Reflections on Bukit Mertajam, and Political Lessons for Malaysia

loading Chan Kit Yeng

The story of the valiant Sisyphus is one of my favourites in Greek mythology. He cheated gods and death, and thus angered Zeus himself. Because of this, Sisyphus was punished by Zeus to roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again, and he has to keep doing this for eternity.

The fate of Sisyphus has come to symbolise the absurdity and meaninglessness of life, in particular through the work of French thinker Albert Camus.

In a strange way, the story of Sisyphus often reminds me of another story that is no less legendary – that of the founding of Bukit Mertajam, my hometown.

It is said that about 200 years ago, the industrious Huizhou (惠州) Hakkas arrived on the northern side of the hilly lands around Bukit Mertajam. They cultivated spices such as cloves, nutmeg, pepper and other fruits in line with the British Prince of Wales administration’s policy of raising revenue “from the land and not from trade”.

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