Review of advance to labourers; flu and pneumonia epidemic in Pensiangan
Published on: Saturday, November 06, 2021
By: British North Borneo Herald
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February 17, 1938

Minutes of the Monthly Committe Meeting of the North Borneo Chamber of Commerce held in the Sandakan Club, Sandakan on Wednesday, 2nd February, 1938 at 10.30 am. 

PRESENT: The Honourable Mr F.W. Pinnock (Chairman). Mr A. E Phillipps, Mr G. Mayor, Dr V.A. Stookes, Mr W. A. S. Young, and Mr C. Boyer (Secretary). 

ABSENT: Mr H. Johnson. Mr H.J. Walker. the Honourable Mr Kwan Yuen Hin, and Mr Lau Bui Ching.

MINUTES: The Minutes of Monthly Committee Meeting No. 322 held on 5th January. 1938, were confirmed and signed. 


Correspondence received by the Chamber from the North Borneo Trading Co. Ltd., Sandakan, was read, also a draft of a petition by some contractors and mandores in that Company’s employ that it was proposed to present to Government. 

The Petition asks Government to reconsider the law limiting recoverable advances to labourers to $5.00, pleading that such an advance is insufficient for a coolie to purchase implements for his work, such as a gobang, axe, parang, etc., also to defray poll tax, quit rent, cutting pass, gobang licences to Government. 

Employers and their agents refuse to give advances exceeding $5.00 which is the legally recoverable maximum, and this is alleged to make it increasingly difficult for contractors to obtain labour. 

The North Borneo Trading Co. Ltd., quoted a case where an employee (within the definition of the Labour Ordinance) wished to take timber from them to build a house, but this could not be allowed because only $5.00 would be legally recoverable. 

The Committee was unable to support any representations for unlimited advances, recognising that it would be contrary to the Chamber’s oft expressed policy that larger advances are neither beneficial to employer or employee. 

The Committee felt that in certain circumstances it might be necessary to distinguish between a labourer’s advance and a bona fide trade debt so as to make the latter liable to a Judgment summons in ease of default. 

In the case in point one of the suppliers’ employees being a man of moderate means (although coming with the definition of “labourer” under the Ordinance) wished to buy timber valued at $200.00 to build a house but it had been ruled that if the supply was filled by the employers then, in case of default, only a maximum of $5.00 would be recoverable at law – and it had been suggested “the labourer” should be compelled to buy elsewhere, i.e. from the employers’ competitors. It was felt this ruling constituted an anomaly and encouraged dishonesty – and the Secretary was instructed so to inform the Authorities. 

A letter dated 15th January, 1938, from the Manager Langkon North Borneo Rubber Ltd., Kudat, was read, suggesting the feasibility of Government entirely prohibiting the legality of any advances to labourers. 

The Manager emphasised that while some employers are endeavouring to abolish the system of advances, others are encouraging it. 

A letter dated the 19th January, 1938, from the Manager, Marudu Rubber Ltd., Kudat was also read, complaining that smallholders were giving advances of $5.00 in cash and allowing the labourers unlimited credit for good supplied. 

It was claimed this evaded the intention of advance limitation — as the local Courts permitted judgment summons for trade debts. 

These matters were discussed at length, and the Secretary was instructed to say that the Chamber was aware of the situation and would continue to do everything possible to discourage heavy advances. 

It was hoped that employers who gave large advances in order to attract labour would find the veto against recovery so expensive as to discourage a continuance of an evil system. 

QUARANTINE (FILE NO. 8): The existing quarantine regulations against shipping and passengers from Hong Kong and Singapore owing to the existence of smallpox. In those two ports, was discussed, and the Secretary instructed in the matter. 


A rose, proverbially smells as sweet when called by another name and so though these presents purport to give the latest from Keningau, they are really more concerned with things down Pensiangan way. For we have once again visited that far flung outstation and have traversed back to Tenom. 

Abler pens that ours have often described the trip from Kcningau to Pensiangan, it requires no spark of literary genius to describe the journey from Rundom to Kemabong; for asterisks, blanks and dashes are all that are necessary to express the feelings of anyone waxing poetic over the delights of that trip.

Suffice it then to say that around Pensiangan the people are all prosperous and cheery, their padi crop promises an excellent harvest, and to the Pensiangan native his padi is virtually a cash crop for the Government buys padi at 15 cents a gantang. 

Many of the Kampong houses are substantially built, plank walls and corrugated iron roofs being commonplace. The vernacular schools is well-attended.  Sixteen out of the 80 boys in the school had unbroken attendance during 1937. 

After Pensiangan, the next bright spot in picture must be Ambun, one of the dramatis personae of “Twenty years in Borneo”. Laus deo, Ambun flourishes in a mild way, he has a shop at Kemabong and trades in jungle produce. 

He still shudders at the recollections of the cuisine a la Baguio; while pleading guilty to the soft impeachment of a tryst with the fair damsel, he still indignantly denies that a drawn parang was included in his go-to-meeting costume. 

Thanks to Amber. we have run one hare to earth, viz., the identity of the person who wounded one of the late O.K.K. Gunsanad’s followers when he and they were returning home after having safe-guarded the Mesopo Office during the Rundom troubles. 

When the firing started, Ambun was carrying his master’s shot-gun, when the firing ceased only one man in Gunsanad’s party was found to be wounded by a buck-shot pellet. As Ambun says “waktu itu, Tuan, chuma sahaya sejah yang ber-buck-shot”. 

To come back to Keningau, we must record our sympathy with Mr R. Matthews, Assistant, Melalap Estate, who was seriously attacked by a native with a kris on the night of the 21st January. His alleged assailant is now in custody awaiting trial. 

Our sincere sympathy, too, goes out to the natives of the District wherein has been a serious epidemic of (speaking as a layman) influenza and pneumonia. 

Thanks to the efforts of the District Surgeon and the Government Dressers, much has been done to combat the epidemic. Let us hope that it will not he long before the District reverts to normal health conditions. 

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