Mt. Kinabalu

Mt. Kinabalu
Mt. Kinabalu

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Postage Stamps of North Borneo

The earliest North Borneo Stamp was the 2 cent red brown, designed by Mr. Thos. MacDonald, and lithographed by Messrs. Blades and Blades in 1883, in which year it was on sale in this Territory. The design of the stamp was simple, and, effective. It depicted the Company's arms without supporters. The inscriptions 'North Borneo' and 'Postage' appeared above, and the tablet of Value below the arms. Chinese and Jawi inscriptions of value were shown in the frame. This design, save for the minor changes to which was referred , was used for all Borneo stamps below the 25 cents value till 1894.
During 1883, stamps of the 50 cents and $1 values were also printed. The design was the Company's Arms with supporters. What the precise postal arrangements and rates were in the very early days of the Company is obscure. In 1883, however, Government Notification No. 63 defined postal rates, which were 2 cents for local, Labuan, and Brunei letters, and 8 cents on letters to the Straits, China and Japan. Letters to Europe, sent via Singapore, in addition to the 2 cents Borneo stamp, required stamping with a 10 cents Singapore stamp. The inconvenience of having only 2 cents stamps was soon felt, and a number of the current 2 cents stamps were surcharged in the same year with the 8 cents value., These stamps, surcharged in 1883, have considerable value, 13 each), to philatelists.
In 1884, a fresh set of values was printed as follows; 1/2c, lc, 2c, 4c, 8c, 10c. Letters forwarded
via Singapore, Hong Kong, and Labuan, still required stamping with stamps of those countries, which, as in the Government Notification No. 51 of 1884, were on sale at the Post Offices at Sandakan , Kudat and Gaya. The 1884 issue was not a very long lived one. In 1886-87 the panic stamp, with a new inscription was introduced, the principal changes being the substitution of 'British North Borneo' for 'North Borneo,' and a different positioning of the word 'Postage.' The issue was a comprehensive one running from the 1/2c, lc, 2c, 4c, 8c, 10c, 25c, 50c, $1, $2, and in 1889, to the $5 and $10. It is difficult to understand what postage use the stamps of high value could be expected to fulfill  though of course they were also used for revenue purposes.
In 1889, came another change in design and inscription, the 1886 design, being slightly reduced in size, and 'Postage and Revenue' being substituted for 'Postage'. A shortage of the 2c, and 8c values in 1890, led to the 25c. stamp of this issue being surcharged with those values.
On 1st January, 1891, this State adhered to the Postal Union Convention which fixed a flat letter
rate of 2£d. amongst convention countries. After being fixed for a short time at 8 cents, the
equivalent postage rate in North Borneo currency was reduced, by Government Notification 150 of July, 1891, to 6 cents per oz. . To meet the demand for the new denomination , the 8c. and 10c. stamps of the 1889 issue were surcharged 6c, though in 1892 a propel- 6c. stamp was put on sale in Borneo. It is interesting to note that with the entry of this country , North Borneo, into the Postal Union Convention, the old practice, whereby Singapore Hong Kong , and Labuan stamps had to affixed to letters posted via those ports was ended. From now onwards only B. N. B. stamps, issued by this Government, were used on all letters posted to places outside the Territory. It is when we come to the year 1894 that we get what may; be called the first of the classic issues of our stamps. The issue was designed and printed, as were all issues in subsequent years, by Messrs. Waterlow And Sons. The stamps were the lc, (Dyak), 2c, (Sambur deer); 3c, (Sago palm), 5c, (Argus phesant), 6c, (Arms of the Company), 8c, (a war prahu); 12c, (a crocodile), 18c. (a view of Mt.Kinabalu), 24c, (Arms of the Company with Supporters). In, the same year, a further issue of the 25c> 50c, $1, and $2 stamps of the same design as the 1889 -issue, but bearing the. Inscription 'State of North Borneo', was printed by Messrs. Blades, East and Blades.
The 1894 issue is a most attractive one, and, but for changes in the frames and borders, is the same as the issue of 1897. What the reason for the changes introduced in 1897 were, remains obscure, but they served for several years to ruin the philatelic reputation of the country. It is true that the 1897 issue bears additional Malay and Chinese inscriptions of value, that lack of such could hardly have been the sole cause of the change. In 1900, a 4c, (orang utan) and 1902 a 10c, (Bruang), and 16ci (Railway train), were printed, which are generally listed with the 1897 issue. The mention of the railway-train is an interesting illustration of how philately marches with topical events, for the Beaufort-Weston section of the State Railway had been completed in the year of the issue of the 16 cents stamp. In 1899, all British Empire countries accepted the Imperial Penny Postage, and our postage rates were lowered from 6 cents to 4 cents per § oz. To meet the shortage of 4 cents stamps, there was a surcharge of contemporary stamps with this value. The number of stamps so surcharged was 10,000 each of the 5c, 6c, 8c, 12c, 18c, 24c, 25c, 50c, $ 1, $2, $5, and $10 values. In 1888, North Borneo had received the boon of British Protection, and from 1901 until 1909 all Borneo stamps were overprinted "British Protectorate".
As may be imagined, many errors in overprinting occurred, and some of the stamps bearing the more uncommon of these errors have considerable value. From 1st January, 1890 to 1905, the island of Labuan was administered by the Chartered Company and contemporary North Borneo stamps, surcharged 'Labuan' were current in that island. But the story of these stamps more properly belongs to the postal history of Labuan. In 1909, came the second of the classic issues.
The stamps then printed are the same in design as it was currently used in 1935. It is true that in 1927 a different perforation was introduced, but to the layman, as opposed to the collector, this makes no difference. The issue has its good and its weak points, but principally, its longevity has, in fact, restored North Borneo's reputation among stamps collectors and dealers. In criticism, the one cent tapir was condemn , of whose existence in North Borneo there is no proof. The elephant depicted on the 5c, and the cocatoo on the 10c, are not fauna which flourish in North Borneo to any marked degree, and the megapod shown on the 24c, looks more like an emu than a megapod. However be this as it may, the issue has been a most successful one, and is worth a page in every collector's album.
During the war years [WWI], this issue was surcharged in various ways to" raise money for the Red Cross. While serving to fulfil their purpose, these surcharges are also of interest to philatelists, and many of the stamps, owing to the restricted number of their issue, have high values. It is interesting to note, that at least two consignments of stamps, surcharged for Red Cross funds, and consigned from England to North Borneo, were lost at sea through enemy action. In 1922, when all Malayan Governments were possibly affected by the same virus, this issue was surcharged ' Malaya- Borneo Exhibition' as a memento of the Exhibition in which our State participated. The stamps therefore have some sentimental value, but we can only condemn as purely fictitious, the price this set now fetches in the stamp market. In 1923, a temporary shortage of 3 cent stamps led to the 4c. stamp being surcharged 3c. These stamps are catalogued as being worth 2s. 6d. each, and we know of one lucky person who has at least 150 used specimens. We have alluded to the 1927 issue. The change in perforation was from 14 to 12£, but the stamps were materially the same as those of the 1909 issue, the only changes being, apart from the perforation, that 2 cent stamp was printed in claret instead of green, that the 18c. was surcharged and issued as the 20c. And so till 1931, when the Company celebrated the Fiftieth Anniversary of the granting of its Charter. The new Jubilee issue became current on 1st January, 1931, and remained in circulation till its withdrawal on 31st December, 1931. The designs were 3c. (Head of Murut), 6c. (Orang utan), 10c. (Dyak Warrior), 12c. (Mount Kinabalu), 25c. (Clouded leopard), $i, $2, and $5, (the Arms of the Company). Like all commemoratives, the stamps were on the large side and somewhat unweildy. Of the values, the $1 stamp, thanks to a good and well balanced design, is the most handsome. Coming to the lower values, it is interesting to note that the original of the 3 cent stamp was a photograph taken by Mr. G. C. Woolley, a former Editor of this paper. On the 6c once more appears an orang-utan, this time in addition to a more orthodox spelling of its nomenclature, the facial characteristics of this anthropoid are really faithfully portrayed. Unless it was in memory of the Dyaks who largely filled the ranks of the Constabulary in the early days of the Company, we can assign no good reason for the inclusion of a Dyak warrior (10c) in a set of North Borneo commemoratives, for it is not North Borneo but Sarawak which is the Dyak country. The 12c. fails to do justice to Kinabalu, in fact to those familiar with the mis-en-scene, it is a very strange Kinabalu that is depicted. We suspected that the designer was the same as the person who designed the snow covered mountain and canoe of savage warriors which appear on boxes of Darvel cigars, but it is not so. These stamps were withdrawn from circulation on 31st December, 1931, no remaindering being permitted by the authorities. Approximately 254,000 Jubilee Stamps of all denominations were therefore destroyed at the State Treasury, Sandakan, on the last day of 1931, and later, when all unsold stocks had been received from various outstation Post Offices and Sub-post offices, a further 25,000 stamps of all denominations were incinerated on 4th February, 1932.
For rounding off the subject, mention must be made of the postage due stamps, though these are
only either the current stamps, or stamps of obsolete issues suitably overprinted 'Postage Due'. A colour change, more fortituitous than designed, we presume, in the 16c. (hornbill) from black and brown lake to black and red-brown, has resulted in current stamps of the latter shade rising to ten shillings each in value.
North Borneo as yet has no air mail stamps. Inland Air mails however, have been carried on
a few occasions, and a few covers, franked with a special cachet, exist. The earliest of such air mails which we have been able to trace was the mail carried from Jesselton to Kudat on either 2nd or 3rd June, 1930, by one of the flying boats which visited the State under the command of Squadron Leader G. E. Livock. These covers would have value only in a highly specialized collection of North Borneo stamps. With the development of the Air Mail services between Singapore and Europe a local demand arose for Air Mail labels, and a number of these were printed at the Government Printing Office, Jesselton, as follows, on 24th February, 1934, 2,500, on 16th April, 1934, 5,000 labels. Aerial philately is fast gaining in popularity, and no doubt these labels will one day acquire value as have the postage stamps of the earlier issues.

Thursday, 4 September 2014


The Theatine monks at Rome have a tradition that, about 300 years ago, Father Ventimiglia, a
venerable Italian priest of their Order, having heard of Borneo from some Portoguese sailors, was moved to go there,and, as far as is known, his was the first attempt ever made to preach the faith in the island. He seems to have obtained the permission of Pope Innocent XI. for his undertaking and, after overcoming many difficulties and much opposition, to have landed at Banjermasin, a place on the south coast of Borneo, now in possession of the Dutch, and outside of the limits of the mission territories with which this paper deals. On landing, he at once consecrated the island to the purity of Our Lady, the Archangel St. Michael and to St. Cajetan,the founder of the religious Order to which he belonged. The annals of the Theatine Order recount that, aided by the gifts of miracles, he succeeded in converting many of the natives to the faith. Absolutely nothing seems to be known as to the time, manner, or place of his death and, at the present day, there is no trace of his work left.
As far as is known, no other attempt to introduce the Catholic faith into Borneo appears to have been made until the year 1857. A few years before that date, Don Carlos Cuarteron, the captain of a Spanish ship, which used to sail between the Philippine Islands and Spain, who had made a fortune by raising a sunken ship in the China Sea, being in great distress and peril, made a vow, promising that if his life were spared, he would become a priest and labour for tho conversion of North Borneo. His life was saved and he kept his vow. After studying a few years in the Propaganda college at Rome, he was ordained priest, and, soon after, named Prefect-Apostolic of Labuan and North Borneo. He arrived at Labuan in the year 1857. He found it impossible, at that time, to get into the interior of Borneo, or to do anything except redeem Christians who had been seized by pirates off the coast of the Philippine Islands and sold as slaves to the Sultan of Brunei and other Mohamedan rulers of places on the Borneo coast. After making several unsuccessful attempts to establish mission stations on the mainland, he settled down on the island of Labuan to wait for more favorable opportunities. There he remained, living in an old shed near the sea shore, until the year 1879. He was then old and feeble and his funds nearly exhausted, but, as he believed the time had come when a successful mission could be started in Borneo, he determined to visit Rome and beg the Pope to send priests out as soon as possible. He reached Rome in 1880 and told his wonderful story to Leo XIII, He then went to his native place, Cadiz, in Spain, and died a short time after his arrival.The Pope at once began to look out for priests to start the Borneo mission afresh and, after some time,applied to Cardinal Vaughan, the founder and Superior General of St. Joseph's Foreign Missionary Society of Mill Hill, London. The society gladly accepted the task proposed to it. Rev. Fr. Jackson ,who was then in Afghanistan, was appointed Prefect Apostolic.Three young priests, just ordained were sent out from Mill Hill College to join him in beginning the mission. The missionaries reached Borneo in 1881. They were in a state of true apostolic poverty. Hardly any provision had been made for their support, or for the maintenance of their work. They knew nothing about the language, manners and customs of the strange people amongst whom they were to labour. Acting on the advice of some Catholics they had met at Singapore, the missionaries made their way to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, where they were very kindly treated by his Highness Rajah Brooke, his wife and a few Europeans whom they found residing there. The population of Kuching was then about 20,000, almost equally divided between Malays, all Mohamedans, and Chinese. Among the latter four or five Catholics were discovered. There were no real aboriginal Borneans living at Kuching. After deep consideration it was deemed advisable to establish a mission station at Kuching for work among the Chinese, in order to have a base of operations for the station to be founded in the interior of Sarawak. One of the missionaries was put in charge of this station, and at once began to study the Chinese language, one of the most difficult in the world for a European to acquire. The Rajah kindly gave a piece of ground, upon which a rough shed of unplain planks and roof of leaves was quickly put up, to serve as chapel and school. A little piece was partitioned off for the priest to live in. After a while some Chinese were converted and a small congregation formed. It was soon found, however, that while doing all that was possible to convert adults, the most effectual way of permanently establishing Christianity in a pagan country is by educating and training young children; so schools were started. Day schools would, at first, not answer the purpose, for the children unlearnt, from their pagan relatives and friends at home, the Christianity they had been taught at school. It was, therefore, necessary to get the children to live with the missionary. Gradually a number of little heathen Chinese boys were got together and the first school started. This school has been very successful . Most of the boys who have been brought up in it have eventually become Christians. Some of them have become apostles and have converted their pagan parents and relatives.
When the school was well started, it was thought well to establish one, on the same plan, for Chinese girls. This could only be done by Sisters. One of the Fathers taught the boys, but, it would be against Eastern custom for a man to attempt to teach girls, so, in a little while, with funds begged in England and Ireland, the passage of five of St. Joseph's Missionary Sisters was paid and they went to Kuching, where a convent and school of wood were put up for them, and they began their work among the Chinese women and girls. The Sisters arrived in Borneo in July, 1885. Besides their own special work among the girls and women, they were a very great benefit to the mission in many other ways. A friend gave an old harmonium which was played by one of the Sisters and which, in spite of its age, did very well and greatly added to the solemnity of the services in the chapel.
The Kuching mission has continued to prosper. During the past few years a substantial church and also a large school for boys, both of brick, have been built. A number of former schoolchildren are grown up and married and have settled near the mission-station. Some of the young married men are employed by Rajah Brooke as clerks or in other posts in his government offices. Others are earning their living by practicing the trades of shoe-making, tailoring,etc. ,which were taught to them at the school. This mission has, however, its special trials and difficulties, one of which arises from the fact that a large proportion of the converts made here leave Borneo after a few years, and return to China or wander away to other countries. The Chinese have a wonderful love of their native land, and, however far they may stray from it, return to it after a time, and, if they cannot return to it alive they generally make arrangements for having their bones carried thither after death. It is, however, some consolation to know that most of the Catholic Chinese who have left Kuching have gone to places where there are priests, so that they can still practice their religion. As was stated above, the Chinese station at Kuching was to be a base of operations to serve as a stepping-stone. The real work of the missionaries was to be among the aborigines of Borneo ; savage or semi-savage tribes, as yet untouched by teaching of any kind.but, before any direct missionary work could be started amongst them, it was necessary, first of all, to explore a considerable part of-the country, to find out where the people were living, so as to act prudently in selecting places for stations or centers, and then to learn some of the many unwritten languages spoken by the native tribes. The Rajah strongly recommended them to have, at least one station among a tribe called Dyaks, who live chiefly near a great river known as the Rajang. It was, therefore, arranged that one of the missionaries, Father Dunn , was asked to go to this tribe and learn the language as quickly as possible, while Rev. Fr. Jackson proceeded to the territories just acquired by the British North Borneo Co., select places for mission stations in North Borneo. He  return to Sarawak as soon as Fr. Dunn have learnt enough of the Dyak language to speak to the people, when they would do some exploring together and settle where the stations in the interior of Sarawak should be.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Pangeran Samah & the Gomanton cave ,1883

PANGERAN SAMAH was an influential chief of the Dusun tribe known by the name of Buludupihs,
inhabiting the Kinabatangan and Sigaliud rivers principally, but with off shoots settled on the Segama and in the rivers falling into Darvel bay.  He was a man of remarkable strength of character for a native, exceedingly self willed and ever ready to resort to open violence or to secret poisoning  had he reason to fancy that his wishes were in any way thwarted by another. His father and  grandfather had both been remarkable men in their time .The.latter bad been the first to work the rich birds' nests caves of Gomanton, He was executed by bis sovereign, the then Sultan of' Sulu, whose authority he had slighted.
Pangeran Samah himself was supposed to be possessed of the powers of the "Evil Eye" and to be also invulnerable. His descent from well known chiefs and his own remarkable character combined to give him great influence, founded on fear, over the members of bis tribe. This influence the Pangeran. was keen enough to see would be much lessened by the settled form of Government introduced by the Europeans and he watched their peaceful progress with envy and discontent ,and whenever an opportunity occurred of quietly thwarting their wishes his influence was brought to bear in opposing the Government.
The collection of the birds' nests of the Gomanton caves was virtually in his hands, he regulating the
collections at the proper seasons, a matter of the greatest importance, as any delay in commencing
operations may spoil the nests not of one season only, but of several succeeding ones, and the revenues not only of the Government but of the chiefs who share in the proceeds of the nests would be seriously injured.
The Company's Government had acquired from the Sultan of Sulu his large share in the caves, so that it had a principal interest in seeing that the nests were properly collected at the due times and seasons. Knowing this full well, the Pangeran, notwithstanding numerous promises and protestation, year after year unduly delayed the collection to the injury of the interest of the Government and of all others concerned. After patiently waiting for four or five years and finding that the Pangeran steadily neglected to mend his ways , although frequently warned , the Government at last decided as the only feasible alternative ,to take over the collection of the nests into its own hands and to itself pay to the rightful owners their due shares of the amounts realized.
To this arrangement the Pangeran professed to agree and signed a paper to that effect, the Government collectors started for the caves in February last and all was apparently going on peacefully, when reports were brought into the effect that the Pangeran was calling his tribe together to forcibly resist the collection and to fire the caves by igniting the huge deposits of guano they contain and to ruin them, probably for ever.
Steps were immediately taken by the Resident, Mr. Pryer, to protect the caves, and the Governor, accompanied by Chief Inspector de Fontaine, Mr.W. R. Flint and 30 men of the Constabulary,visited the Pangeran at Melapi on 12th February. The Governor, attended by Mr. Flint, attempted to interview the Pangeran alone, but was refused permission to enter the house, the occupants of which were armed with firearms and 'sumpitans'. The Pangeran, however, came to his door, but, though the Governor pledged his word that no harm should happen to him, refused to meet him in a friendly manner or to disarm his followers. After, long colloquy , it was found impossible to bring the Pangeran to reason.
To leave the Pangeran and his armed followers master of the situation would have been interpreted by the ignorant natives as a sign of weakness and timidity of the Europeans government and might have induced a rising in which they certainly would have been easily overthrown , but which would have resulted in innocent blood being shed on both sides. Chief Inspector de Fontaine was therefore ordered to take what measures he thought necessary for arresting the Pangeran . The Constabulary were brought forward and the men informed that a reward would be given to anyone securing the Pangeran alive.
When within about twenty yards of the house the Pangeran and his few men opened fire on the Constabulary, descending from the house for that purpose. The Pangeran himself was armed with a
repeating rifle. Some top qf the Constabulary, who could be got into line (the Pangeran's house being
surrounded by those of Chinese, and Sulu traders) returned the fire and after a skirmish of fifteen minutes the Buludupihs fled, carrying with them the dead body of the Pangeran and one of his followers and leaving one dead on the ground. One of the Constabulary, a Sikh, was at an early stage shot right through both thighs, the ball passing clean through without touching the bone. Another Sikh was struck on the shoulder.
The body of the Pangeran was subsequently recovered and it was seen he had been struck by three bullets. He died fighting like a brave man.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Retirement of Pangeran Osman

The 1st July 1937 ,marked the retirement of Pangeran Osman bin Pangeran Omar, Deputy Assistant District Officer, Tenom, after having served the Government for twenty-eight and a half years. The Pangeran, who is a Brunei by birth and is connected with the Royal Family of Brunei, commenced his service as Native Clerk, Sipitang, as far back as the 1stJanuary, 1909.On the 1st January, 1912, he was appointed Native Chief, Sipitang, where his father, Pangeran Haji Omar, had settled some years previously. Pangeran Osman, as the Native Chief of the Sipitang district,proved very successful, earning the respect and goodwill both of the people and of the Administrative Officers with whom he came into contact.In 1919, the Pangeran was appointed Deputy Assistant District Officer, Labuk and Sugut district, and held that appointment till August, 1924. From the Labuk, the Pangeran was transferred to the Kinabatangan district where he served for a little over two years, " controlling," as his Resident said, " his district with great ability and tact. November of 1926 saw the Pangeran back again in Labuk and Sugut district where he was stationed until March of 1928, when he was transferred to Penampang. It was at Penampang that the Pangeran compiled(as we surmise, at Mr. G. C. Woolley's requestor suggestion ) his book on Dusun Custom in Putatan District, which was printed at the Government Printing Office in 1932. After a spell of a little over four and a half years at Penamparig, Pangeran Osman was transferred toTuaran as Deputy Assistant District Officer. At Tuaran ,the Pangeran made no bones about travelling and, in spite of his age which was then close on fifty,he made many a trip up and down the Tuaran ulu.In 1935 the Pangerah's son's (Pangeran Omar Ali Saiffuldin) nuptials were celebrated with great ├ęclats  at Brunei —the Pangeran having been granted three months' leave to visit Brunei to arrange his marriage.One is happy to relate that Pangeran Omar Ali has now entered the Government service and one can only wish that he will emulate his worthy father.The Pangeran's last appointment was Deputy Assistant District Officer, Tenom, but recently he has been suffering from malaria and applied to be allowed to retire on the grounds of ill health. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014


"Let me show you where this "golden rain" comes from. The two principal sources of revenue of the British North Borneo Company are opium and gambling. Suppose that you come with me for a stroll down the Jalan Tiga in Sandakan and see the gaming houses and the opium dens for yourself."
~ E Alexander Powell

The greatest obstacle to the successful development of Borneo's enormous natural resources is the labor problem. The truth of the matter is that life in these tropical islands is too easy for the natives' own good. In a land where a man has no need for clothing, being, indeed, more comfortable without it; where he can pick his food from the trees or catch it with small effort in the sea; and where bamboos and nipa are all the materials required for a perfectly satisfactory dwelling, there is no incentive for work. It being impossible, therefore, to depend on native labor, the company has been forced to import large numbers of coolies from China. These coolies, whom the labor agents attract with promises of high wages, a delightful climate, unlimited opium, and other things dear to the Chinese heart, are employed under an indenture system, the duration of their contracts being limited by law to three hundred days. That sounds, on the face of it, like a safeguard against peonage. The trouble is, however, that it is easily circumvented. Here is the way it works in practice. Shortly after the laborer reaches the plantation where he is to be employed he is given an advance on his pay, frequently amounting to thirty Singapore dollars, which he is [64]encouraged to dissipate in the opium dens and gambling houses maintained on the plantation. Any one who has any knowledge of the Chinese coolie will realize how temperamentally incapable he is of resistance where opium and gambling are concerned. This pernicious system of advances has the effect, as it is intended to have, of chaining the laborer to the plantation by debt. For the first advance is usually followed by a second, and sometimes by a third, and to this debit column are added the charges made for food, for medical attendance, for opium, and for purchases made at the plantation store, so that, upon the expiration of his three-hundred-day contract, the laborer almost invariably owes his employer a debt which he is quite unable to pay. As he cannot obtain employment elsewhere in the colony under these conditions, he is faced with the alternative of being shipped back to China a pauper or of signing another contract. There is no breaking of the law by the planter, you see: the laborer is perfectly free to leave when his contract has expired—as free as any man can be who is absolutely penniless.

A patron of a Sandakan opium farm -
( Each smoker is provided with a lamp for heating his "pill" and a wooden head-rest )

Sunday, 17 August 2014

British North Borneo Chartered Company

Though the first intervention of the British Government in the Borneo sphere dates from 1847, with the occupation of the Island of Labuan, it was only in 1882 that British North Borneo as it then exists became English under a royal charter—a position which was further strengthened in 1888 by the declaration of Her Majesty's Government that the territory was under British protection, and then it was that the official title of State of North Borneo was assumed. As a rule the public hears a great more of the advantages conferred by a royal charter than of the responsibilities which it imposes; but the latter are very heavy—'heavier, indeed, than the duties attached to any other form of government; for they are of a threefold nature. In the first place, the Chartered Company is answerable to the Empire by whom it is entrusted with the government of the country over which the charter is granted - a duty involving the extension to those regions of the principles of justice and equality for which the British race has become proverbial. This in itself, is a weighty task in a country such as Borneo was in 1882. The savage tribes inhabiting Borneo had to be conciliated or conquered, laws had to be promulgated, courts of justice to be provided , in fact, the whole mechanism of a modern civilized Government had to be created ab ovo .
Till the late 19th century ,they do so stand after as short a time ,shows that the State of North Borneo has fulfilled its trust towards the Empire. Not alone, however, has the trust been punctiliously fulfilled, but the State has not cost the taxpayer of the United Kingdom a single penny ,one of those happy exceptions proving the rule. On the contrary, England is deriving a yearly increasing benefit from the incorporation of British North Borneo amongst her possessions; for the trade of the protectorate is steadily growing.England has every reason to be proud of it's protectorate state, which not only has been its own bread-winner since its earliest infancy, but is already, though perhaps in only a small measure, contributing to the increase of the parent's wealth. In the second place, the Chartered Company is in no less degree responsible to the inhabitants of the country itself. These are represented in Borneo by the natives,Europeans, and Chinese.
The natives have not only acquiesced in English rule, but have proved by their peaceful intercourse with the white population that they appreciate the benefits of English civilization. The Chinese immigration is assuming greater proportions year by year; for in Borneo the China man meets with kindness, heir services are appreciated, and they finds ready and profitable employment, either in the cultivation of their own fields or in the tobacco plantations and other kindred industries, whilst practically the only tax to which they were subject to was that on their pet vice, opium smoking, from which the public Exchequer of the State derives an increasing revenue. As to the white man, they were subject to no taxation: saving the small duties on exports and imports. Indeed ,the first settlers who were mostly engage in the tobacco or the timber business, met with initial reverses. The tide has turned so far as the tobacco industry is concerned; for, .even if they leave out of their calculations the handsome dividend paid by the New London Borneo Tobacco Company, the importance of the tobacco plantations is proved by the rapid growth of the yearly exports. As for the timber business; China,has been the great market for Borneo hard woods; an unshaken confidence to a great revival and an era of prosperity in this particular branch of industry.
 In 1882 a large tract of territory in British North Borneo was vested in the Chartered Company of British.North Borneo. By the efforts of the directors the original area has since been considerably increased. In 1884 they acquired the Putatan and Padas districts, the latter of which was a most important acquisition. The following year was not less fruitful, bringing, as it did, to the Chartered Company the Kawang River and the Mantanani Islands, while in 1898 an arrangement was made with the Sultan of Brunei for the transfer to the company of all his sovereign rights over extensive districts lying north of the Padas river ; altogether then, the Charter covers an area of no less than 30,000 square miles. But to possess land was not the only aim of the Chartered Company; it had to be made productive. The coast has been studded center of population, whilst in the interior also there are trade settlements of growing importance, and in many parts the jungle has given place to the tobacco or sago field. As the development of such territories is impossible without means of communication, many miles of telegraph lines have been laid, numerous roads have been made, and a system of  miles of railway was being constructed.