Friday, July 11, 2008

Scenes - Sarikei District Office. Part 2

Sarikei Old District Office 20071937 sign board

Before this 1937 building at Nyelong Road, the SDO was situated by Nyelong River in the 1920s at the current location of the Marine Police. The 1937 building was the centre of Sarawak Govt administrative departments before Sarawak joined Malaysia in 1963. A fire destroyed it in 1976-1977 and the new building was completed in late 1970s.

Sarikei Old District Office circa 1940-50sWelcome to His Excellency, the Governor of Sarawak.

The above picture is not clear as I took the picture off a glass framed picture in a hotel. That's probably the most elaborate Nipah (attap) palm decorated structure ever in Sarikei. The Brooke colonial government was known for promoting harmony among the different races. Hence they have community leaders from different races and Chinese dialect groups (kapitan). Find the Ibans, Malays, Chinese and English in the photos.

Sarikei Old District Office circa 1950 - early 1960s
Back row: 3rd from R: Yek Suk KangFront row: 4th from R: Chen Ko Ming. 2nd from L: Wong Ngoung Hua
3rd from L: Tan Kim Sing . 3rd from R: Yii Choo Ting.Penghulu Ah-Nin? (2nd from R); Penghulu Eman (1st from L)Who else can you recognise?

Under the Brook's administration, penghulus and kapitans were appointed to represent their respective people. Sarikei is made up of two rivers (sungai) running on each side. A penghulu was appointed to represent each river.

In the old days there were many long houses and each long house had a twai-rumah-panjai (longhouse leader) but two warriors stood out. In the 1930s, Penghulu Ah-Nin represented Sungai Nyelong and Penghulu Eman represented Sungai Sarikei. Penghulu Ah-Nin was the twai-rumah-panjai of Sungai Rusa where as Penghulu Eman was the warrior from Sungai Payong.

When Penghulu Ah-Nin came to town, he always wore his full warrior attire of sirat (loin cloth) & a coat given by the Raja with decorated colours plus feathers. He always carried the symbol of power and authority of a Kayan sword. The Penghulu keep their hair in the old Iban warrior style, fondly known as the yakak-tau (coconut head style). When on official duties, both would wear the full warrior outfit.

Penghulu Eman could be the first Iban to visit China. He was a good friend of the boss Mr. Ling 林 of the Hokkien shop 順發 Soon Huat (No. 12 Wharf Road). They made a trip to China in the 1930s. Temenggong Jugah only managed to follow Tun Razak to China 40 years later in the early 1970s. Together with Mr. Ling 林 they were a great pair of cock fighting kaki. In the 1950s, Penghulu Eman bought half a shop lot (No. 14 Central Road) at the last unit of the last block at Central Road (closest to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce). The shop was occupied by a Hakka dentist, Yang Luke Shen and son Dentistry 楊綠生父子. Penghulu Eman was childless and he adopted two Foochow girls. (source: Reader Lidasar)

The Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, revealed that he spent 5 of his childhood years in Sarikei.He studied at Sekolah Abang Haji Mahathir (registration # 586) on 19 July 1951 and later moved to St Anthony's School on 19 Nov 1951 for Primary 1-5 till 1955 (which had primary and secondary classes then). He recalled a court case involving a stolen pig at this long building where a live pig was hauled to court!

In the early 1950s, 

Hmm, that's the romance of old stories like this...


Ikan Sembilang said...

I’ve at last found an answer to the long intriguing question of why the old Sarikei District Office was known as “ po lay shu” to our forefathers when the building doesn’t, in any architectural aspect, look like a glass house. A very senior Sarikei denizen told me that with the exception of a few English educated people like Siaw Ah Khoon and Khoo Peng Loong, our forefathers apparently had difficulty in pronouncing English words correctly. To them, words like: ‘office became o pis’, ‘licence became le sen’, ‘open became ho peng’, ‘summon became san bun’ and ‘police became po lay’. The old District Office building, which also housed the Police Station in the old days was, therefore, appropriately called ‘po lay shu’ or ‘police house’ by our forebears. No wonder Alastair Morrison, who worked there as the Assistant DO in the late 1940s, can’t remember seeing any glass doors or windows as ‘po lay shu’ is police house and not glass house!
What about Sg. Nyelong or “po lay Kang”? Isn’t it because at one time there was an old marine police barrack located near the river that prompted our forefathers to call it “ po lay kang” or “police river”?!

45rpm gramophone said...

The old District Office was a multi-purpose administrative center, being a district office this was also the immigration department, land office, a clinic, a police unit, court etc. The district office had a room that act as a clinic before the wooden hospital was built, in the early days a Cantonese by the name Ah Tum is the person in charge of the clinic and he knows such thing as diagnose simple anemia such as fever, treat food poisoning, prescribing drugs, giving injection etc. This was also where the police first started office before the police station at Wharf Rd was ready. Even in the 1940s there wasn't any Jalan Getah and student had to walk pass the side of the District Office or cycle the foot path to Kwang Chien 廣 建 primary school.

The earliest government servant that came to Sarikei was Hakka from Kuching because Kuching was blessed with early English established school as early as 19th century. In 1848 Missionaries led by priest-doctor Francis Thomas McDougall opened a Day School for boys and in 1849 Rajah James Brooke granted land situated east of Kuching town to the mission that eventually established into St.Thomas and St.Mary. Hakkas are the earliest Chinese that came to Sarawak as gold miner and they are the biggest group of Chinese in and surrounding 1st Division. In the early days if one had attended 4 号英 文 that would be a real privilege that can lead to a comfortable life, 4 号 英 文 was equivalent to primary 6. Yes no joke, even a universities degree might not give any headway these days but Siaw Ah Khoon & contemporaries did.

Mr.Siaw Ah Khoon is the most prominent government servant in early Sarikei and he is the 2nd highest ranking after the District Officer that naturally reserved for an English gentlemen. His live in a house opposite to the old wooden hospital by Nyelong River and his office is just a stone thrown away. He was an important person and in charge of the district treasure thus you could always see him having a bundle of keys with a piece of string attach to his pants and he would move around on a bicycle. Those day high officers had the privilege of staying on the job until retirement without transfer and Siaw Ah Knoon is one. Sarikei honor him with a road named after him by the side of JKR.

光生 Kong San was another high officer of old Sarikei, while Siaw Ah Khoon was the highest ranking office after the District officer Mr. Kong San was in charge of food distribution and logistic so he holds the keys to the warehouse at the wharf. Like Ah Khoon Mr.Kong San was also from Kuching and a Hakka too, he lives with his wife and a son at the house just before the old wooden hospital. His son later settled in Canada. When the war broke out Mr.Kong San must be a worried man as food was in short supply and subject to looting.

Penghulu Eman was short & stout so he must be the one in the front row 1st from Left, Penghulu Ah-Nin as usual value his warrior attire so he must be the 2nd from Right front row. Looks like Mr.Leong 梁 明 德 is in the front row 4th from Left.

Daniel Yiek said...

Very interesting chat on local jargon.

In the 3rd picture:

I think you may be right that Penghulu Eman may be the 1st from Left. He was dressed in western attire as he's a Iban that has been influenced by his downtown buisness.

Do you mean Mr.Leong 梁 明 德 may be the one in the front row 4th from RIGHT, not Left (which is a British)?

45rpm gramophone said...

I think I make a mistake, if you compare with the 1955 Cantonese Association photo in your 06Nov07 entry the person should be Chan Ko Ming and not Mr.Leong 梁 明 德. Kapitan Chan was in both photo. The person in the front row 4th from right should be Kapitan Chan.

Mr.Leong 梁 明 德 can be seen in the Cantonese Association 1955 photo. In those days banking can be very informal and if you a Towkay and suddenly you needed cash urgently on Sunday you could simply call out Mr.Leong whom was staying above Kwang Lee bank and he would process the transaction and pass you the cash from the side window wearing sarong.

At one time Mr.Leong also operated a trading company at the unit which is behind Kwang Lee Bank in Central Rd, the other half was occupied by the Hakka dentist Yang Luke Shen. I guess he could be renting the shop from Penghulu Eman.

Mr.Leong owned a big rubber farm 7 mile from town in Bulat probably close to 50 acres, he hired worker to care for the farm and on Sunday he would drive to the farm house and he would invite his circle of friends over for a feast of roasted pig. Those days were common to feast over wild boar, deer or dog as well.

Have you taken a peek into the 122th Anniversary Souvenir Magazine of the Kwong Wai Siew Association Sarikei, published on 16 Dec 2007? It didn't tell much about the early history but at least we can confirm the earliest settlers was in Sarie but still it would be great if translation can be done and share it on your blog. Noted the chairman of the same association in Kuching is actually a son from Sarikei by the name 陳国就 who did his engineering degree from New Zealand, what a small world.

Kanga said...

Hi 45 rpm gramophone,
appreciate you providing so much info/names/events which I vaguely heard as a young kid.(Joke: I think you sound better than CDs, I prefer your hi-fi approach. Please keep it up. Don't give us MP3s. They cut the high frequencies off!)

Ease said...

The 4th from the right (front row)is my dad, Chen Ko Ming. 2nd from left is Wong Ngoung Hua, 3rd from right is Tan Kim Sing (husband of Madam Ong Poh Ai). 3rd from right at the back row is Yek Suk Kang.

We enjoyed going to Leong Ming Teck's farm, esp his magic tricks(the disappearing thumb). One of our favorite uncles. We called him the magic uncle.He always entertained us. Up to today, we're still in touch with him.He's in San Francisco. He & my mum called each other. I talked to him recently. He's thinking of visiting us in Vancouver. I think he's in his 90's, still healthy & strong. Just went to Europe & Dubai. His wife passed away not too long ago.

Daniel Yiek said...

Very interesting!

Pls advise
a) how is Leong Ming Teck related to Chen Ko Ming? You call him "uncle" in the sense of relative or more of uncle in the sense of respect for older folks?

b) which is Leong Ming Teck in the 1955 Cantonese Association picture?

c) Tell Leong Ming Teck about documenting Sarikei's history and see whether he has old newsclips, pics, stories.

d) You mentioned that 3rd from right is Tan Kim Sing. Or do you mean 3rd from Left? I thought 3rd from right was what looks like my teacher Yii Teng Choo?

e) Can you give some perspective on what roles (those names you mentioned) they played in Sarikei's society?

45rpm gramophone said...

Wishing Mr.Leong 梁 明 德 good health and hope he can continue to enjoy traveling, if he is able to travel to Sarikei I am sure a lot of old folks will be delighted to welcome him back.

Wow! Is great that we are able identify more VIPs. Yes that was Foochow Kapitan Wong Ngoung Hua 2nd Left front row with his trade mark wearing his pants high up above belly button level. Mr.Wong was one of the earliest to own a car in old Sarikei. The boss of shop 華 興 & 華 隆 No 7 Repok Rd whose old resident was right where Hua Tai Garden is.

Tan Kim Sing 陳 敬 信 early Headmaster of Kwang Chien 廣建. Madam Ong Poh Ai 王 寶愛 the wife of 陳敬 信 used to run the See Hua kinder garden in Methodist School and Mrs. Tiong Hung Ming continue there after. Remember an earlier photo of Ease Chan showing a group of toddlers with Madam Ong at the old theatre opposite Rex.

Yek Suk Kang the big time Foochow of early Sarikei? He got the most handsome house in old Sarikei across Sarikei High. His rubber plantation was massive, easily over 200 aches. Over Nyelong river in Poley Kang his farm was undisputed the biggest that covers more than 100 aches. There was an incident where some naughty Poley Kang Kampung folks pushed Yek Suk Kang down the drain while he was cycling to his farm due to their unhappiness that he didn't want to contribute in widening the path in Poley Kang. Only bicycle could ride pass the narrow path and obviously needed to widen it as more and more Foochow settled in Polay Kang. See how far had Poley Kang achieved since Mr.Yek? Now they have a road that can link to Binatang.

ease said...

Sorry, my mistake - Tan Kim Sing is 3rd from left. Yes, 3rd from right is Yu Chu Tien (people call him 'fish cook sky' because he said volcano is 'fire mountain'(direct word- for- word translation from Chinese).
I don't think we're related to Leong Ming Teck. In the 1955 Cantonese association pic,he's the 4th from the left, sitting next to my dad.
As to the roles these people played, gramophone did a good job. I'm very impressed with all the info/knowledge you have, gramophone! Did you know my dad well? It'll be great if you can e-mail me at
Wong Ngoung Hua was a close friend of my parents. If you want I can e-mail you a very old pic of us with his whole family.
Are you planning to blog on Methodist School & church? I have a lot of old pics of them.

Daniel Yiek said...

Is the "122th Anniversary Souvenir Magazine of the Kwong Wai Siew Association Sarikei, published on 16 Dec 2007" published by the Kuching Cantonese Association? I suspect so because Sarikei's version can't be 122th anniversary since Sarikei's started in 1955. No, I don't have a copy of this magazine.

Yes, pls send the Wong Nguong Hua pic and the Methodist School & Church. I have not blogged on Methodist School & Church yet because I want to gather more info and pics. I have a rare pic of the old church before the existing church...but I need more to build a blog post. Methodist Church has very well documented history. They publish anniversary magazines but I don't have these magazines. I have seen Bintangor's church doing a fantastic job with their history in their Anniversary magazines.

I have seen a website of Methodist church and there are some articles that I need to translate to English...

I tend to push out writing the difficult posts and as time passes by, my remaining list have more tough posts than easy ones to write! The list gets shorter every week. Oops!

45rpm gramophone said...

The Magazine was the effort of Sarikei's Cantonese Association alone. It was well documented starting from 1955 with Mr.Chen Ko Ming heading as chairman of the Association till 1974 and continue by his elder brother till 1986. Mr Leong Ming Teck was the vice Chairman till 1966.

I think the Cantonese Association in Sarikei is one of the most successful in the whole of Borneo that other Cantonese Association look up to, Kuching Association is much smaller and less active too. This was no small effort of the two eldest sons of 廣合興 who had contributed so much to the community.

You should get a copy through your Sarikei's contact, it got 180 over pages 砂拉越泗里街广惠肇公会122周年纪念特刊 1885 - 2007

Related Posts with Thumbnails