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Kampung Pictures Daily Whither the new village: 60-year legacy of the Briggs Plan
Whither the new village: 60-year legacy of the Briggs Plan PDF Print E-mail
Written by straits-mongrel   
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 16:45

THE British were stumped. How do you fight an enemy that moved like the shadows, with skin and nail that blended with the belukar, and a spirit that mocked death? The communists were proving to be a stubborn lot. It called for a bold plan - quite possibly Malaya's grandest of mega projects - and it had to be executed with little margin for error.

Today we remember it as the Briggs Plan after its founder, Sir Harold Briggs, a General with the British armed forces.

It was launched 60 years ago on June 1, 1950 as a multifaceted operation to cut off the support and supply network of the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) during the Malayan Emergency. It set out to win the "the hearts and minds" of the rural Chinese and the sprawling pockets of squatters just outside the main urban centres throughout the country. It was also during this period that the Police Special Branch acquired its reputation as being one of the best undercover intelligence agencies in the world.



Altogether about 500,000 Malayans, mainly ethnic Chinese, were relocated into communities called New Villages (or Kampung Baru). These were freshly carved from the jungle fringes, laid out on a tight grid of alleys, surrounded by barbed wire, and police posts. No more the sounds of cicadas and the moaning toads; their nights would be lit by floodlights.



To placate the internees, schools were built, water and electricity supplied, and grants to develop small businesses. The Briggs Plan was a success to that end, cutting off the supply and information network of MNLA, and laying the platform for the nation of Malaysia we know today.

Sixty years later, its legacy still remains.



The barbed wires have longed since been removed, yet in some ways, time seems to have frozen in these parts. The social life in these villages are a stark contrast to the frenetic development bursting around their borders. It is fine grained.


The ubiquitous homes with plastered brick bases and wooden plank walls have seen three generations under their many coats of paints. Some have been abandoned; where might their original families be? To yet other greener pastures like Australia and Canada perhaps?



"There's this river behind my primary school," says Lee Soon Yong, an Interior Design student who studied and played at Pekan Cheras Batu Sembilan. "It's edges are concreted today, like any other monsoon drain. Not much character.

"But if you track its journey, you'll see it connects to the Hulu Langat River, flowing all the way through Bangi and Kajang and finally out to Teluk Gong near Banting."

Soon Yong would like to see sensitive and incremental development happening at the Kg Baru. It's something that concerns him. "We need proper vision. Many of our villages are losing their character because of vulgar development. My own family home, occupied since the days of my grandma, was only recently demolished. It's replacement doesn't fit lah."


Sixty years ago, a British general hatched a grand plan to flush out the insurgents that threatened the status quo of Malaya. In its wake are about 450 New Villages, seasoned to their material capacity under the tropical rhythms, and are now facing 21st century social and economic issues.


What directions ought the Kampung Baru Cina take? One hopes a benign reform can take place; as true as the river flows. And perhaps this time, with an equally benign Special Bunch of citizens to see it through.

All pictures / Lee Soon Yong

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Elaine |2010-06-02 22:19:04


Clap clap to Soon Yong for his beautiful pictures. I used to have this lack of understanding for the New Villages and wondered why they existed.

Thanks for shedding lights on this Ambrose


SAJ  - The Birth Of The NRIC |2010-06-03 00:44:27
Thanks Ambrose for the timely reminder.It was also the birth of the National Identity Card that we all carry today!
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 June 2010 00:38

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