Friday, September 08, 2006

Malay Warrior

A little bit of Malayan history has been literally unearthed in Singapore. According to newspaper reports, a chieftain of Perak who was banished from the state together with his father-in-law following the death of the first British resident during the colonial times in the late 19th century has been exhumed from a Muslim cemetry in Singapore.

The Perak chieftain was Tengku Menteri Ngah Ibrahim and the victim -- J.W.W. Birch, the Malaysian state's first British Resident. Image of Malay revolt after the death of Birch from the website of Perak museum.

But newspaper reports -- and historical accounts -- differ slightly on the reasons for the killing of Birch.

ST's report said he was murdered, which suggests a criminal act by the duo. NST's version said he was assassinated, which gives the impression that the killing had political or ideological motivation.

The online version of Today gave more insights into the incident: The tale dates to 1875, when four men were implicated in the assassination of Perak's first British Resident, James Birch. No concrete evidence linked them to the crime, but they were denied their right to a trial and banished to the Seychelles in 1877.

All newspapers agree on one current account -- Perak royals and senior officials mounted a hero's welcome in Lumut to receive the remains.

An account of Birch in Wikipedia gave several reasons for the killing.

He was killed on 2 November 1875 by a local Malay chief, Dato Maharajalela and his friend Sipuntum, in Pasir Salak, near today's Teluk Intan (Teluk Anson), because of his disrespect to the local custom and tradition, and conflict with local chiefs.

Birch's assassination was ultimately due to the fact that he outlawed slavery in Perak. Dato Maharajalela, whose income depended on capturing and selling the indigenes of Perak or
Orang Asli as slaves, was then incensed and plotted with some of the slave-traders to kill Birch by spearing him when he was taking his bath in the river.

Whatever the real motivation for the killing (a more neutral term) was, historians in Malaysia will always credit the duo for the first uprising against the British colonialists.


Dominic Ebacher said...



Dominic Ebacher

pooch said...

i like your history. let the imperial running dogs know that birch perched in fear, and got speared. merdeka!!