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This Chinese settlement began in the early 1900s with mainly Foochow Chinese. There was a small presence of Hin Wah and Indians. They were mainly rubber tappers, pig farmers and padi planters. This place which originally known Simpang Tiga because it's the third junction leading towards the Sungei Wangi Estate. There is a cross road in the heart of the settlement, a through road from Simpang Dua leading through to Simpang Lima. The other cross road had led to Sungei Wangi Estate on one end and to another abandoned settlement on the other end.
During the Japanese occupation, many residents fled into the jungle, farming, fishing and hunting to provide food for their families. A number of these people provided opposition to the Japanese and many were hunted down, taken away, never to return.
After the Japanese occupation, many moved back into the settlement. Most of the residents were sympathetic to KMT (Kuo Ming Tang - Chiang Kai Shek's party in China). A number of the local leaders, Ding Lean Kea, Ting Toh Ming were brutally murdered by CPM (Communist Party of Malaya). These courageous men had openly supported KMT knowing full well that they did not have weapons of any kind to fight CPM.
Early one morning around 2 am, 1950, a band of CPM members surrounded the commercial area, comprising mainly shops, shot in the air and threw lighted gunny sacks soaked in kerosene on to the roofs of these shops razing the shops to the ground within hours. This was the CPM punishment for their non cooperation to the CPM's cause. However, it could be argued that the settlers had very little left to spare after the Japanese occupation. The Japanese "Banana" currency was declared worthless immediately after the Japanese surrender. The CPM showed no mercy. The one hourly bus service to Kampong Koh was disrupted when the bus was burnt. A private taxi was shot. Rubber trees were slashed. The CPM has also used "soft" tactics. Members would approach rubber tappers individually trying gentle persuasion to get them on their side.
Through British Military Administration, the Settlement was rebuilt in 1952. All houses and shelters around the area were torn down and the population resettled in a barbed wired area about 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) around the new shops. This was the implementation of the Briggs Plans of starving the CPM into surrender. This new town ship was named Pekan Gurney in honour of Henry Gurney, the High Commissioner who was gunned down on his way to Fraser's Hill.
It had two Chinese schools for a short while. Unfortunately, one of the schools which fell outside of the fenced area had to close. However, all its students and staff were moved into San Ming Primary school.
The township has two churches, a Methodist and the Church of Dindings. Taoism is also present. Every year, the hungry ghost festival was celebrated on a grand scale with Chinese operas, fire walking etc. When numbers betting came into vogue, there were at least one medium in active service.
Among the sons of Simpang Tiga or Pekan Gurney whom I know of who had made it good are Phillip Ting, now a well known and respected business leader now residing in Kuching. Another is Ting Sie Bing, the founder of SPM, a local board games company.
- The Foochows of Sitiawan: A Historical Perspective