Century-old trees guard Sibu’s oldest Muslim cemetery


SIBU: A very long time ago, a person died due to a venomous snake bite and his or her relatives used ‘angsana’ (pterocarpus indicus) tree branches to mark the person’s grave.

The branches grew with time and after more than 150 years, they turned into big, tall trees and can now be seen standing inside the gated compound of Sibu’s oldest Muslim cemetery at Sibu Town Square Phase 2 here.

The trees, said to have already existed since before 1862, provide shade to a monument building  built to commemorate the existence of the site as engraved on stones erected at four corners inside the building.

According to information available inside the building, the cemetery was used as a burial site by early Malay settlers who arrived in Sibu during the Brunei Sultanate administration era in 1599.

Over 70 Muslims were buried there and among those laid to rest at the site are Datuk Bandar Abang Ali Bolhassan Ali and Datuk Temenggong Abang Ali Yusuf Abang Ali Bolhassan.

The information also mentioned that burial activity stopped during the Japanese invasion in 1941 and thereafter because of soil erosion at the riverbank that caused serious damage to the cemetery site.

The old cemetery is among the nine heritage sites included in the Sibu Heritage Trail which is an initiative by Sibu Municipal Council (SMC).

Sibu Heritage Trail was launched in 2012 to promote Sibu as a city of cultures and festivals and a gateway to the central region of the state.

Other heritage sites included Al-Qadim Mosque (also known as Sibu Old Mosque), An-Nur Mosque, Rosli Dhobi Warriors Memorial, Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum, Hoover Memorial Square, Tua Pek Kong Temple, Sibu Central Market and Sibu Heritage Centre.