Malay villages in the North

Several Malay villages that used to exist in the northern part of Singapore, from Kranji through Woodlands to Yishun. The villages were Kampong Jalan Mata Ayer, Kampong Wak Hassan, Sungei Seletar villages, Kampung Wak Selat and Kampong Lorong Fatimah.

Kampong Jalan Mata Ayer
This was a Malay kampong in the Nee Soon estate along Sembawang Road. The Malay population in the Nee Soon estate was considerably small. Most of them lived either in this kampong or at the junction of Jalan Ulu Seletar. The Malays built a mosque, Masjid Ahmed Ibrahim, at the junction of Ulu Seletar. It was named after the Assembly member Ahmad Ibrahim, who won as an independent candidate in the Legislative Assembly elections in 1955 representing Sembawang.

Kampong Wak Hassan
Kampong Wak Hassan was one of the more resilient Malay villages which survived even though many kampongs disappeared by the seventies and eighties. Located opposite the Sembawang Park, Kampong Wak Hassan, remained until the late nineties. The Malay and Chinese families of the village were asked to move out in 1998 to make way for new developments.

Sungei Seletar villages
The villages along Sungei Seletar included Kampong Lorong Mayang. They were a part of the Nee Soon estate. Most of the villagers were farmers, and they engaged in fishing and catching shells to earn additional income.

Kampung Wak Selat
This was a Malay Kampong along the Malayan Railway line at Mandai. It was located off a dust track at the end of Kranji Road abutting the Kranji Industrial Estate. The living and religious structures were not elaborate, with a wooden shack used as a mosque. Communal activities of the villagers took place around a clearing at the centre of the kampung, an area that was also used as a football ground with the goalpost made from wooden frames. Two provision stores or kedai as they are known in Malay stocked basic necessities for the villagers. Each house had its own piped water supply. Established in 1947, Kampung Wak Selat was one of the last kampongs remaining on mainland Singapore before it was pulled down in 1993.

The villagers were given until 23 May 1993 to clear from the kampong. An appeal sounded to the government by Edmund Waller, a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture of the National University of Singapore, brought media and public attention to the fate of the villagers, and a debate ensued centring around the need to preserve the kampong as it was part of Singapore's history. But by April 1993, only twelve of the 44 houses remained inhabited. Many villagers became averse to loosing their privacy to the spotlight and unwanted public attention, harassing them with too many questions. Despite the last-ditch effort to save Kampung Wak Selat, the government decided to go ahead with its demolishing plan as the poor drainage of the kampong became worse after a wall was erected that separated the village from the Kranji Industrial Estate. The resulting stagnant, mosquito-infested pool of black ditch water posed a health hazard. Most inhabitants of Kampong Wak Selat also preferred to move to the Marsiling HDB Housing Estate. At the time it was pulled down, the kampong was made up of 70 houses, a prayer house and a football field.

Kampong Lorong Fatimah
This Malay kampong was situated off Woodlands Road, near the causeway, past the immigration checkpoint. It was in existence even in the late eighties. Some of the houses were constructed on stilts. Only a small channel separated this kampong from Johor. In the past, this kampong was filled with sampans or koleks ferrying people between Johor and Singapore. With the sea on one side and a jungle on the other (before Woodlands was fully developed), this kampong seemed very cut-off from the rest of urban Singapore. Entertainment in the past included ronggeng (a Malay ethnic dance) with the nomadic boat people who came here with their gongs, drums, tambourines and violas. Shopping was done from Indian men who came on bicycles carrying bundles containing clothes, towels and sarongs. Most of the villagers here were fishermen and boatmen. When industries were set up around Woodlands, many of them found jobs in the factories, while the younger ones found work in hotels and banks in Orchard Road. Kampong Lorong Fatimah was pulled down to make way for the construction of the Customs Department extension to the Woodlands Checkpoint. The kampong's residents were relocated, mainly to the Marsiling and Woodlands HDB estates.

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2003). Toponymics: a study of Singapore street names (p. 240). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: SING 915.9570014 SAV)

Yeoh, S. A. B., & Kong, L. (Eds.). (1995). Portraits of places : history, community and identity in Singapore (pp. 203 - 221). Singapore : Times Editions.
(Call no.: SING 959.57 POR)

Bachtiar, I. (1989, September 21). Living on the edge. The Straits Times, pp. 1-2.

Kampung days at Wak Selat. (1993, August 22). The Straits Times, p. 6.

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