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May 14, 2014

The Search for Ali Part 3

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have been into the Cash Books for the past three weeks seeking a guy by the name of Ali and Panglima Seman. The books have offered a tantalizing glimpse into these people but not any ruling as to their identity.


According to oral tradition, the Panglima was given a sword by James Brook, the first Rajah of Sarawak. This was his reward (among other things) for leading the troops into battle against Rentap, a local revolutionary. In the Cash Books, there is one mention "that the value of the sword was $30.00." Whether this was for the sword for Panglima Seman, or for another person, is not known. Whether one can assume this is for the Panglima Seman is also not established. It does fit into the time and place of Panglima Seman, but still....


In other news, I did come across something call "Copper Loans." I assumed it was loans based on copper, but that did not make any sense. Why would somebody make a loan based on the value of copper?


The "copper loans" go something like this. The Rajah went to England and has copper coins minted. Let's say he paid $1.00 for 10 of the coins. He then sold the copper coins to the merchants in Kuching for 8 for $1.00. He makes a profit of 20 cents. He then lends the 20 cents out to the merchants at an interest rate of 10%. Not only does he make a profit on the purchase of the coins, but he also makes a profit on the coins he lends out.


This can be reinforced by Ali Chicks estate, where all his property reverted to the Rajah.


The poll tax is another tax that has nothing to do with voting. It is a tax collected on each person by an individual who makes a commission. Although many were exempted, the tax was usually collected in times of war or other calamity.


The "lighting rate" came under the Public Works Department. Ali Chick became head of the department in 1868 until his death in 1880. Just guessing, this was probably the guy who lighted the gas lamps at around town. He had 26 "scavengers," which were probably the guys who cleaned up the bazaar and other areas of the town. There were two other things, apon and apon bazaar. I have no idea what or who they were.


There are some humorous asides. "The fee for searching of the marriage certificate of Brooke Brooke" is one. Brooke Brooke was the rightful heir to become the next Rajah, but he was passed over for Charles, the brother of James Brooke. Why they were looking for his marriage certificate is not known.


Another insert, "taken by C.B Cruckshank – $400.00," can only be imagined as a drunken Cruckshank coming in and taking the funds.


The Boyans, people from an island off of Java, make their appearance. There were 26 of them that came to Kuching where a kampong is named after them.


The Cash Books are a source of information, but they did not provide too many answers to my quest.


...Life is good. . . . .


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