The Petition of Chung Keng Quee & 44 Others

The Petition of Chung Keng Quee & 44 Others  (1872) 
by Stuart Herriot

This petition refers to the counter-attack, launched by the Ghee Hins headed by Chin Ah Yam, that drove the Hai Sans out of the Larut mines on 26th March, 1872:
The petition was forwarded to G. W. R. Campbell, acting Lieutenant-Governor Penang, who transmitted it on 11th October, 1872 to the Colonial Secretary, Singapore, arriving there on 19th October, 1872. On the 27th of October, 1872, the Governor instructed a reply to be written to the effect that the Government would not interfere (S. S. R. Correspondence re Disturbances in Perak and Larut, Vol. xxiiJ 1862 – 1873, item no. 21 and appended documents). Meanwhile, the Hai Sans had massed an expeditionary force at Penang, and departed for Larut on 16th October 1872 (Winstedt and Wilkinson op. cit. p75).

(Researched by Jefferyseow 08:37, 16 August 2008 (UTC), great grandson of Kapitan Chung Keng Quee)

To His Excellency Sir H St George Ord Governor of the Straits Settlements.

The Humble Petition of Chung Ah Quee and others,


That your Petitioners were formerly merchants here and at Larote, and before the riots took place there, were connected with its tin mining operations, in which they had invested, large sums of money, with the full consent of Chenga Ibrahim, the representative of the King of Perak there, and with the knowledge and tacit approval of this Government.

These riots or disputes, as your Excellency is probably aware, took place between two parties, one of about 12,000 and another of 2,000 men. The party with the larger number was the one that was beaten, and is the one now represented by your Petitioners. his party produced tin to the value of $1,000,000 per annum and had advanced the whole of the money required for that purpose, and for clearing the country and opening the mines in the first instance; and it may safely be said that the total loss incurred by your Petitioners and it at the time of, and in consequence of these riots was more than a million of dollars. The name of the larger party is Chang Sung and of the small, Sin Neng.

When the fighting had gone on for some time and many people had been killed, and much property destroyed, Chenga Ibrahim commonly called the Rajah of Larote recommended, and even ordered numbers of your Petitioner's party – many of whom had taken no part in the fighting – to leave the place, and provided boats for the purpose of taking them to Penang, on the understanding that, so soon as the fighting had ceased, they would be allowed to return and receive back their mine and other property, which, in the meantime, he promised to protect. So far, however, from this promise being kept, not one of their number has been allowed to return, and the whole of their property has been taken by the victorious party – with the consent and approval of the rajah, who is said to be a participator in the plunder.

It may seem to your Excellency strange and improbable that 2,000 men should have beaten 12,000 but it is nevertheless a fact. The men of the smaller party were almost all poor, and a considerable part of them brought as coolies for the party of your Petitioners, while the remainder were gamblers by profession, idle, dissolute and unsettled in their habits. They first took an opportunity of quarrelling with the party of your Petitioners then attacked them when engaged in different places with their several occupations – burned their houses, and acting in concert, which the other party did not, they fairly drove them from their property; and Chenga Ibrahim, unable to protect himself, was unable to do anything for the men, who, at the cost of over a million of dollars, had made his country what it was. They thus lost all their property at Larote, and as the high price of tin had induced them to extend their operations, they drew upon their country men in Pinang for the means of doing so, or for a sum of not less than $300,000, so that, as your Excellency will observe, not only the men of this name at Larote, but those of the same name here, have been involved in one common ruin and literally reduced to beggary.

Your petitioners in common with the people of this settlement generally, have ever been of the opinion, that it would be most impolitic for this Government to meddle with the internal affairs – disputes betweent he chiefs, etc. – of the surrounding native states – a course, which, unless the government is prepared, if necessary, to assume the entire control of them, can only end in interminable quarrels and expense; but your Petitioners have also held and still think, that the Government cannot withold from them that protection to their trade which has been confirmed to them for years, and has doubtless been on of the chief causes of the prosperity of this settlement.

The present claim for protection from government may be different in some respects from that which traders have hitherto looked upon as their right, but it should be considered that all the miners and the whole of the funds required for mining purposes at Larote, have been sent from this settlement; and if it considered also, that the government of Perak is altogether powerless, and that these operations have gone on for a great number of years, it would seem to your Petitioners to be very hard indeed, were this government to refuse to interfere in some way in favour of people from Penang who have suffered so greatly, and done so much for its prosperity, and deny them that protection which the Perak government is so utterly powerless to afford.

There probably has never been a harder case than that of your Petitioners, or one that may better excuse a prayer that your Excellency would be pleased to become a mediator in the matter, and obtain from those who had taken their all, such part thereon as to your Excellency may seem reasonable.

And your Petitioners will ever pray.

Written this 26th day of September, 1872 by Stuart Herriot.

(The names of the Petitioners is then given, in Chinese, comprising Chung Keng Quee and 44 others)