Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ipoh Malay : A Brief History

Ipoh Malay or Melayu Ipoh is a segment of unique Malay community in Malaysia. They live as a minority in a Chinese dominated city , Ipoh , the administration centre for Malay State of Perak since 1884. For over 200 years, the early Mendeling from Sumatra reign the territory before the mass influx of Chinese immigrant change the landscape forever.


Ipoh was opened to the world by Dato Panglima Kulup Kinta, a Mendeling Malay, a Muslim and originated from Sumatra in early 1650s. He navigate Kinta River from Perak River and end up at small waterfalls near Gunung Cheroh that stop him from encroaching upper. Mistically, he met a genie that told him to stop until that point. The place now stands the largest Hindu Temple of Ipoh.

Met Orang Asli

When he reach the valley, the Kampong Ipoh has already existed and inhabited by orang Hulu, today called Orang Asli. This place then turned into Malay tin mining area, a source that traded at Teluk Mak Intan, the today Teluk Intan, some hundred km river distance away. A quote from a book written by Khoo Salma Nasution stated :

" So peculiarly is Kinta a mining district, that even the Sakais of the hills do a little mining to get some tin and wherewith to buy the choppers and sarongs which the Malays sell to them at an exorbitant price. (1) (Abraham Hale 1870s) "

Kampong Paloh Opened

This Malays later opened Kampong Paluh, means muddy swamp, a few yards away from Kampong Ipoh. Later in early 1800s the settlement grows bigger which formed Kampong Kuala Pari and Kampong Java. At the end of Malay domination, Kampong Manjoi opened at the same period when the British occupiers reach the heavenly tin valley, and brought in Chinese labor for tin mines.

" Malays prefer mountain mines called "lampang". These workings are situated near a stream or torrent which provide the necessary water to wash the earth. It consists of one or several narrow trenches, parallel to the stream and joined to it at both ends so that one can get a certain volume of water. The trench is widened little by little and the earth is simply thrown to the bottom; the current, operating a natural washing process, carries away the light parts. From time to time, the valuable deposits are scooped out and undergo a final washing process on a flat surface. This mechanical process is rather easy, owing to the size of tin grains, more abundant on mountain-sides than in the plains. Hence, this "lampang" method is considerably more productive when miners have the good fortune to find a rich area. In these operations, 5 or 6 Malays enter into a partnership, rarely more. (5) (De la Croix, 1881)"

Image from Khoo Salma Nasution archives

Chinese Begin

Not long before the mass destruction of Ipoh natural landscape in the hands of opportunist, the British, shooed the opposing Sultan Abdullah to Seychelles Island and promotes the newly cooperative Sultan Yusuf administration. Perak State later grew prosperous when tin mining became the main income via international trading. The more mining land opened, the more Chinese migrated to enslave themselves in a mining toil.

Chinese Stopped

Until the control of migration excersice introduced in 1931, Ipoh have 70,000 lives, with Chinese dominated 85% of its population. The Malays faced a world of shock with the massive change i.e. being the minority. The vast increment of population for a straight 60 years is believed was at 20% a year. Ipoh was the second Chinese harbour in Malay ruling states after Kuala Lumpur. In fact, in 1931, Kuala Lumpur hosting lesser than 60,000 inhabitants.

A Town Was Born

By the changes, Ipoh enliven by Town Council with early township planning. Loads of investment drop in one is the HSBC that opened in 1909 as the first in Malaya near Ipoh Field. The Chinese traders occupied councils buildings with some are still at killing low monthly rentals.

Malay Effluence

When the Chinese had turned Ipoh into a chinatown, more and more Malays migrate into rural areas nearby namely Sungai Siput, Parit and Kuala Kangsar, simultaneous with the development of British initiated roadways and railroading. The number of Malays in Ipoh dropped drastically and the Chinese dominated shops, mines, cultivation land and caves. Still the remain, some die hard pioneers generation living in Manjoi, Kampong Paloh, Kampong Java, Kuala Pari and Pasir Puteh.

Royalties Rule

For hundreds years, the Java and Sumatra landlord had to deal with the situation that that there is a Sultan administration officers to rate their activities. Each District had its governor appointed by Sultan and thus they are the Kings tongue and hands. By the year 1930s, the appointed Panglima Kinta (Duke of Kinta), Datuk C.M. Yussuf, has the opportunity to initiate a first ever bus service from Ipoh old town to Gopeng. Although the place of strange race has formed, the British liaison with Sultan has helped Malays to remain as the first occupier.

Japanese Occupation

During this era, tens of architectural buildings with western and middle-eastern design have been built. The Japanese stationed at various grand buildings as St. Michael Institution, the railway station, Anderson School as their operation offices. As we know, this age of eastern rules, Chinese turned to be victim of the Japs for their support to China during Sino-Japan War years before. Chinese villages ragefully set ablazed by the Japanese Army.

The Communist Terrorist

As theres no specific death of Malays in Ipoh, the national figure for person killed during the 14 days communist rules in 1948 is around 10,000. The chaotic 14 days of ruling lit an opportunity for the Communist Party of Malaya turns Malay for revenge. Scholars, village cheifs, imams, penghulus was the target of their brutality. They have been slaughtered, shot at point blank, decapitated and the entire family erased, for the things they ought to do as the rule enforcer. The brutality remains as an unforgotten mark for even the younger generation of Malays who knew the story well. On that fateful period, the British, for their way to retain their Queens territory, gave supports on war against communist that they have armed few years back. From then on, the Malay Armed Forced held responsiblity in fighting the guerillas to the day of abolishment of communist threat by December 1989.

The May 13, 1969

There is alot of stories told by veterans about things happened during that fateful day in Ipoh. One is about a Malay lady who are pregnant, been cut his carriage and dropped the infant in Canning Garden market. But thats an aural without fact. The Kuala Lumpur riots believed started in Penang but yet to know what happened here in Ipoh.


As a response to third PM, Tun Razak campaign in upgrading the urban Malay, the town council moves to bring back Malays into the town as early as 1975. Numerous low cost housing estates built. More and more Malays especially the civil retirees bought houses and lands in Ipoh and this turned to be the mass majority of Ipoh Malay today.The Tin Turmoil

In early 1980s, the whole world experienced a tin price decrement. As the leading tin producer with commodities above the Bolivia that are the second, Kinta district doomed with slow progress. Ipoh lagged behind since it industrial moves affected with the fact that the town is the most remote from the sea.


However, Ipoh still remains cool and calm without high volume traffic and intoxicative air. The society now is well suit interracial network but still in a typical segregation. Few Malays understand Cantonese and rare enough, there is Chinese that understand the fast spoken local Malay dialect. Ipoh remains neat and tidy with high energize flows of Kinta River drying most drains and thus the eyesores of seaside towns alike is almost invisible, plus, without cat-size rats. The switching representative in the parliament from BN-MCA to DAP does not change Ipoh city at any stake.