Pulau Jerejak: Would you buy a home on a small island with over 5,000 graves?


Would you buy a home on this island? These graves are on the north-western side of Pulau Jerejak.

According to a historian, there are at least 5,332 graves, most of them from the 7,500 leprosy patients who lived at one time or another on Pulau Jerejak. At least 3,691 of these graves are near the site of the old leprosy hospital on the eastern side of the island.

This hospital was funded largely by the local Chinese community. Frederick Weld, the then Governor of the Straits Settlements observed, “The building is a fine one with a central hall, and long tiled corridors and wards stretching out on either side. It is very cool and well arranged. Rows of coconut trees line the beach, and the view from it is most beautiful.”

From historical records, we know…”A leper is also engaged to make coffins, the materials being supplied by the Government, and the dead are buried at the back of the Hospital some 200 yards away behind a jungle…”

Many of these people affected by leprosy were compelled to live on the island, where they were hidden and cut off from the rest of society, the hospital facing the mainland rather than the island. Local kampung residents were then removed from the island so that they would not be able to help the patients to escape.

The leprosy hospital was later demolished to make way for the present shipyard on the eastern side of the island. I am not sure if this shipyard, built on or near the graves of a few thousand patients, is actually thriving. We know for sure that the Tropical Island Resort, on the western coast, flopped big-time, bleeding red ink and debt.

What is going to happen to the graves still untouched? The proposed round-island cycle path, for one things, will run close to some of these grave sites.

Do you know that in addition to the people affected by leprosy, a further half a million migrants to Penang – maybe your ancestors – had to pass through Pulau Jerejak, where they would spend six days in quarantine to detect diseases such as smallpox and cholera. [In the 1950s, only ‘third class’ and open deck passengers on the SS Rajula arriving from India had to spend time in quarantine – not the first or second class passengers. Discrimination!]

To link the island to the mainland, the developers are now planning a four-lane bridge. At first, they said the island would be car-free… but once the bridge is built, you can guess what could happen. Maybe electric cars or hybrid cars or what-have-you might make an appearance. And then there would be even more development pressure on the island.

Let’s see how close the proposed 1,200 homes and hotels will be to those graves from our hidden past.

These are no ordinary graves. As one concerned Penangite observed, “These were graves of the socially outcast, the ill, the damned, the misfits and the criminal. Locals are reconciled to death but not to a hard death.”

Even if the project is completed, how many people would actually want to live in an island that has never been totally exorcised from the misery, pain and grief of its former inhabitants – people affected by leprosy wrenched from society, isolated tuberculosis patients, locked up political detainees and other prisoners, many of whom were detained without trial.

If you know of anyone who lived or was quarantined or locked up on the island, please share your story with us below.

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can i know which document or source u are refering when u quote statement from the governer? i m interested s im doing research now

Mike Gibby

The quote is from: The Life of Sir Frederick Weld, G.C.M.G.: A Pioneer of Empire. by Alice Lovat, Hugh Clifford. pub. Cambridge University Press, 1914.

The book can be downloaded for free at:

… to find the quote you need to search the book for ‘Jerajah’ which is the old name for Jerejak.

Can you tell me, what is your interest in Jerejak – I’ve been researching it too.


From Al Jazeera: Out of Sight: Malaysia’s Orang Asli Carey Island, Malaysia – In a wooden hut, elevated above the swampy ground, a shaman from Malaysia’s indigenous Mah Meri people sits cross legged in front of an altar laden with offerings of food and drink, and decorated with palm fronds folded and twisted into birds and flowers. As each visitor climbs the steps into the chamber and falls to their knees, the shaman dabs first their forehead and then their hands with white chalk. It is a blessing; a cleansing for the year ahead. Every Ancestors Day, or Hari Moyang,… Read more »


you still keep old type writer kodak film camera, kerosene cooker, use match sticks and triode valve radio? they are orso heritage similar to houses but tua pek kong do not treat it as equal.


Sorry, Anil (May God bless you). But this a more than a grave matter for greater public awareness: Missing pastor’s family wants police to scale up their investigation http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/373975 COMMENT | The family of Pastor Raymond Koh who was abducted more than two weeks ago is asking police to investigate the case under Article 364 of the Penal Code – kidnapping or abducting in order to murder – which carries a death penalty or imprisonment of up to 20 years. Koh’s son, Jonathan, made a second missing person report yesterday asking police to treat the matter more seriously rather than… Read more »


The pastor had been overzealous in converting others so no surprised being abducted (not kidnapped per polis) so likely he may be programmed to understand other faiths upon release? We wish him early release safely.


Malaysia is a mult-racial and multi-religious country.
We do not like any preacher (from whatever religion) to try to convert others.
it will cause unnecessary tension. We must repect each other’s belief and faith.
That is why there is a protest against Zakir Naik recently.



Quoted from Malaysiakini: ‘I hope Pastor Koh is safe’ http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/374344 Looking at different angles On further discussion with Koh’s son and viewing the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage first-hand, I am convinced that the abduction was professionally executed, well-synchronised and efficient. It cannot be the work of some rabble-rousers or terrorists. Unless the operatives are well-rehearsed in their role, the job could not have been done in just 42 seconds. What came across as very obvious to me, as I pointed out to Koh’s son, is that the ‘operatives’ in the abduction case did not come in different shapes and… Read more »


Of all human industries, no different from oil & mineral extractions is property industry: mass production > price manipulation (despite increased density & cheap foreign labor) / price monopoly > market speculation (no thanks to fear-syndrome news or exhilarations by property gurus) > hoarding (buy & sell mercilessly) > artificial market demand riding on over-supply which skews real market operatives > social engineering in urban centres (leave if you cannot afford) > dying of local businesses, old trades, family-run businesses > increase in costs of living & doing business (caused mainly by increased in rentals & properties) > hardship for… Read more »


This is unfathomable:
Soon, developers may find ways (or excuses) to building homes with shorter life-cycle like computers.
30 yrs? 50 yrs? In the face of limited supply of land, this is a possibility as there will be perpetual business for developers & contractors to build & tear down + rebuild.


talk rubbish and insult to engineers.design life in british building code is 50 years.
why not say doc and surgeons give shorter life treatment.


is it your money to open kopi tiams, roti prata shops, hand phones counters, factories or property development or private universities. if lost money in the venture, did they ask you for money?


J.S.H.Cunyngham-Brown who was a Chairman Of Leprosy Hospital in 1970’S.I do have a group picture of him which taken together with the hospital’s staff’s.


why tua pek kong and ngos dont investigate who is the master mind and destroyer of fine leprosy hospital as described by pg govenor? remove the saddest?

Arnold Gan

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 27 ― The local chapters of the International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci) and Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) today defended the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), saying the proposal was needed for the continued development of the state.

Representatives from both organisations said the plan should not be judged solely on the environmental impact to the state, but on the overall advantages it could offer the state.

Ho Pang Soon

Good news for me as I do not own a car.


There is now a haunted museum for Selfie lovers in heritage Penang. So human can coexist with ghosts on Jerejak?

Lin Yee

Thanks Anil for the interesting insights of the Sleeping Garden


Penang always tak boleh but singland always can do. There are many islands like pulau belakang mati with graves before they are combined to form petrochemical complex. Also in the main island, how to find land for the living? Many graves are exhumed and high-rise are built over.


Bishan HDB estate in Singapore is built on former cemetery land, yet the flats there are now one of the most expensive in the nation because of good location and proximity to the city, good schools and excellent parks.


japs came to singland and terrorised the vast amount of civilians with beheading and shooting in front of others to subdue the population similar to nanking. graves were everwhere. same as to yankees atom bombed hiroshima and charred corpses are everyone. so much are the sufferrings but lives are for the livings.

t.j selvam

don’t forget the many inmates at the prison on the island who were executed there. they were hung to death and their souls will be there to exact revenge. Many inmates died violent deaths at the hands of the other inmates as well .


Rollercoaster Theme Park on Merriam on of the kind in the world with extra thrills paranormal experience even Ghost Adventurers like Zack will love it!


According to Chinese belief, ghosts or disembodied entities won’t cross a body of sea.
Should development goes ahead with a bridge crossing to Pulau Jerejak, the 5,000 island bounded hungry ghosts would be able to cross over to Penang island during Hungry Ghost Month!
Residents along the coast esp. Gold Coast Resort Condo, beware!


More josssticks candles along the coast of Goldcoast condo, QBayMall, PutraMarine Condo etc to become friendly with the underworld!


Speak like snake oil pasar MLM trader. Year of rooster and don’t cocky to insult Chinese belief that ghosts won’t cross a body of sea which represent water. In this case, in olden days china are divided by 2 major waters the yellow and yantzse river and ghosts are regionally confined.

Betty Ng

Its so sad the dead again is being disturb again in the name of development.

RJ Manecksha

There will always be a lingering uncertainty in the subconscious


Nowadays, you don’t see a leper in our midst, but back in the 60s in George Town, as a child I have the rare occasions to see a few lepers in town. Their skins, noses, ears were disfigured – skins like lunar moon surface with pot holes & noses ‘bitten away’.
People just kept their distance & I could see in the lepers’ eyes a certain sadness & rejection.
For them, life was worst than bo bin-chui – emotionally & physically.

Raj Aki

Call a spade, a spade. If the term ‘leper’ is good enough for the Bible, who are these so-called politically-correct advocates to say otherwise.

Mike Gibby

The less offensive name is Hansen’s disease- after the Norwegian doctor who established the disease was caused by a bacterium. However, the Malaysian leprosy association continues to use the term leprosy

hamid ibrahim

this is the right place for our ex pm maha

Raj Ali

Very rude.

Julian Candiah

Ha ha ha. This is good strategy

Ariffin Omar

No problem with me. Many lepers died and were buried there.


Also, no problem for lumba kuda kakis as there are 5,000 ready 4-ekor numbers to try their luck weekly! A win-win situation for 2 worlds!

Jude Manickam

Is it so difficult to cultivate the habit of preserving certain things of nature, instead of obliterating it in the name of “progress”…?

Chong Vun

Certainly not


It’s so difficult when there is no political will to do so.
Commercial interests (or more precisely, developers’ interests) ride sky-high over Komtar!
In the name of housing (as chips of Monopoly Board Game for the rich & famous) & tourism products creation, anything goes.
If a Proton Perdana is not good enough & changing to Merc S300Lansi is better in the name of discounts, anything can happen.
Forget about all the saliva-talk of 308!


It’s all about greed of men, especially for DAP. When they’re not in power, they’re “poor”. But now they have tasted power, they know how good it feels to be NOT “poor”. Back in 2012, Dr Jacob George slammed the DAP state government for allowing “mafia developers” of usurping the state and make it become an elusive place for the rich people; Dr Jacob George said one ah, not any BN machai or politicians. http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2012/03/24/mafia-developers-control-penang/ Anything has changed from 2012 until now? Nope, still the same, still constructions frenzy every nook and corner of Penang. Oh, building a 4 lanes… Read more »


tell gilakan and mca port commision to start a ferry service. now those visit has to take a pirate sampan. got insurance?
during gilakan time, many lands and swamps are cleared for factories and roads. no complains? you can afford to buy and live in factories?


Gerakan and MCA are already dead, mampus, si liao, gone case, dead man walking and dead horse. So why you want to flog a dead horse?

Your CM is charged with corruption, why silent about it? Why mention Gerakan and MCA who already mampus and irrelevant?


Cheers Kopi-O kau kau!


Pulau Jerejak tu tempat yang memang “keras”. You respect them (the disembodied), they don’t “kacau” you. You “teguh” them, they “ikut u balik”. There are no kopitiam (of Yang human auras + bright lights) in the island to seek refuge to break the Ying of “ikut balik”. Or lest you are ‘oon ke’ (low aura) & may attract these malevolent entities from this island of sorrows, sufferings & unearthly bondage. Anil, it’s more than the disembodied dead from the cemetery, as there are ‘others’ unimaginable & more terrifying. There is one condo in GreenLane (opposite GreenLane Height market) that was… Read more »


only cares for trees, hills and roosting at komtar and no sympathy for those jumpers. a few comforting words will save them if inform the befrienders.