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The Pangkor Treaty of 1874


The Pangkor Treaty (Perjanjian Pangkor in Malay) is still an important part of the Malaysian history. It was a treaty signed between the Sir Andrew Clarke for the British and Raja Abdullah, who became as a result of the treat the Sultan of Perak. It was signed on January 20, 1874 at Pangkor. Why was it important in the history of Malaysia?

Pangkor Island 1897

In principle the treAty was the beginning of the British involvement, officially, in Malay state policites. At the time, Perak was the tin producer in the world and the British, who had just obtained Penang, needed to control that industry.

Raja AbdullahBecause the local Malay sultans were in a constant battle of power, there was always rivalty between the different royalties and upperclass society. Thus when in 1871 Sultan Ali of Perak died, Raja Abdullah should have been appointed as the next Sultan of Perak. Instead Raja Ismail was elected. At the same time, two different secret Chinese societies, Ghee Hin and Hai San were in a batlle for control of the tin mine industry.

As Raja Abdullah was not elected, he tried to gain power by asking the British for help, not only to become the ruler of Perak but also to solve the problem with both Chinese societies. The result was the pangkor treay 1874.

The treaty basically said that:

  • Raja Abdullah would be the legitimate Sultan of Perak. Sultan Ismail who would be given a title and a payment of $1000 a month.
  • The Sultan will receive a British Resident whose advice had to be sought and adhered to in all matters except those pertaining to the religion and customs of the Malays.
  • All collections and control of taxes as well as the administration of the state had to be done under the name of the Sultan but arranged according to the Resident's advice.
  • The Minister of Larut would continue to be in control, but would no longer be recognized as a liberated leader. Instead, a British Officer, who would have a vast authority in administrating the district, would be appointed in Larut.
  • The Sultan and not the British government would pay the Resident's salary

Pangkor history
Pangkor at the turn of the centry: Captain Chung Keng Kwee signed the
Pangkor Treaty in 1874. He was a millionaire philanthropist lived from 1827 to 1901.

The Treaty was all in favor of the British and their puppet Raja Abdullah. Raja Ismael didn't even attend the meetin between Sir Andrew Clarke and Raja Abdullah. Obviously he didn't recognize the treay not his new status but had little choice as the British had a superior source of power.

Raja Abdullah was made Sultan of Perak and J.W.W. Birch became the first British Resident, in effect he ruled Perak with Abdullah keeping the mob quiet.

Captain Chung Keng Kwee Captain Chung Keng Kwee
Left: Captain Chung Keng Kwee
Right: Sir Andrew Clarke, Governor of the Straits Settlements

As it turned out, Birch had little up with the local Malays, hje saw them as secundary citiens and as a result he was a few years later murdered at Pasir Salk, that story you can find here.

The Pangkor treat 1874 was for the british the way to become more involved in local Malaya politics. And even today, many Malaysian know to the heart what the meaning of the Pangkor Treaty meant to the country.

Although the treaty plays an important, if not essential part in Malaysian history, there is nothing at the island that reminds of the treay itself, no museum or historical building where the event took place.

Back to Pangkor a short introduction

Read more about Pasir Salak

See also our page about Pasir Salak and J.W.W. Birch and his importance in Malaysian history.

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