Sultan Abdullah’s reply to the charges by the Colonial Office in Singapore, 1876

In response to the letter of demand sent by John Douglas, the Colonial Secretary of the Straits Settlements in Singapore, Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah II provided a number of rebuttals to the accusation made by the British Government regarding the assassination of JWW Birch. At this time, Sultan Abdullah had already been brought to Singapore[1].

This is a photograph taken c.1875 at Bandar Bahru of Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah II (centre, seated) and his people, including his chiefs which include Dato' Sagor (circled, standing behind Sultan Abdullah). JWW Birch is seen seated on Sultan Abdullah's left, with a young Raja Chulan on his lap. (Source: Google Images)

Sultan Abdullah’s letter dated 6 October 1876 reads as follows:

Singapore, 6 October 1876


We forward, for the information of His Excellency, the following answers to the charges preferred against us (in connection with the murder of Mr. Birch) in your letter of the 16th September 1876.

  1. In the month of July 1875, we were residing at Quallah Kintah; on or about the 18th July we left Quallah Kinta for Kotah-Stea in order to meet Mr. Birch and Captain Kim Chung[sic] to make arrangements for the collection of the revenue, and to settle the annual sums to be paid to the different chiefs. On our way to Kotah-Stea it was necessary for us to pass Durian Sebatang; we anchored at that place outside in the anchorage for one or two hours; as the tide was running strongly up the river, we did not land there; we attended no meeting of chiefs there, nor did we receive any chiefs on board our boat.  Mr. Birch’s boat, the Quedah, on which we went to Kotah-Stea, was anchored there at the same time.  We weighed anchor about an hour before sunset, and Mr Birch’s steamer followed and passed us. We arrived at Kotah-Stea on or about the 20th July, and remained there four or five days, from Kotah-Stea we went to Batta Rabbit, where neigher at Durian Sabatang or elsewhere delivered any papers to any chiefs, our authorising them to murder Mr. Birch; nor did we ever hold or attend any meeting at which his murder was discussed or resolved upon.
  2. Since the date of the Treaty of Pancore we have never sent Nacodah Kekah (Ketek) or any one else to Penang to purchase muskets and ammunition, nor since that date have such been purchased with our knowledge or by our authority.
  3. We never held at Batta Rabbit or elsewhere any meeting of Perak chiefs and others during the month of August 1875, to discuss plans for the murder of Mr. Birch.  We had been informed during that month, o shortly before, that His Excellency the Governor intended visiting our country, and we consulted and prepared measures for his reception with our principal officers, the Datu Laksamana, the Datu Shahbandar, and the Raja Makotah. In the month of June 1875, one of our children was sick at Batta Rabbit, and on that occasion, according to our custom, Mein Berhantu took place.
  4. We never at any time delivered to Maharajah Lela a written paper under our Chop authorising him to murder Mr. Birch, nor have we ever written to him any paper respecting Mr. Birch.  Some papers with forged Chops of ours, have, as we believe His Excellency is aware, been found in Perak, three of which we delivered to Mr. Davidson; it came to our knowledge at some considerable time ago, one of our subjects, Hajee Mohammad Syed, procured a new chop to be made in Singapore, still in the possession of Hajee Mohammed Syed, for whose arrest a warrant was issued by Mr. Davidson; he, however, has managed to escape into the jungle.
  5. We never, in the month of October 1875, or at any other time, convened a meeting of the chiefs and other people at Durian Sabatang, or at any other place at which it was resolved to murder Mr. Birch.  Nor did we ever at any time supply arms and provisions to the Maharajah Lela, Datu Sagor, or Dyang Murraweh for the purpose of enabling them to kill Mr. Birch.
  6. Mr. Birch was murdered without our knowledge and without our authorisation.
  7. Shortly after Mr. Birch became our Resident at Perak, he had reason to be much annoyed with the Maharajah Lela.  And from that time we ceased to have any friendly communication with the Maharajah Lela; and we deny that we at any time sent Along-Nor, or Wan Hussain, to inform him that though we could not assist him openly, we would assist him with arms and provisions.
  8. We never sent any rice to Maharajah Lela, nor did we know that the Maharajah was preparing to attack the Residency.
  9. We never removed a large number or any number of arms or ammunition from Batta Rabbit to Durian Sabatang for the purpose of assisting the Maharajah Lela in resisting the British officers and in attacking the British Residency. We received at Batta Rabbit the news of Mr. Birch’s murder on the night of that day it occured, from Captain Welner at Bandar Bahru. Next day, about 3 p.m., we left Batta Rabbit with about 30 followers; we stayed that night at Durian Sabatang, where we left our family; we arrived at Bandar Bahru the following night, and after staying there about a day returned to Durian Sabatang; some days after that we sent to Batta Rabbit for five muskets belonging to us, given to us by Mr. Birch, which we made use of to arm our watchmen.
  10. On or about the month of March 1876, we were residing at Pulo Dya, we received information that the Datu Sagor was hiding in the neighbourhood, and we at once ordered the Shahbandar to take steps for his arrest; he was apprehended and detained by us on board the Shahbandar’s boat, and in his custody. On the following day we sent him up to Bandar Bahru in charge of the Shahbandar. We deny that we ever advised the Datu Sagor to hide in the jungle, or received and protected him.
  11. His Excellency will, we doubt not, fully the recognise the difficulty we have in doing little more than giving in the answers. We submit to him our emphatic denial of the truth of the charges preferred against us, inasmuch as His Excellency not having furnished us with the evidence taken before the Commission of Enquiry in Perak, we are in entire ignorance was well of the names of our accusers as of the evidence on which the charges against us are founded. We would further remark, that the whole of our conduct and acts since the Treaty of Pancore, and since the appointment of Mr. Birch as Resident, with our full concurrence and indeed at our request, is most conclusive proof against our having been in any way concerned in the murder of Mr. Birch, an event which, taken in consideration of the concurrences in Perak in 1874 and 1875, it would have been the height of folly, we may say of madness on our part, to endeavour to bring about.

(signed) Sultan Abdullah of Perak

J. Douglas. C.M.G.
Colonial Secretary,
Straits Settlements

For the translation of Sultan Abdullah’s reply in Bahasa Melayu, the .pdf files can be read here:
Page 1
Page 2

Quallah Kintah – Kuala Kinta
Kotah-Stea – Kota Setia, near Teluk Intan
Captain Kim Chung – Kapitan China Chung Keng Quee
Quedah – Kedah
Batta Rabbit – Batak Rabit
Treaty of Pancore – Treaty of Pangkor

[1]Following the death of JWW Birch, Sultan Abdullah was brought to Singapore by the British on 4 September 1876.


Source: Arkib Negara Malaysia

1 thought on “Sultan Abdullah’s reply to the charges by the Colonial Office in Singapore, 1876

  1. Pingback: Kisah Sultan Abdullah Semasa Dalam Buangan Di Seychelles | The Patriots

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s