By James Gough
Tanjung Rambutan, which was once synonymous with the lunatic asylum in its township, and had existed under the shadow of the communist insurgents’ long drawn-out war, is to be awakened from its slumber.
Economic Development For A 19th Century Town
It has been listed by the Perak Government as one of the 14 small towns to be developed to provide balanced development and economic distribution between the urban and rural areas in the state.
Under the programme known as Projek Pembangunan Pekan Kecil (Small Town Development Project), the one-street town located at the foot of Banjaran Titiwangsa (Main Range) in Ulu Kinta just east of the city, will get a boost in the development drive. A number of projects are being planned.
It will undoubtedly remove the town’s stigma as a place for mental patients due to the presence of the mental health institution which was known as Federal Lunatic Asylum when established in 1911 and later as Tanjung Rambutan Mental Hospital (now as Hospital Bahagia).
Tanjung Rambutan was built towards the end of the 19th century with public offices and government quarters on one side of the main street from the Kinta River to the railway station and 300 building lots on the other side. The Railway Station was opened in 1897 complete with a Post and Telegraph Office, while the first Chinese school, Tat Choi, was built in 1922. Apparently, the town proper has remained this way since then even though its outskirts have seen some development.
Ulu Kinta Constituency
The town is within the State Constituency of Ulu Kinta, which has a population of 90,000. The constituency covers Chemor, Tambun, Tanah Hitam and Tanjung Rambutan.
Geographically, it consists of the usual mix of industries in the Kanthan area, farms in between Chemor and Tanjung Rambutan, civil servants living in the area of Taman Perpaduan and an Orang Asli community living above the hills along the main range.
Despite its integrated mix of economic activities, about 20% of its residents or 18,000 are still considered as being in the underprivileged category.
The data was compiled by the elected representative, lawyer Dato’ Rusnah Kassim, from the weekly visits by the residents to her service centre for the past two years. According to her, most of the residents are poor and many of them are single mothers.
Residents’ Livelihood To Be Elevated
In an effort to elevate their livelihood, she successfully appealed to the state government to include Tanjung Rambutan under the small town development programme last January.
Rusnah is confident that under the programme, the area which has so much untapped potential could be developed with the aim to elevate the socio-economic standards of the residents.
She feels the infrastructure in the constituency needs to be upgraded to contribute to the overall economic development. And, therefore Rusnah will be heading up the Ulu Kinta Council’s Development Plan to quicken the development.
Bus Service Priority
Early this year, Rusnah together with Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim officially opened a RM25,000 bus stop along the main road in Tanjung Rambutan. Rusnah identified her priority issue as improving the bus service. “There is a bus service, though poor, running from Ipoh to Tanjung Rambutan only and not till Chemor. This causes hardship for the kampong residents there especially for school-going children.”
Another project to be developed is to upgrade the town’s market at a cost of RM6 million. It is to be located at the main road where the current market now stands. A food court is to be included in the development plan.
Need to Solve Land Issues
The Chief Executive of Perak State Development Corporation, Dato’ Samsudin Hashim, who heads the project, confirmed that Tanjung Rambutan had been included in the project this year. “The objective of the project is to develop a small town’s infrastructure to be a catalyst for the surrounding area and contribute to economic development,” he explained.
However, he said, to achieve the goal it would need to solve the land issues first. Hence the timeline is normally three years, two years for planning and implementation, and one year for delivery. Samsudin nevertheless agrees that Tanjung Rambutan “won’t pose too much of a challenge as most of the components, such as infrastructure and community participation, are already in place.”
His sentiment is shared by Perak think-tank Chief Executive of Institute Darul Ridzuan, Aminuddin Hashim, a committee member of the project. Aminuddin indicated that “though we don’t have full data yet the economic activities in the area showed dynamism. The main issue is only how to cluster the activities to enable it to be economically viable.”
The area has already seen much development over the years. They include the National Stud Farm, Police General Operations Force’s brigade headquarters, and Teacher Training College. Various property development projects are in progress in the area. Among them are up-market property developments which include The Haven, a high-end condominium project; Sunway Properties, another up-market housing development which includes its tourist resorts: the Lost World of Tambun, Banjaran Spa and Bukit Kinding Resort nearer Chemor.
Positive Economic Impact
In the middle of this year Kolej Sains Kesihatan Bersekutu, a nursing college set up by the Ministry of Health and located within the sprawling grounds of Hospital Bahagia, will open its doors to 4,000 students. The trickling-down effect will certainly benefit the town.
Famous Limau Bali (Pomelo) orchards at Tambun have been attracting visitors. Meanwhile, Roots Eco Resort, located on the banks of the Kinta River, arranges eco-field trips for local and international students during school breaks, and takes its guests to the Orang Asli settlement nearby as part of its package.