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Recounting the Memories of the Past
When James Brooke strengthened his position as the Rajah of Sarawak and acquired Tanjung Datu to Samarahan river through a treaty signed in 1846 between Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien and the British, he knew that it was just the beginning to his relentless pursuit of territorial expansion and majestic rule in Sarawak.
From 1853 until his death in 1868, he remarkably acquired territories stretching from Tanjung Datu to Tanjung Kedurong from Sultan Abdul Momin in exchange of annual payment which later were passed down to his successor Charles Brooke.
James Brooke knew that by capturing these territories he could make Kuching the busiest trading port in Borneo. Apart from minerals such as gold and antimony, sago and other jungle products were exported to neighbouring countries such as Singapore that would help to generate income for Brooke government. As a result, much of the trade has diverted to Kuching and Brunei suffered trading losses in the long run.
According to wikipedia, prior to the founding of Kuching (originally Sarawak more than 150 years ago so essentially Sarawak was Kuching it’s like saying the capital of Singapore is Singapore) the two past capitals of Sarawak were Santubong, founded by Sultan Pengiran Tengah in 1599 and Lidah Tanah founded by Datu Patinggi Ali in the early 1820s (as you may know in the textbook it stated in 1824, Pengiran Indera Mahkota Pengiran Muhammad Salleh was appointed as the governor in Sarawak which he had to face rebellion against Datu Patinggi Ali’s huge supporters for his abusive power and exploitaion on Antimony for personal gains).
Even though Lidah Tanah now has been downgraded its status as merely a kampung, its name and historystill remains a significant part in the history book of Brunei, for it was the first place (and many more in years’ after – act as a catalyst) where James Brooke got his hands on the lands used to be controlled by Sultan of Brunei.
I browsed through an old textbook A History of Brunei Lower Secondary Schools and found there were several reasons (5 to be exact) why the British traders (namely Alexander Dalrymple) chose Balambangan Island as the trading centre which are as follow:
1. The problem of sailing in the East Indies would be overcome. At that time sailing ships trading in the East Indies had to wait for the monsoons before they could sail home. A trading centre would enable ships to anchor while awaiting the change of winds.
2. Two good harbours at Balambangan Island, protected by hills. The island is situated in the middle of an area which produces good likes gold, pearls, tortoise shells, camphor, gum, birds’ nest, pelantin cloth, civet-cat furs, spices and sugar. Apart from the products mentioned, Balambangan also has products for everyday use like wood, cocoa, peanut oil, padi, honey and ropes.
3. A trading centre at Balambangan Island would facilitate East India Company’s ships sailing to and from East Indies and China.
4. Attract foreign traders especially from China who usually made long voyages to Batavia (Java). If Balambangan were made the trading centre, Chinese traders would not have to go to Batavia. They would go direct to Balambangan through Palawan and Luzon.
5. Attract Bugis traders and these traders came from Passir (i.e. Eastern part of Borneo Island).