Speech by Dato’ Dr. Cheah See Kian, the Vice President of the Federation of Malaysia Hakka Associations
1. “Hakka Village Vision” night is the resounding theme of this Year Anniversary celebration. This being the goal we set for the future project which we wished to achieve within period of three years . The whole idea or inspiration resonated when:
In the year 2006, the Malaysian Hakka Heritage Centre with a floor area of 4,000 sq.feet & located at the 4th. Floor of the Penang Khek Association was officially declared open by the Federation of Malaysia Hakka Associations, representing the 1st. lead for the Hakka community of Malaysia. The Centre features the history and account of the endurance and final success stories of the Hakka ancestors who migrated from China to Malaysia. The visitors were greatly impressed by its unique ,orderly & succinct narration and presentation that feature the contribution of the Hakka people in the development of the country of Malaysia.
2. Since then visitors were so impressed with the unique features of the Centre and came to know the historical importance of the Hakka; especially the scholars from overseas also accidentally found out that Penang represents the source area of development for the Hakka.
In the year 2007 when scholars from the Hakka Research Centre of the National Central University of Taiwan came to Penang, we requested them to help up-moulding the Hakka Heritage Centre as one of the overseas base for Hakka Research; also we conveyed to them the existence of a Hakka village in Penang which was still unexplored and which so far no research had been done . Through this , we managed to foster mutual good relationship with these scholars which made way for the formation of a research team for further field -work research on the Hakka settlement of Balik Pulau .
3. Originally , the scholars planned to come to Balik Pulau in early of this year to carry out the preliminary research . However, we preferred them to come during the second half of the year as by then the Hakka communities would be more organized with the setting up of the Balik Pulau Hakka Village joint committe.
To facilitate research and evaluation work on the existence of a Hakka village in Balik Pulau, we went ahead to set up the “Penang Khek Association Balik Pulau Hakka Village Joint Committe” for better coordination with the Hakka peoples in Balik Pulau. We were astonished by the overwhelming support we received which enable the Committee be set up within such a short period. We invited the Minister of Health Datuk Liow Tiong Lai who is also Hakka to officiate the Swearing –in Ceremony which was held on 1st.June 08 at the Hall of SMJK. Sacred Heart . In short, we are heading from urban to rural area and creating a spectacular ring of association with all the Hakka people.
4. In June of this year, we thus set to welcome the arrival of a group of scholars consisting of five professors and eight research personnel from the Hakka Research Unit of the National Central University of Taiwan . This research team was divided into two group to probe on the linguistic aspect and the social sphere of study respectively . This study took about 1 week to 10 days as schedule.
The finding of the research affirmed Balik Pullau was once resided by large number of Hakka people. Many moved to Balik Pulau sometime prior and after the Taiping Rebellion(Year 1851 to 1868 ) viz. about 50 years after Penang island was developed for business (Penang Island was acquired by Captain Francis Light of England in 1786) .This is to say that the immigrants from China first settled in Georgetown then only further shifted to the hill region fifty years later. The favourable natural resources and environment of Balik Pulau soon became another start point of settlement and development for the early immigrants. The great market demand for spices in western countries at the time also created much job opportunity in the nutmeg and clove plantation of the English colonial for the early immigrants.
The Hakka immigrants chose to settle in the hill region for the Hakka people of China had lived in the desolated hilly places for times and were mainly involved in agricultural activities and led a simple and hard living. They were not only hardworking but also education –conscious which resembles the traditional characteristic of the Hakka people at large.
Finding of the scholars from Taiwan revealed three special characteristic of the Hakka people in Balik Pulau; firstly though they are from different origin of Kar Yin , Fooi Chew and Taipu ,they basically using the same dialect with some mixture of local Malay dialect; Secondly,they were influenced by the revolutionary spirit of the Taiping rebellion led by Hong Xiu Quan the Heavenly King for they participated in the Communist activities & movements in those days and thirdly many of them just like Hong Xiu Quan adopted the sam religion .They joined the Protestant Catholic Church in Balik Pulau which has a history of 150 years and remains same today as proof of evidence. In those days, the Church used the Hakka dialect as media of communication, so did the Chinese schools in Balik Pulau in those days.
5.Next month, there will be another group of scholars from the Hakka Research Centre of the National Centre Universtity of Taiwan coming to Balik Pulau to explore the historical evidence of the Hakka in Balik Pulau. The Sungai Pinang and Pulau Bunting area of Balik Pulau being a real Hakka village, though there are Hakka in other area too.
Besides, six scholars of high intellectual also schedule to come to Balik Pulau in Jan, 2009 to hold a workshop on the research work, they will have interaction with the local intellectuals of Penang, Johor and Sibu on the main issue of Hakka study & research. The workshop
Will be held in collaboration with the Penang Khek Association and the Han Chiang College with the purpose of bringing the Hakka Village study into the perspective of the intellectual.
6.The Hakka Research Centre of the National Central Universtity of Taiwan promised to provide a report on Hakka Village of Balik Pulau. We will base on the report to work out a complete plan on the construction of the Hakka Village and will submit our application to the Penang authority for allocation of land for building the Hakka Village landmark. In this respect, we welcome donation of land from private sector or proposal if any; this include adoption of the idea of Hakka village into their housing development plan, will need to review on the area-coverage and type of architecture if as that of the Hakka traditional “Tu Lou” or of Malaysian Hakka . Basically we have come to term that it is better to adopt one which depicts our unique multi culture of Malaysia.
With this we share the same dream of building a Hakka Village which we hope to materialize within period of three years, having the 1st. Hakka Village in Malaysia.