From Johor Streets NST.
By Datuk Abdul Rahim Ramli
(Datuk Abdul Rahim Ramli served as the Johor state secretary from 1985 to 1993. He is now the Secretary of the Royal Court and Dato' Penghulu Istiadat Istana Johor.)
WHEN I was a school boy in Muar, the names of streets other than the street where I lived did not mean anything to me. Now, however, I feel duty bound to pass on some knowledge of the origins of the names of the streets. I am proud of my hometown and make regular visits to the place after my retirement.
Most street names in Muar are taken from the names of the Johor royalty. It is so because Sultan Abu Bakar and his son, Sultan Ibrahim, had wanted to honour their kinsmen.
Perhaps the names chosen for Muar were also to reflect the status of a town named for a queen. Sultan Abu Bakar had named the district capital as Bandar Maharani after his consort, Maharani Fatimah, in 1884.
The names of the sultan's siblings and their offspring were also etched in history in appreciation of their loyalty and service. They, in fact, had taken the lesser royal title of Ungku in deference to him as the ruler. They had played an important, if not an equal part, in the opening and development of Johor.
Jalan Abdul Rahman was named after Ungku Abdul Rahman, the head of the State Council, and who once acted as Regent.
Ungku Abdul Majid, the Commissioner of Muar, had Jalan Majidi named after him. Jalan Khalidi was named after Ungku Mohamad Khalid, the President of the Religious Council.
Jalan Ibrahim in Muar was named after Sultan Abu Bakar's only son, who later succeeded him. Jalan Mariam (now spelt as Meriam) was named after his eldest daughter. Jalan Sultanah takes after the title of Sultanah Fatimah, the first sultanah to be crowned in 1886. The services of his nephews in the development of the state were also given due recognition.
Jalan Sulaiman was named after Ungku Sulaiman bin Daud, the first Resident Commissioner there in 1884.
This road used to have three coffee shops selling satay for breakfast. The Javanese satay sellers occupied part of the shops.
They were affectionately known as Wak Sentano and Wak Sapari. I believe Muar is the only town in Johor that serves satay for breakfast.
My first experience of having satay was when as a child in 1946, my father brought me along to collect his salary and stopped by a coffee shop where Wak Sapari sold his wares. Even to this day, I make a bee line to this shop at No.11 Jalan Sulaiman every time I return to Muar.
The business is now run by Sapari's third generation grandchildren. The satay is usually accompanied with a bowl of lodeh (chunks of ketupat, and vermicelli drowned in coconut gravy).
The other nephews who have roads named after them were Ungku Daud (Jalan Daud), Resident Commissioner from 1922 to 1926, Ungku Ali (Jalan Ali), Ungku Othman (Jalan Othman), otherwise known as Othman London and educated together with Datuk Seri Amar DiRaja Abdul Rahman Andak in London, and Ungku Omar Ahmad (Jalan Omri).
Ungku Omar, who was the son of Sultan Abu Bakar's sister Ungku Zahrah, was also known as Ungku Pengadil as he was the magistrate there in 1895.
Then, there was Jalan Abdullah, named after Major Datuk Abdullah Jaafar, the Resident Commissioner (from 1906 to 1912) and who became the Menteri Besar in 1926.
Jalan Abdullah used to have the Asiatic cinema hall that screened Hindustani (now Bollywood) movies. It also showed Western reruns. Tickets were priced at 40 cents for second class seats. The cinema hall has now been converted into shopping lots.
The Kim Leng Café down the road was probably the first ice cream parlour and milk bar in town. It was my popular venue when dating my wife. Across the road is the original Mee Bandung shop.
Members of the Sultan Abu Bakar's council of ministers also had roads named after them. Jalan Yahya was named after the state's chief engineer and architect Datuk Yahya Awaludin.
He had designed the Sultan Abu Bakar mosque in Johor Baru as well as Istana Tyersall in Singapore. He had worked closely with Dato' Bentara Luar, Datuk Mohamad Salleh Perang, in the construction of the roads in Muar. Incidentally, Jalan Salleh is named after him.
The absence of Chinese names did not mean they were not involved in the development of the town. Most of the Chinese pioneers were based in the Kangkar under the Kangchu system, cultivating gambier and pepper and other agricultural produce.
The banks of Sungei Muar were thickly settled by Chinese gambier and pepper plantations, as far as Bukit Kepong. In 1886, Chua Tua Soon, a Chinese from Swatow, was appointed by Abu Bakar as Kapitan Cina to look into the affairs of the Chinese in Muar district.
With political stability and economic growth, the Chinese ventured into commercial activities in the town especially in retail trade. A report in the Singapore Directory of 1901 mentioned "numerous shops chiefly kept by the Chinese, containing miscellaneous collection of necessary articles for which there is evidently brisk demand."