A policy of advice, and that alone, was contemplated by the Colonial Office; but without its orders or even cognizance affairs were such that the government of those Malayan States to which Residents have been accredited has been from the first exercised by the Residents themselves, mainly because neither in Perak, Selangor, or Sungei Ujong has there ever been a ruler powerful enough to carry out such an officer’s advice, the Rajahs and other petty chiefs being able to set him at defiance. Advice would be given that peace and order should be preserved, justice administered without regard to the rank of the criminal, the collection of revenue placed upon a satisfactory footing, and good administration generally secured, but had any reigning prince attempted to carry out these recommendations he would have been overborne by the Rajahs, whose revenues depended on the very practices which the Resident denounced, and by the piratical bands whose source of livelihood was the weakness and mal-administration of the rulers. The Pangkor Treaty contained the words that the Resident’s advice “must be acted upon,” and consequently the Residents have taken the direction of public affairs, organizing armed forces, imposing taxes, taking into their own hands the collection of the revenues, receiving all complaints, executing justice, punishing evil-doers, apprehending criminals, and repressing armed gangs of robbers. These officers are, in fact, far more the agents of the Governor of the Straits Settlements than the advisers of the native princes, and though paid out of native revenues are the virtual rulers of the country in all matters, except those which relate to Malay religion and custom. As stated by Lord Carnarvon, “Their special objects should be the maintenance of peace and law, the initiation of a sound system of taxation, with the consequent development of the general resources of the country, and the supervision of the collection of the revenue so as to insure the receipt of funds necessary to carry out the principal engagements of the Government, and to pay for the cost of British officers and whatever establishments may be found necessary to support them.” Lord Carnarvon in the same dispatch states: “Neither annexation nor the government of the country by British officers in the name of the Sultan [a measure very little removed from annexation] could be allowed;” and elsewhere he says: “It should be our present policy to find and train up some chief or chiefs of sufficient capacity and enlightenment to appreciate the advantages of a civilized government, and to render some effectual assistance in the government of the country.”
The treaty of Pangkor provides “that the Resident’s advice must be asked and acted upon (in Perak) on all questions other than those relating to Malay religion and custom, and that the collection and control of all revenue and the general administration of the country must be regulated under the advice of these Residents.” It was on the same terms that Residents were appointed at Selangor and Sungei Ujong.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48