Our own anti-colonial heroes

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 27 Aug 2006

UTUSAN Melayu of Aug 21 reported that on Sept 9, we will be bringing home to Perak the remains of two of the main players in the anti-British Perak War of 1876 – the Mentri Larut, Ngah Ibrahim, and Laksamana Mohamad Amin, a distant great uncle of mine. The report stated that they were sentenced to death by the British and hung in Singapore. 

If I recall correctly, those who were hanged were Seputum and Si Gondah in Bandar Bahru (Bandor, Lower Perak), which the executed British Resident, James Wheeler Birch, had made his headquarters.  

Maharaja Lela (my grandfather’s half-brother) and Ngah Ahmad of Pasir Salak, and Dato Sri Akar Diraja (Dato Sagor) of Kampong Gajah, my grandfather’s village across the river from Pasir Salak, were all hanged outside the fort of the Mentri Larut, Ngah Ibrahim, in Matang, Taiping, Perak.  

It is this Ngah Ibrahim whose remains will be one of two that will be brought home on Sept 9. Ngah Ibrahim was a virtual Sultan in Larut, lording it over, as he was, the rich tin-fields there. 

Laksamana Mohamad Amin features in Birch’s and Swettenham’s diaries. In his book, Sketches and Stories of Malaya, Swettenham described him as a big man who held the unfortunate Dato Shahbandar in his embrace whilst his partner stabbed the Dato Shahbandar with a keris in vain. The Dato Shahbandar was invulnerable. Realising this, the accomplice seized the Dato Shahbandar’s own keris from his waist and successfully killed him. 

In his report following Birch’s execution, Swettenham described how he contrived to escape the presumed attempt by Laksamana Mohamad Amin to make him land at Bota where, presumably, he would have been killed! 

Both Mentri Larut Ngah Ibrahim and Laksamana Mohamad Amin were not sentenced to death and hung in Singapore, as reported in Monday’s Utusan; they were banished to Seychelles together with Sultan Abdullah.  

After prolonged protestations and appeals by Sultan Abdullah to Queen Victoria, they were allowed to return to Malaya to reside in exile until death in Singapore. According to my late Uncle Mazlan, he went to Singapore with his brother Mokhtar and some other relatives on the invitation of the Singapore government in the 1970’s-1980’s to witness the transferring of the Laksamana’s remains from Jurong to its present grave as the old site was being re-developed. 

As we continue into the second week of our 49th Merdeka, may the souls of these 19th century Malay resistors of foreign usurpation repose in peace in Allah’s blessings. 

An immediate prelude to the Perak War was the agreement under duress of Sultan Abdullah for the British to rule Perak in his name, in effect leaving him only with full authority over Islam and Malay customs. The Sultan signed the document with barely two days to go before he would have been deposed by the British in favour of Raja Bendahara Yusof. This set the tone for our quasi-secular Constitution. 

An immediate sequel saw British Gurkha troops in action on Malay soil for the first time. They were bivouac-ed in Kampong Belanja, Parit. Just a little bit of our history! – By Tun Hanif Omar 

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