Perak’s contributions to nationhood are multifold. One contribution that will be forever shared nationally is its state anthem which was adopted as the national anthem. Perak’s state anthem was composed by a Frenchman named Be’ranger (1780-1857) and was known as O Rosaline. It was played for Sultan Idris Murshidul Azzam Shah (1887-1916), the 28th Sultan of Perak during his visit to England. From that day on the song O Rosaline became the state song for Perak. In 1939 the song was renamed Terang Bulan.
A special committee, headed by the first Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman, selected the Perak State Anthem as the National Anthem in 1957 and in 1963 it was adopted as the National Anthem of Malaysia.
Perak’s other contributions can be traced to the time when Che Long Ja’afar, the first Malay to mine for tin in Perak, created an influx of Chinese from South China who helped operate his mines in the mid-19th Century.
Clashes amongst the two Chinese clans, Ghee Hin and Hai San, led to the outbreak of the three Larut Wars (1861-1874). The upheavals paved the way for the introduction of the British Residential system, following the signing of the Treaty of Pangkor in 1874. British intervention significantly reduced the privileges and administrative powers of the Sultan and Malay chieftains.
The discontentment with the British led to the Pasir Salak incident where the first British Resident, J.W.W. Birch was assassinated on November 2, 1875.
Sultan Idris Murshidul Azzam Shah, who convened the initial Conference of Rulers (Durbar) at Kuala Kangsar in 1897, was instrumental in promoting education in the state. This led to the establishment of the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar and Sultan Idris Training College, Tanjong Malim (now Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris – UPSI).
The wealth derived from tin and natural rubber contributed to the richness of the state, which up till the Second World War was the most advanced in the country with the best infrastructure, largest population disposition and sizeable towns such as Taiping, Ipoh and Kuala Kangsar.
Emergency regulations were proclaimed on June 18, 1948, two days after Communist agents killed three European planters in Ephill Estate, Sungai Siput. A memorial dedicated to the murdered planters has just been erected at the location where the killings took place.
The beginning and, to a small extent, the ending of the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960) had its origins in Perak. Chin Peng signed the Armistice on December 2, 1989 in Hadyai, Thailand which is close to the Perak border.
Incidentally, it was in Tanjung Malim, Perak that Lt-Gen Gerald Templer applied his counter-insurgency techniques to subdue a ruthless communist group and an inhospitable civilian population into submission in 1952.
To trace Perak’s march towards Independence, visit the Matang Museum at Taiping then onwards to Pasir Salak at Kampung Gajah or just stand at the grounds of the Birch Memorial Clock Tower at Old Town Ipoh and savour its history.
The first rubber tree in the country can still be found at Kuala Kangsar Police Station while one can view the world’s only so-called ‘functional’ tin dredge at Batu Gajah.
Matang Museum (formerly Kota Ngah Ibrahim Historical Complex) is located on the Taiping – Kuala Sepetang Road. The building was built by Ngah Ibrahim, son of Che Long Jaafar, the first Malay who mined for tin in the Larut-Matang-Selama complex in the early 1900s. Ngah Ibrahim too discovered tin in Bukit Gantang, Taiping. His mines made him richer than the Sultan of Perak, who conferred upon him the title of Minister of Larut.
The building, besides being his home, was used as a fort and administrative centre and later as a school before being turned into a museum.
The exhibits cover the discovery of tin, interestingly, by Long Jaafar’s pet elephant, Si Larut. The animal turned up with its legs covered in hard muddy lumps which turned out to be tin.
Long Jaafar, subsequently, enlisted the help of 20 Chinese miners from Penang to start his mining operation. The mine was so lucrative it created an influx of Chinese migrants, which resulted in the creation of two feuding clans, Ghee Hin and Hai San. The two clashed and triggered the three Larut Wars from 1861 to 1874, causing the British to intervene.
The Japanese Imperial Army used the fort as its headquarters during the War years.
The Matang Museum is open from 9am till 5pm daily. Tel: 605-847 7970.
The Birch Memorial Clock Tower at Old Town Ipoh was built in 1905 by the 8th British Resident to Malaya, Sir Ernest Woodford Birch in memory of his slain father, James Wheeler Woodford Birch, the first British Resident to Perak, J.W.W. Birch, who was assassinated on November 2, 1875 at the riverine settlement of Pasir Salak.
The memorial has four clock faces surrounding a belfry holding a 500 kg mother bell while the corners of the clock tower are perched the four virtues of the British Administration, Justice, Fortitude, Loyalty and Patience.
Annual Memorial Services
The significance of the Kamunting Christian Cemetery is again related to the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). The cemetery is the final resting place for some 40 members of the Commonwealth Forces comprising troops from United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Malaya. Most lost their lives while fighting the communist insurgents and were interred here.
Another burial ground of equal importance is the Gurkha Cemetery in Kem Syed Putra, Tambun. Over here, some 100 Gurkha soldiers and their dependents lay buried. They were from the much-feared Gurkha regiments which occupied the camp (known then as Sulva Line) during the Emergency years.
Memorial services, held annually in the month of June, are well attended by relatives and friends of the bereaved who come for near and far. Servicemen association members from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Malaysia make a beeline to the sites to remember the dearly departed.
Kamunting cemetery is accessible to the public. It is located adjacent to the Taiping Tesco Supermarket. The Gurkha Cemetery, however, is located within a security area. Visits can be arranged with prior permission from the camp’s occupant, 2nd Battalion Royal Ranger Regiment. Call the battalion’s adjutant for an appointment. Tel: 605‑547 8772.
The Pasir Salak Historical Complex
The Pasir Salak Historical Complex is located 70 km from Ipoh, alongside the Perak River amongst a quaint collection of traditional Malay buildings which, together with the museum, make up the Historical Complex.
The exhibits on display here cover the Larut Wars and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Pangkor which established Perak as a British Protectorate and provided for a British Resident who assumed complete control of matters of state except those involving customs and religion.
The location of the complex is also where the assassination of the first British Resident, J.W.W. Birch, took place while he was having his bath on the river. The assassination triggered the Perak Wars which was an attempt to remove foreign influence. The perpetrators of the assassination were subsequently captured and hanged.
The Complex is open every day, including public holidays, (except Friday) from 9.00am to 4.30pm. Admission for an adult is RM5.00 and a child (6-12 years old) is RM3.00. Tel: 605-6318997.
Ipoh’s premier social club has been in existence for over 150 years. Built in the mid-1850s as a meeting place for European plan-ters, miners and administers, it was once a white-only club meant for the Genteel. Natives, and those considered ‘undignified’, were not allowed into the club. The only native permitted to use the club’s facilities was the sultan. The Royal Ipoh Club has been gazetted a heri-tage site and is open to visitors. The club’s receptionist can be contacted for details. Tel: 605-254 2212.
Monument and Gallery
A monument dedicated to the gallant planters (Europeans and Malayans), members of the security forces, staff, workers and civilians who lost their lives during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) and its resurgence (1973-1989) is located at the very site where three European planters were murdered on June 16, 1948. The killings led to the declaration of Emergency on June 18, 1948.