigration in the 1910s and           Surname Jetty was an extension of their
later in the 1920s, with the immigration       jetty. As a result of over-population,
and settlement of the womenfolk.               many of them squatted in the vicinity of
However, as squatters, the jetties did not     the Chew Jetty. Through the leadership
have basic amenities like water and            of a Chew, they agitated for a new jetty.
electricity. Ah Lee Poh remembered             Since there were also squatters from
that:                                          other clans, the new jetty was called the
                                               Mixed Surname Jetty. The Lee Jetty was
".. We only got our water and electricity      a replacement of the old Lee Jetty that
after the Penang municipal election in 1957    was demolished to make way for the
. Khoo Yat See asked us to vote for him,       new ferry terminal.
promising us these two favours in return.
We, the Chews, got the water and electricity
first. Then other jetties also benefited ..    The socio-economic livelihood of
Before the water came we had to carry the      the clan jetties.
water in kerosene tins from the main road.
For those who were lazy to go and bathe        In the past, practically all the men were
there, they used the seawater during high      sampan rowers or cargo handlers. The
tide and washed themselves later with some     sampan men ferried passengers from and
clear tap water. There were also some who      to the coastal trading vessels. Another
tried to earn something out of this by         regular group of passengers were the
transporting the tap water to the respective
                                               sinkeh from the Chinese sailing junks,
houses and selling it at 15 cents for two
kerosene tins or 25 cents for four."           which brought in hundreds of
                                               immigrants with each arrival. The
following description by an elderly            which the present petrol kiosk site by the
immigrant provides some insights into          Lim Jetty served as the battleground
this sampan ferry service:                     could still be recalled vividly by many
                                               chews. This fight in which a Chew
".. When I first arrived as an inexperienced   clansman was killed, resulted in a long
sinkeh, I worked as a sampan man ferrying      and bitter rivalry. In another fight, the
passengers with a small sampan at a fee of     Chews teamed up with the Lims against
five or ten cents per person, depending on     the Lees, who wanted a monopoly of
how far out the vessel was in mid-stream. I    China's trade. The Lims were ousted
worked independently, ferrying passengers
                                               straight away as the Lees attacked from
to and from the Chew jetty only. We were
restricted to business to and from our jetty   under the jetty and removed all the
only. We had to hire out our sampans in turn   jetty's floor planks. During these fights,
so that access to passengers was a "first      crates of empty bottles were sometimes
come first get" basis. We could carry a        thrown at rival sampans.The Lee gang
maximum of eight passengers per trip.          was then the largest and strongest, and
Remaining passengers would be ferried by       was notoriously known as the 'Hai Teh
the next sampan in line. If, however, there    Ong' (Sea King). Because of their
was only one passenger I had to make do        constant rivalry, relationships between
with it, if it was my turn. When passengers    the jetties were very antagonistic. All
alight from their ships, we lined our          activities were inward looking and clan
sampans against the side of the ships and
                                               focused, imbued with a strong sense of
waited. Most of us Chews served passengers
from the small sailing boats as these were     competition with other clans.
anchored nearer to our jetty. The Lees
served mainly the big ships from China         Those who did not have the initial
which could only be anchored at the deep       capital for a sampan, were engaged as
water nearer the Lee Jetty."                   cargo handlers carrying the 'pau tau'
                                               gunny sacks from or to the sampans
As the coastal barter trade increased          through the jetty thoroughfare to be
significantly in the 1930s, transportation     transported by bullock carts, and later to
of goods became more important than            lorries waiting by the roadside. Cargo
transportation of passengers. Generally        handling during this period was carried
there was no restriction as to which jetty     out on a profit sharing system. Under
should transport which country's goods,        this system, each group organized itself
though a monopoly developed over time.         into gangs of 15-35 clansmen headed by
For example, the Lees monopolized the          a 'kepala' (leader), who acted as the
China trade while the Chews                    representative in all dealings with
monopolized the Indonesian entrepot            consignees and in attending to other
trade. Transportation of goods was             matters connected.
allotted to various import-export agents
who contracted the labour and boats to         The Japanese occupation brought the
the respective ships. Competition              first economic disruption to the then
between clansmen from the different            stabilizing economic livelihood. During
jetties over this often led to bitter feuds    the Japanese Occupation, minimal
and rivalries. The fights were usually         trading continued after the initial attack.
over access and monopoly of work               Smaller vessels from Hong Kong,
consignments. One such feud during             Indonesia and Thailand came. Most of
these vessels were smuggling rice. Many          asked me again whether M$24.00 was really
of the jetty folks became engaged in             all that I had. I boldly asked her to search
'buying and selling' of essential items          me again if she was not satisfied, though
like foodstuff, which often were                 there was some money hidden in my belt.
smuggled goods as well, particularly             She took the M$24.00 and reluctantly
                                                 released me with the slacks. In one day I
rice. This was how the reputation of the         used to make two to three trips across
jetties as a smuggling area originated.          Butterworth starting as early as six in the
                                                 morning .. Distilling samsu (rice wine) was
The Japanese occupation also changed             another illegal activity I had to do. I did it
significantly the role of the womenfolk.         myself in the bathroom while another man
Prior to it the role of 'rice-earner' fell       from the jetty did the sale. I was distilling
entirely on the men. The women were              samsu for more than two years before I was
confined      to    housekeeping       and       caught. The samsu was sold for medicinal
childbearing. However, with the                  purposed. .. All in all I made a few hundred
Japanese Occupation, the source of               dollars a year from all these. Otherwise how
income of the males was badly affected           could my family have survived?.."
as most of the trading activities were at a
standstill. Because of this, the women           With the return of the British
had to seek ways of augmenting the               administration in 1946 trading activities
household income. The womenfolk were             were slowly re-established. As this
very enterprising, cashing in on any             regained momentum, the jetty folks
opportunity available, as illustrated by         resumed their traditional occupations.
the example below:                               Over time, the women and children as
                                                 well were absorbed into the flourishing
".. During the Japanese Occupation I             port-generated economic activities. For
bought and sold rice and other provisions,       those involved in servicing smaller
smuggled goods across to Butterworth and         vessels, this was a period of boom up to
distilled samsu (rice wine) for sale. With the   the 1960s. Even though there was a
help of my children, I used to buy rice from     general decline in the traditional
the boats and bring it out to sell. On average   entreport trade, the coastal barter trade
we could sell about three gantangs a day         with Sumatra flourished. As a result of
without being noticed. From the profit I was     Indonesia's complete break in relations
able to buy some other food and vegetables       with the Netherlands in 1961, tin ore
for the children .. I used to wear as many as    previously exported to Holland for
eight pairs of slacks and smuggle them
                                                 smelting was sent to Penang instead .
across to Butterworth. On one occasion a
malay woman custom officer became                The demand for and earnings of cargo
suspicious of the bulk around me and             handlers was so lucrative that some
discovered the slacks. She wanted to fine me     jetties, like the Chew Jetty became the
M$250.00. I told her I did not have the          contact base and employment site for
money. Then she said that since I could not      their clansmen from outside the jetty as
pay the fine I had to be out in custody. I was   well. The entreport trade also generated
willing to go. Then she asked how much           many other subsidiary employment
money I had on me, so I poured out               opportunities, especially for the women
everything from my purse, which added up         and children. This was the initial
to M$24.00 only. She took all the money and      incorporation of the jetty economy into
wanted to confiscate the slacks as well. I
                                                 the urban informal sector, though they
threatened that I would jump into the sea if
she did so. After sitting for a few hours she    were all centred round and generated
from port related activities. The women          and Chews. The Koays, Tans and Yeohs
would undertake to prepare meals and do          were largely involved in the firewood
laundry for the ships crew, wash the             and charcoal trade. This was primarily
ships' decks, grade onions etc. The              due to the physical proximity to the
children performed errands such as               storage grounds for firewood and
carrying their parcels or picking                charcoal . However, this pattern has
vegetables that were dropped along the           changed drastically. Since the 1960s,
jetty thoroughfare. Many of the                  there has been a major restructuring of
Indonesian vessels apparently brought            occupations in the jetties following
gunny sacks of fresh vegetables to be            changes in the organisation of the port
sold locally as well as for re-export to         and its trading activities. From being
Singapore and Hong Kong. One of them             port and sea-dependent, many of the
described:                                       jetty residents have had to move out to
                                                 earn a living.Changes in the port
".. sometimes the fresh vegetables spilled       administration like the incorporation of
onto the jetty and as children we were told      the port into the Malayan Customs
to collect them. The better ones my mother       Union,       the     establishment   and
would use for our meals. Some fresh              development of other ports brought a
vegetables were also dropped from the            decline in the volume of trade and
bundles of fresh supply purchased for the
                                                 related economic activities. Cargo
ships before they began on their next trip .."
                                                 handling ended completely when the
The nature of the sampan ferry service           government officially closed all cargo
and cargo handling necessitated internal         handling in the Chinese jetties in Weld
collaboration and organization (see Chan         Quay. The inception of the Port Labour
1980: 97-99; 166-170). The 'pan-keo'             Board in 1965 required all port
system and 'coolie kongsi' brought in            stevedores to be recruited by and
some form of structured cooperation to           registered with the Board culminated the
play its role in reinforcing the centripetal     termination of the jetties traditional
orientation of the jetty community. The          occupation and their collective clan-
spin-off from this also helped establish a       based work organization. The loss of
common jetty fund, like in the Chew              Penang's free port status in 1969 also
Jetty. It helped to maintain some mutual         affected the sampan ferry service as
interdependence, and a sense of                  shipping vessels no longer found it
community spirit and pride, especially           attractive to stop by Penang.
during the annual religious celebrations.
Up to this period the jetties were rather        Subsequently, unemployment for the
closed communities as their lives                men set in. The varied economic
revolved around the jetty, and their             activities of the women and children also
economic and social needs were catered           ended. Many of the jetty folks
for by their clan organization in the jetty.     capitalized on their location at the
The jetty was all their economic, social         foreshore and sea-faring skills they had
and cultural life.                               and turned to fishing (trawling). Many
                                                 also moved out to seek employment on
Sampan ferry service and cargo handling          land. The jetties also opened up as a
were the predominant occupations up to           place of work for non-clansmen
the early 1960s for the Lees, Ongs, Lims         especially in the case of fishing where
outside     technical    assistance   and    degree of incorporation into the
investment was sought. Soon the jetty        surrounding urban economy through a
also became a place of residence for         concentration primarily in the informal
outsiders. The rents were welcomed           sector occupations. Only a very small
supplements to household income.             minority found jobs in the lower levels
While a couple of jetties like the Chew      of blue-collar wage-employment.
benefited for a short period from a
sudden influx of Taiwan and Korean           The general increase in economic
trawlers calling at Penang to discharge      problems and hardships had obvious
their catch for export. However, the         effects on the social and communal life
imposition of a ban by the government        of the clan communities. Previous forms
in 1976 on Taiwanese crew from coming        of economic cooperation had broken
ashore (St.Echo, 5th. June 1976) made it     down. Faced with unemployment and
pointless for them to stop over in Penang    the inaccessibility of alternative jobs,
since they could not come ashore for         people became more self-centered and
entertainment or the purchase of fresh       individualistic. Economic differentiation
supplies and provisions. An increase in      became more pronounced. On the one
general port charges and duties and          hand, there was the small minority who
inflation, further diverted these trawlers   had successfully tapped the benefits of
to Singapore instead.                        previous boom periods. These people
                                             had not channeled back their capital for
Starting from mid-70s, most of the jetty     the generation of other benefits to the
clansmen could no longer rely on the         community. The majority ekes a living
port or the sea for their economic           by selling their labour in small industries
livelihood. They had to turn outside for     of the informal sector or precariously
employment. With the almost total loss       engaged in some form of self-
of easily accessible occupations which       employment.
were in one way or another related to
their ecological niche, the jetty folks      The social-cultural
were forced into the sphere of small         disintegration of the clan jetties
scale pursuits in the so-called informal
sector within the surrounding urban
areas which form the historical
commercial center of Penang. Given the
commercial and service oriented nature
of economic activities in the urban
center the easiest form of absorption was
therefore in petty trade, small scale
processing industries and consumption
services concerned with the processing
and production of food. Their low levels
of formal education and lack of              Except for the Mixed Surname Jetty,
vocational and technical skills blocked      each jetty settlement used to be an
their entry into the urban corporate         exclusive clan commune. Residence
sector. The current occupational             according to patri-lineage was still
structure of the jetties shows a high        upheld until the early 1960s. The jetties
were more than a residential base for         friendship circles developed outside of
their respective 'chin tong' (kinsmen).       the jetty. Responses and adaptation to
Kinship determined access to work             the economic decline have also similarly
opportunities as well. As a clan              affected social patterns of family and
community each jetty settlement had an        community life. The sum result of all
exclusive identity and solidarity derived     these was that lineage and descent could
from kinship and in the collective            no longer form the over-riding basis for
communal worship of their clan deity.         access to employment and residence in
Each jetty settlement functioned as a         the jetties. Consequently it also lost its
corporate unit as well. It owned common       effectiveness as a rallying force in the
property and protects its own clansmen        organization of the community. As a
against outsiders. Internal differentiation   result the social fabric of the community
within the jetty clan was not so obvious.     became undermined.
There was more homogeneity than
differences. Those who were in a more         With increasing difficulties of economic
superior status (richer) were the patrons     survival, large extended households
or providers of employment. Work and          diffused into smaller units. In the past,
social life centred around and within         each family is related directly to the clan
each of the jetty as a clan community.        lineage. In order to work or live in the
Social life and contacts were restricted      jetty, one had to be a clansman. Patri-
largely within the confines of the jetty.     locality was the customary practice and
                                              understood ruling. Today however, with
                                              the inclusion of surname residents who
                                              are not necessarily lineage kinsmen, the
                                              jetties have become more mixed in terms
                                              of kinship composition. Daughters bring
                                              in husbands to stay, while outsiders are
                                              allowed to rent or sub-rent rooms to
                                              augment their income. Thus, residence is
                                              no longer restricted to patri-locality. The
                                              jetties no longer function as lineage or
                                              clan settlements even though they
Changes in the social (kinship) structure     continue to be named and referred as
of the community, including patterns of       such.
social interaction and relationships
started to set in from the early 1960s.       In some jetties, as a result of attempts to
With increasing deteriorating economic        curb further disintegration of the
situation, the jetty folks were forced to     community, certain forms of internal re-
seek employment outside their original        organization especially in relation to the
work bases as well as opening up the          functioning and maintenance of the jetty
jetty to outsiders. Outside employment        were revived and reconstituted. In some
exposed the jetty folks to the larger         situation, communal workshop took a
world beyond the jetty. Other aspects of      greater impetus as in the case of Chew
social life also subsequently began to        Jetty whose communal offerings to "Tee
expand outside the jetty area. This           Kong" (Heaven God) have increased in
change in the social life became more         scale and popularity over the years. In
pronounced as peer groups and
fact this annual commemoration is               minorities, in the context of a shrinking
highly publicized as a cultural (religious)     Penang where land for development and
event and tourist attraction for Penang.        redevelopment is always contested?
Sad to say, this event seems to be the          How can preservation really celebrate
only surviving communal practice, and           the lives of the people affected? How
only found in Chew Jetty.                       can preservation benefit the local
                                                population and tourists alike? Some
A dying communal site ?                         concrete proposals are delineated in the
                                                next section.
It is apparent that the clan jetties, like
any other minority cannot resist the            Reclaiming Penang's Multi-
march of events in the larger globalising       Cultural Heritage - the place of
society and sustain itself in an enclave of     historic communal sites
traditions. Over the past century new
forms of community adaptation,                  The issue of preserving Penang's
remodeling and reconstitution of                heritage is not a new concern. Consumer
previous forms of social organization           and environment groups like Consumers
have evolved. These processes are in            Association of Penang have long
many ways conserving tendencies that            advocated for the preservation of
may prolong the religious life, and hence       Penang's heritage in its environment and
cultural identity, of some jetties, as          natural resources. The Penang Heritage
evident in the case of Chew Jetty.              Trust has started to restore historical
However, the breakdown of the cohesive          buildings of architectural value and
function of kinship and growing                 historic monuments. However, it is only
stratification as well as increasing            through the recent Penang Story
differences, will continue to prevail.          community project that the neglect of
This will ultimately lead to the final          our cultural legacy has been made more
breakdown of the clan jetties as social-        apparent.
cultural communities. As already
evident, most of the clan jetties merely        The degeneration and precarious state of
continue to persist as low cost housing         the Chinese surname clan jetties as
for the urban poor in Penang. Unless a          described in the first section, portrays
more robust regeneration of communal            the reality of historical cultural
life is rejuvenated, the social-cultural        communities in the face of modernity. In
distinctiveness of the clan jetties will        fact the Clan Jetties of Weld Quay is one
soon dissipate into an amorphous                of the very few communal sites that have
floating population of low income               stayed in tact for over a century and
Penangites.                                     survived the threat of urban development
                                                even though the cultural practices and
If it is desirable to conserve the identities   social institutions that see to their daily
and histories of communal sites like the        functioning as a communal site are fast
clan jetties, how best can such efforts be      disappearing. Many other communal
carried out? What will be a viable and          sites like the Persian, Jewish or Japanese
sustainable approach which can provide          enclaves have already vanished from the
a respectful and inclusive space for all        current urban and cultural landscape of
the diverse cultural/ethnic groups and          Penang. Even the street names that
marked their residential presence in
those milieus have been replaced. Once       The final section of this paper attempts
removed, the tangible link or evidence of    to address these questions through some
their social-cultural history will be        guiding     principles   and      concrete
erased for future generations. These         proposals. These ideas are not
parts of our cultural heritage cannot be     necessarily new or earth shattering.
reinstated and may not be recovered in       Neither do they claim to be exhaustive
time to come. In fact, the multi-cultural    or comprehensive. They are meant to
legacy of Penang is often forgotten given    initiate a discourse on 'what can/should
the hegemonic construction of pluralism      be done' and 'how', and to foster a
in Malaysia vis-à-vis the three major        discussion on the possibility of a Penang
ethnic groups of Malays, Chinese, and        Story People's Museum.
Indians. Thus the need and value of
reclaiming our multi-cultural heritage is    First and foremost, I would like to state
imminent. The significance of restoring      clearly my conception of preservation is
and protecting our cultural capital is       not only about preserving the memories
therefore apparent. Its rationale, which     of cultural traditions or about organising
has engaged extensive deliberation           an anthropological display of the
elsewhere is not the scope of this paper.    respective communities' social-cultural
                                             history. While these aspects are
The different local communities              fundamental       and     interesting    in
colloquia of the Penang Story project        themselves, they should not be the only
have created a public space for              focus. This paper recommends that it is
rediscovering the HISTORIES of the           equally     vital     to    capture    and
various historical and contemporary          commemorate the various groups' lived
communal sites especially those that are     experiences of toil and struggle,
no longer distinctively occupying a          resilience and perseverance; and their
specific locale. The various community       respective roles, especially for them to
stories have collectively unraveled the      tell their own stories, irrespective of
interesting, yet almost forgotten social-    whether the actual communal site is
historical processes that have shaped the    being (or can be) conserved or not. In
cultural and physical landscape of early     this paper, the meaning of conservation
Penang       and      their     respective   and restoration goes beyond the
contributions in Penang's development        conservation of the physical site or
as a global multi-cultural port city.        social cultural dimensions of the
Indeed the colloquia have stimulated         communities. More importantly, it refers
tremendous interest, memories and            to the commemoration of the respective
insights. Not only that. The urgency for     cultural communities - both their diverse
a more thorough and permanent                social-cultural heritage, in particular the
recovery to commemorate the diverse          revival of certain cultural values, and the
cultural heritage of these various           people's contributions to the history and
historical communities is being realised.    development of early Penang. It is only
How can this be achieved? What forms         through such an emphasis that the
will be viable and desirable? Who will,      rightful place of historic communal sites
should and can be persuaded to par-take      and cultural communities can be
in these efforts?                            recovered      in    the     history   and
development of early Penang.                 people from the respective communal
                                             sites/communities         and/or      their
To reclaim the multi-cultural heritage of    descendants, especially school children
Penang it will be ideal in the long run to   will foster ownership (See section on
recover and commemorate all communal         commemoration houses for the various
sites and cultural communities, including    ways       in     engaging     community
those that no longer exist on the current    participation.). Understandably, this may
cultural landscape. This is indeed a         not be feasible in all cases. Thirdly, it is
colossal and possibly a multi-million        essential that the recovery process entail
dollar task but a journey of a million       an educational component where there
miles needs to commence with the first       are deliberately planned opportunities to
step. A thorough plan and inventory          revive and affirm desirable values and/or
should be drawn up to map the inclusion      cultural practices of the respective
of all communal sites and cultural           communities. For example, if it is known
communities that have existed in Penang      that collectivity and collaboration is an
before and currently (leading to the         extraordinary cultural value of the clan
publication of an attractive popular map     jetties, then, this value can be promoted
of Penang's mutlti-cultural heritage).       through meaningful (for example,
Many of them have been identified            school) community projects especially
through the colloquia of the Penang          among the younger generation from the
Story community project. Care must be        communal site (if it still exist) and the
taken not to create a hierarchy or           general public through a program of
competition amongst the various groups       public awareness and community
in deciding which is more important or,      education. In this way living memories
should be restored. Each communal site       of positive aspects of communal
is significant and interesting in its own    sites/cultural communities can be
right, after all each of them has a          promoted and sustained among future
legitimate place and a role in the           generations of Penangites. This will also
development and historical identity of       be a way to engage the Penang populace
Penang. The uniqueness of Penang's           into an awareness and concern for
multi-cultural mosaic will be further        heritage matters. Indeed this can be an
enhanced if the interaction and              effective way to promote the practice of
relationship of the different cultural       multi-culturalism in Malaysia.
communities can be highlighted in the
recovery of the communities' respective      Three concrete proposals are delineated
HISTORIES.                                   here - (a) research, especially
                                             collaborative          community-based
Secondly I would like to raise the issue     investigation and popular forms of
of    participation     and  ownership.      documentation, (b) establishing a series
Integrating        cultural     heritage     or center (museum) of commemoration
conservation into a broad process of         houses        of       historical/cultural
community and citizen participation will     communities sites, and the (c) a Penang's
enhance civic pride and city-image           Story People's Museum. These are not
building among its citizens. A creative      mutually exclusive. They should be
and community-centered participatory         undertaken as a continual developmental
approach that includes and involves          process.
                                              interesting publication        to    record
(a) research and documentation                Penang's forgotten past.

The Penang Story community project            (b)  commemoration        houses    on
has done a commendable job in                 communal sites/cultural communities
stimulating the interest and response
from various individuals and groups           A commemoration house is like a
(sub-groups) to recover memories of           miniature museum, which holds the
people's lived experiences and lost           records and display pertaining to a
histories. Amongst the presentations are      particular group(s). Various innovative
narratives     of      various     cultural   ongoing programs can be organized to
communities and communal sites, some          stimulate     interest    and     increase
still surviving or thriving while others      knowledge on the communities to
are no longer visible. While these            highlight various aspects of their lives -
presentations are fascinating and             their origins, beliefs and practice like
informative, some of them can be further      particular     cultural    practices     or
strengthened by more thorough and             celebration of specific festivals and the
collaborative research via social/social      significance behind them. This will
history workshops with the respective         create opportunities to keep the
communities, empowering then to tell          commemoration house alive and involve
their own stories. For example,               the local people. An important function
community projects can be undertaken          of this house will include an educational
with school children to bring old photos,     role in exposing future generations to the
family stories etc. to document various       values, culture, practices and roles of the
dimensions of the communities' life.          respective communities, contributing in
These activities can also be tied up to       the long run to the practice and
community education programs, which           understanding       of    living     multi-
can involve other groups as well.             culturalism. An example of this model is
Popular forms of communication using          the ethnic museum in Adelaide and
various audio-visual aid and interactive      nearer to home is the Chinese museum
multi-media can be taught as skills           in Kuching. However, the museum in
workshops       and      used    in     the   Kuching is largely an exhibit center
documentation/research exercise. Apart        only.
from the HISTORIES of their own lives,
practices and cultural traditions the         Ideally it would add to the cutting edge
documentation must highlight the place,       for heritage and cultural tourism in
role, and contributions of these              Penang if a commemoration house of
communities        in     the    historical   each communal site can be constructed
development of Penang. At the very            in its original locale to house a display of
least, a Penang Story Series of attractive    the hiSTORY, cultural traditions and
popular booklets (and other audio-visual      contributions, and other interactive
forms) can be produced on each of the         multi-media documentation of the
communal       site/cultural   community      community. For example, the Armenian
identified. A multi-cultural heritage map     commemoration house in Armenian
of early Penang with its original             Street, the Javanese commemoration
communal sites will also be another           house in Acheen Street, the Siamese
commemoration house in Burmah Lane,            eventually be lost, even though it may
the Achinese commemoration house in            become popular as an affordable low-
Acheen Street, etc. However this is            rent urban housing area.
unlikely to be possible given the number
of communal sites that have been part of       However it would not be viable if only
Penang's cultural mosaic. Moreover,            the jetties were preserved. Nor would it
given the scope of work and costs              be sustainable if the jetties were only
involved it is highly unlikely possible to     physically maintained without any
acquire a place in its original locality for   economic or social revitalisation. The
each communal site.                            conservation of the clan jetties will have
                                               to be part of an integrated urban renewal
An alternative is to capitalise on the         plan to regenerate the whole of Weld
milieu of a surviving communal site. A         Quay. In fact waterfront renewal has
joint commemoration house that can             been a popular trend in inner city
accommodate the displays and activities        redevelopment. The historic significance
of a few communal sites can be set up in       and aesthetic value of the Weld Quay
or around the vicinity of the existing         waterfront has not been tapped
communal        site.   Preferably,    this    sufficiently for Penang's development.
communal site should be in a strategic         The state government has already
location, have historic value as well as       earmarked the northern portion of Weld
potential for revitalisation. The Clan         Quay to be a marina for sea-related
Jetties of Weld Quay have these                leisure activities. However no definite
qualities. They are strategically situated     plans have been publicised for the
on the margin of Georgetown's inner city       southern portion, where the clan jetties
enclave, the part of the island that has       are located. Indeed an economic
been listed as one of the World's 100          revitalization of the whole Weld Quay
Most Endangered sites. This is also            waterfront is necessary. However this
within the area that has been nominated        should be tastefully designed to
as the historic area of Penang to              refurbish and incorporate its existing
UNESCO World Heritage. As a                    historical buildings (so that the area does
communal site, the Clan Jetties of Weld        not become another modern commercial
Quay dates back to the 19th century and        complex) and as well to draw in the
have been reputed for its clan                 added value of the historic landmark of
organization as signified by the names of      the clan jetties. Part of the jetty locale
the jetties. Hence it has become a             can be redeveloped into a landscaped
popular stop in the Penang city tour           green lung for the inner city. The area
itinerary in the past few decades. Its         can be enhanced with a dual-linked
spectacular physical facade of being a         promenade - northwards to the Fort
floating village in an urban metropolis        Cornwallis-Esplanade and westwards to
further enhances the tourist attraction of     the inner city enclave. This is also the
the clan jetties. However, its daily           place where the joint commemoration
functioning as a clan community has            house for different communal sites can
faded and is fast disintegrating. Unless       be sited.
some form of regeneration is undertaken,       Apart from its current residential
the     social-cultural   and     physical     function, the jetty settlements can be
distinctiveness of the jetties will            navigated to be a commercial (as well as
tourist-attraction, but NOT ONLY for          joint commemoration house, the people's
tourists) hub for small ethnic based          museum will house the displays, records
businesses like craft workshops (making       and activities of all the communal sites,
wooden clogs, producing prayer items,         and other exhibits in one single venue
local kuih (cakes), etc) of the various       with myriad set of ongoing activities,
ethnic groups; in particular, those related   using various forms of small group
to the cultural communities of the joint      media/workshops,              interactive
commemoration house. As part of the           multimedia and IT.
conservation       plan,     the    current
infrastructure of the jetties has to be       The Penang Story People's Museum can
upgraded in terms of basic amenities like     play a more active role as a learning
sanitation. It can also be anticipated that   center which operates a full education
over time most of the jetties' descendants    service of varied programs for
may not continue to live in the clan          independent visitors, adult groups and
jetties as have already taken place. Their    schools. The promotion of education and
social-cultural practices and institutions    awareness building, combining different
of the community may vanish even              approaches to learning should be one of
before all their clansmen have moved          its core activities. There should be
out. Thus, to preserve the cultural           ongoing creative workshops, educational
heritage of this group it will be             programs and special events like
necessary to commence documentation           production workshops, heritage tours
of its HISTORY. To ensure that some           and inner city outings to engage
original aspects of the community are         especially school children during school
conserved, special effort should be           holidays. Through this their awareness
directed at preserving the temples of the     and interest in communities and our
jetties (where still existing) as the         multi-cultural heritage will be increased.
symbolic and cultural landmark of the
communal site and its history. The            Another related role of this museum
temple space can be encouraged to be          would be its research and developmental
the 'custodian' of the community. Like in     function. It can help advance new
the Chew Jetty, it is the public and          scholarship through traditional and
cultural space, where non-residing            community-based          research   and
members of the Chew clan return to            encourage     the     investigation and
make their yearly offerings. In this way      documentation of various aspects of
the identity of the communal site is          Penang society - past and present
preserved through a continuing set of         through partnership of the various
cultural/religious practice.                  stakeholders. For example through
                                              school projects, school children can
(c) penang story people's museum              learn to appreciate their contemporary
                                              neighbourhood history and the culture
A Penang Story People's Museum is             and religions of other ethnic groups.
similar to the concept of a                   Over time the Penang Story People's
commemoration house, except on a              Museum should become a rich resource
bigger scale, and with three other            and can develop a resource center or
distinct roles - education, research and      holding on specific topics like early
resource centre. Instead of a single or a     migration history, etc.
                                            the point that merely preserving a
The refurbished Penang Museum has in        communal site is not enough to justify
its current display, a collection of        its restoration. Neither will this be
exhibits of certain ethnic communities.     desirable nor sustainable. Surviving
The current collection on ethnic groups     communal sites need to be revitalized
and their cultural items can be             and      reinvented    to    enable    its
strengthened        with      attractive    sustainability and relevance to changing
documentation      of    the    people's    times. Such efforts need to be
contributions and lived experiences.        approached in ways, which can generate
Building on and expanding the existing      a living heritage that engages with and
collection and functions of the Penang      involve local communities and the
Museum will be another feasible             general public, in particular for the
strategy to document and commemorate        younger generation to be aware of, be
the HISTORIES of Penang's diverse           able to enjoy, to protect and be proud of
communal sites - our multi-cultural         our heritage. Only then can our living
heritage.                                   culture heritage can be our cultural
The proposals delineated are indeed
mammoth. As mentioned earlier each
proposal is not mutually exclusive of the
other. They are not and should not be
one-off projects. They can be prioritized
and organized as an ongoing endeavour.

The Clan Jetties of Weld Quay is a
typical example of the inevitable
disintegration of a communal site left on
its own. Like other communal sites,
given its historic and heritage
significance it deserves to be considered
for preservation before its ultimate
disappearance. This paper underscores

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