Hakka coolies arrive
Published on: Saturday, July 11, 2020
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Scenes from the past...Beaufort was the centre of the West Coast rubber industry. “No busier sight could be seen anywhere than at Beaufort Grand Central Railway Station at noon. With the express rusing in on the heels of the fifty-two seater special from Jesselton and the mail train down from Tenom – hear the screaming hustle as bananas, oranges and salt-fish are hustled onto the teeming platform.” – Kinabalu Magazine, July 1952.
June 1,1888

WE hear very good accounts from Kudat of the Hakka coolies who arrived lately from Hongkong for the Tobacco Estates in Marudu Bay. They are reported to be first rate agricultural labourers and their wives and children being always ready for light work are often of great service on the plantations. 

It is satisfactory to learn that the Marudu Bay planters are greatly pleased with their first consignment of coolie labour which has reached them direct from Hongkong at about one third of the cost formerly paid for coolies engaged through the Agency of Singapore Towkeys. 

We understand that these coolies were secured with the valuable assistance of Messrs. Dirley Dalrymple & Co., of Hongkong who are prepared to engage any number of men the same class on similar terms. 

The Hakka contract coolies who arrived by the Afghan were accompanied by some free agricultural labourers who came to join the colony of their fellow countrymen at Kudat. 

We learn that these men also are doing very well under the care for the Protector of Immigrants and are well satisfied with the land allotted to them and with their prospects generally. 

They have certainly reason to be contented and hopeful for the settlement is prosperous and healthy and the rapid development of the tobacco industry will certainly largely increase the demand for garden produce on the neighbouring estates, and the profits of the Hakka farmers. 

With regard to the contract coolies the duties of the Protector are not likely to be difficult. Hakkas of the agricultural class make good colonists and if treated fairly they are peaceful and easily managed by anyone who thinks it worth while to hear patiently the little grievances, real or imaginary, to which their position in a new country and the novel conditions of their employment may not unreasonably give rise. 

And planters cannot fail to see that it is quite as much to their own interest as to that of the Government and the general public that immigrants of this useful class should, more especially on their first arrival, be treated with kindness and consideration, for on the reports which these pioneers furnish to their enquiring friends in Hongkong will assuredly depend on no small degree the prospects not a only of tobacco planting but of every other agricultural industry in this country. 

Count Geleos, the enterprising planter of Marudu Bay, has show that with the assistance of experienced agents in Hongkong and by virtue of the more favourable geographical position of the country of their adoption the British North Borneo planters can obtain four efficient labourers for the price usually paid by their Deli competitor for one. 


We trust that neither the Government nor the planter will lightly estimate the advantage thus possessed by this territory and that no effort on their part will be spared to secure from it the best practical results. 

In view of the following paragraph, which we have taken from a recent number of the times there does not appear to be much foundation for the anticipations recently expressed by our Deli contemporary that the negotiations for the free immigration of Indian labour to Sumatra are on the eve of a satisfactory conclusion. 

COOLIE LABOUR — A statement is published by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society showing its policy with reference to contract labour. 

The question of the introduction of coolie labour into sugar-growing colonies has lately been raised by the French Government, who proposed that the English Government should be asked to rescind the prohibition of the exportation of British Indian subjects to foreign countries. 

Certain correspondence took place in December last on the subject between M. Waddington and the society, and the society submitted to his Excellency the reasons which have compelled it always to oppose the importation of British Indian subjects into the colonies of any foreign country. Even in British colonies it was found that the proper protection of free immigrants was almost a matter of impossibility. 

A report was presented to the President of the French Republic in August last year relative to the introduction of our Indian subjects into Reunion, and a decree was signed by him; but the society cannot find that the safeguards required by the Indian Government are provided for, and they continue their opposition. 

In the course of the statement the society give a historical review of the whole subject from the introduction of indentured coolie labour into Mauritius in the first years of this century up to the present time. 

The document is taken from official reports and other records, and shows that the society has always been opposed to the introduction of indentured labour into sugar-growing colonies, whether British or foreign. 

In foreign colonies supervision by British officials has almost invariably been refused, and so long as this state of things exists it will be the duty of the society to oppose all attempts of the kind. 

By an order of the queen in Council made 50 years ago it was strictly provided that no indenture should be valid unless made in the colony itself, and should in no case exceed the term of one year. Experience has shown that where the safeguards contemplated by this Order in Council have been relaxed the labourers have suffered in person, physically, morally, and peculiarly. Times 

On the contrary as far as we can see both the French and Dutch negotiations for the removal of restrictions of foreign contract service by the natives of India are precisely where they began. 

As regards contract labour the Indian Government make no distinction between British and Foreign colonies. Both the Supreme and the Presidency Governments are glad to encourage the labouring classes to emigrate to any country which can offer suitable employment and fairly salubrious climate. 

Free emigration was formerly allowed with results which proved in some cases unfortunate for both employer and employed. Owing chiefly to the ignorance of the Ceylon authorities of the customs, caste superstitions, and prejudices of Punjabee Hindoos, the so-called Pioneer corps raised for that colony had to be disbanded and sent back to India. 

Difficulties of a similar kind occurred with coolies in Mauritius and other places, and the enquiry which followed proved the necessity of placing all emigrant coolies under the protection of experienced Indian Officers. 

No immigrants are defined by a local enactment subject to the approval of the Government of India and an officer responsible to the Indian Government, is appointed to see that the provisions of this enactment are enforced and that the coolies interests protected. 

If experience has shewn the necessity for an Indian Immigration Agent to ensure the success of the emigration and the welfare of labourers in British Crown Colonies surely there is a stronger raison d’etre for the appointment in a foreign state? — But while the French and Dutch Governments are anxious to employ Indian labour in Reunion and Deli they emphatically resent as a national indignity the proposal that they should receive immigrant protectors appointed by the Indian Government to those colonies. 

Having regard to the polarity of views developed by recent negotiations on that important point we fail to see any immediate prospect of its satisfactory solution. 


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