A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an old Muslim cemetery near Old Choa Chu Kang Road End, what was once the western end of the trunk road known as Choa Chu Kang Road.
Now, I have chanced upon another old Muslim cemetery near Kranji Road End, the northern end of the trunk road that was once Bukit Timah Road-Kranji Road.
This cemetery is tucked away in the small patch of forest between Kranji Loop and Kranji Water Reclamation Plant, next to a small lane called Jalan Wak Selat. The lane is the access road to a carpark serving the ageing JTC flatted factory buildings of 2, 4, and 6 Kranji Loop.
“Wak” means “Uncle” or “Grandfather” in Javanese, an honorific for an elder. “Selat” is Malay for “Straits”. Hence, “Wak Selat” could mean “Uncle of the Straits”, possibly a reference to a community leader of the area, which was near the Straits of Johor.
The place name belonged not just to the road, but a kampung which used to exist around the road.
Kampong Wak Selat was established just after the end of World War II (1945) at the junction of Kranji Road and the Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway track running to the Woodlands Checkpoint. People could have settled there because it was near two pineapple factories, which would have been a source of employment.
Below is a map of the area in 1961. The village is shaded light blue, Jalan Wak Selat is dark blue, and the railway track is pink. The village’s Muslim cemetery is also marked on the map.
Kampong Wak Selat and Jalan Wak Selat made the news in 1972 when the road was metalled. At the time, it was 660 feet long, while the village had a population of 300.
Below is a map of the area in 1970. Again, the village is light blue, while the road is dark blue.
Kampong Wak Selat made the news again in 1992 and 1993 as its residents were resettled and the village cleared for redevelopment. There were calls for the village to be preserved, but it did not happen.
Below is a map of the area in 1991, just before clearance. By then, Kranji Loop and Blocks 2, 4, and 6 had been built.
Photos were taken of Kampong Wak Selat before and during demolition.
Below is possibly Jalan Wak Selat, running into the village.
The insides of kampung houses.
A makeshift outdoor gym.
A provision shop.
A football pitch.
The village surau.
Below is the site today. The railway track was removed after 2011. Most of Jalan Wak Selat and a good part of the former village site have been swallowed by forest. It is possible that remains of the road still lie inside the forest.
This is Jalan Wak Selat today - it has been rerouted to run into a carpark, and it does not even have its own signpost.
At least part of Kampong Wak Selat’s Muslim cemetery, possibly as old as the kampung itself, has survived.
The junction of Kranji Road and Jalan Lam Huat. The cemetery is hidden beyond the trees.
Walking down Kranji Road, I would have missed the cemetery if not for the large sign erected by the authorities.
Beyond the sign...
Most of the surviving graves are nondescript and in various stages of crumbling to nothing.
I wonder as to the stories of the people who are buried here.
Behind some bushes, I discovered a grave that stands apart from the rest in terms of ornateness.
Aminah Ibrahim, died 1945.
According to the 2019 Master Plan, the site of the former village - where the cemetery is today - is a “reserve site”, which means the area should stay as it is for the time being. Madam Aminah and her neighbours can continue resting for now, as they have done so for the last eight decades.