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(From Post War period to1962 before the formation of Malaysia)

Based on a report from " Sarawak 1962 " (Sarawak Government Printing Office)


Before 1941

The first rubber was exported from Sarawak in 1910 and thereafter it rapidly became the main agricultural export of the country and ...{remained so until the late 60's}. In 1941 there were 239,557 acres under rubber, planted almost exclusively as smallholdings often on low-lying peat soils totally unsuited to rubber and comprising inherently low-yielding trees.

Post World War Two

In the immediate post-war period, and despite its obvious advantage as a smallholder's crop, rubber was considered, in the face of synthetic,a declining asset and departmental activities were concerned, but with little success, in the search of an alternative cash crop.

Rubber Planting Scheme

However in 1954, a sum of 1/2 million dollars was set aside to finance a rubber-planting scheme, which unfortunately, did not materialize. In 1956, with the reorganization of the Agricultural Department it was impossible to introduce a new scheme with the basic aim of establishing the greatest acreage of high-yielding rubber in the shortest possible time in accordance with accepted cultural practice.

A board of administrators representing both Government and farming interests was constituted to deal with matters of policy and arbitration; similarly representative advisory committees were established in all Divisions of Sarawak. Responsibility for the scheme's execution was vested in the Director of Agriculture. Initially a target of 10,000 acres, to be planted or replanted by 1960, was set; subsidy was payable at a rate of $200 per acre for new planting and $450 per acre for replanting. The rules of the scheme require the maintenance of high standards including proper planting techniques, contouring where necessary, lallang and pest control and adherence to a specified manurial programme. To these ends subsidy is payable both in cash and in kind, the latter representing the supply of fertilizer, insecticide and weedkillers. A vigorous propaganda campaign utilizing radio, the press, posters, booklets and demonstrations was initiated, in al languages, to ensure an understanding of the scheme.

Progress of the Rubber Planting Scheme

By the end of 1956 a total of 708 acres had been planted. During 1957 this figure increased to 8,137 acres and to assist the poorer prospective smallholders it was decided that all land charges, other than quit rent, should be payable from Rubber Planting Scheme funds. In view of the satisfactory progress of the scheme the target acreage to be planted was increased to 40,000 acres and the value of the scheme was raised to $12 million. By the end of 1958, 21,487 acres had been planted and the scope of the planting scheme was increased to 60,000 acres. To off-set the additional cost and permit an increase in subsidy for new planting from $200 to $250,legislation was introduced to impose a cess of two cents per pound on all rubber exported. In a revision of the Development drawn up in 1959 the target was raised against to 90,000 acres to be planted by the end of 1963 and a sum of $ 21,081,000 set aside for this purpose.

As at the end of 1962 a total of 62,907 acres had been planted in the ratio 47:3 new planting to replanting. The planting of this acreage had involved the import of a total of 35.5 million clonal seeds from Malaya and the issue of 13 million clonal stumps and 83,600 yards of budwood. A total of $2,096,000 had been paid in cash subsidy while participants in the scheme had received 11,200 tons of fertilizer; 46,7000 gallons of shell lallang oil; 35,000 pounds of dowpon; 1,3000 pounds of Fylonmac and 500 gallons of Dieldrex as payment in kind. When it is considered that with the exception of its river system Sarawak is almost completely devoid of communications, the magnitude of this achievement may be appreciated...

Terms and Conditions for farmers

Participation in the scheme has demanded high standards from the cultivator and it is understandable that these have not been forthcoming from all concerned. Where a farmer fails to start planting or having planted consistently fails to achieve the standards set he is, in fairness to other participants, rejected from the scheme and loses all further benefits, which might accrue, to him. To date a total of 33,2l7 acres have been rejected from the scheme in this way leaving 61,184 acres remaining under subsidy. Applications approved for participation in the scheme in 1963, however, amounted to 17,150 acresand the chances of planting 90,000 acres of high-yielding rubber by the end of 1963 are reasonably good.

Established with the object of establishing a given acreage of high-yielding rubber, the Rubber Planting Branch of the Department has gradually assumed the additional role of an advisory service dealing with all aspects of the industry. Strenuous efforts have been made to improve the very poor quality of rubber sheet produced. Since 1959 groups of smallholders have been encouraged to erect communal processing centers, at strategic points,designed and equipped in conformity with the Department's specifications. At the close of 1962 a total of 101 such centers had been built and were producing sheet of a much higher quality than in the past. The percentage of good quality sheet is as yet slight in relation to total production but it represents a start and augurs well for the future.


A colour film depicting the various aspects of Rubber Planting Scheme and three black and white showing specific aspectsof tapping,treatment of disease, and the processing were produced and released in October 1962. These have aroused considerable interest not only in Sarawak but in other parts of the world.

Nursery Work

A site of nearly sixty acres held under Native Customary Rights, was chosen at Ensengei inthe Kuching Division and planted on contract with clonal seeds in 1960. By 1962, total of 220 acres of land was producing clonal seeds for the farmers in the scheme.

Green Budding

Importing clonal seeds from Malaya was both cumbersome and expensive. The Department in 1960 commenced experimenting with the technique of green budding pioneered in North Borneo. It was successful and by 1964 250,000 green budded stumps were issued to the farmers.

Assisted Rubber Planting Scheme

With the difficulty of travel in Sarawak and with only a small trained staff available, the Rubber Planting Scheme of necessity had to be confined to comparatively accessible areas to allow frequent and regular advisory visits being made to farmers in the scheme. In September 1960, however, an Assisted Rubber Planting Scheme was introduced, designed to help farmers int he more remote areas of the state (e.g. Limbang, Lawas, Kapit), who by virtue of their inaccessibility, could not enjoy the advantages of the Rubber Planting Scheme proper.

Under this scheme farmers were invited to come to selected centres where they were taught the rudiments of land selection, preparation of land, planting and maintenance. They then returned to their homes with sufficient planting hole fertilizer to treat 200 holes. Having prepared their land they were each issued with 200 clonal seedling stumps, sufficient for the planting of one acre, and a compound fertiliser for a first round application for these seedlings. Both issues of planting materials and fertilizers were fire, but planting and maintenance ere the responsibility of the planters themselves. The Department, however, endeavoured to inspect holdings within a year of planting and those farms who had done well were each given a further issue of 400 stumps and fertilizer thus bring their holdings up to three acres, the small economic areas. As and when road communications extended, those farmers who had taken advantage of the Assisted Rubber Planting Scheme could expect to be absorbed onto the Rubber planting Scheme Proper. By 1962, there were almost 4,000 acres of newly planted rubber trees.

         History of Rubber from 1876 -1958 and how Rubber came to Malaysia
 Mad Ridley
 Who was Ridley? Was he really mad? Why did people then call him a crazy man?
 He was just a man who had a scientific mind, an energetic man who promoted himself and his ideas through road shows. He incessantly knocked on important people's doors and gave away rubber seeds to every one he met! He was a man ahead of his time. He was doing everything a scientist is doing in the 21st century!!
 In fact, if the publishers of today were available to print his notes on orchids, tropical flowers, and plants, Ridley would have several coffee table illustrated books to his name!! He had carefully classified many flowers, discovered many new species in his scientific expeditions in both Malaya and Sabah.
 The rubber tree (Hevea Braziliensis) is indigenous to the amazon basin and had never been commercially grown anywehre else. In 1876 Henry Wickham smuggled some seeds out of Brazil and encouraged British botanists to germinate them. Kew Gardens was successful in germinating the seeds and soon seedlings were sent out to Malaya and Singapore.
 But no one was keen on this new crop. Coffee was the star crop of that time, besides nutmeg, cloves and other spices.
 Two significant events made rubber an exciting "new kid on the block" in retrospect. Firstly the invention of the car in early 1900s in the United States created a new demand for rubber for tyres. Secondly,it was just before this invention that Henry Ridley managed to convince British and Chinese planters in Malaya to grow rubber. In 1897 there were 140 hectares of rubber in Malaya. By 1913, there were 322,000 hectares.
 In 1920 there were 60 rubber companies in Malaya.
 Two political-social developments in Malaya also enabled rubber to be the king of crops. Firstly the British colonial government was in favour of imported labour from China and India. Hence the wave upon wave of immigration descended upon the shores of Malaya, which was seen as a land of hope to the Chinese and Malays.
 Secondly, the British colonial government started to improve the infrastructure and facilities for modern agriculture to take place even though at first it was to benefit the British planters.
 By the time Malaya was made an independent nation in 1958, Malays, Chinese and Indians were part and parcel of the booming rubber cultivation.
 We have to remember and thank the energetic young scientist who passionately introduced rubber to Malaya.
 No, Ridley was not mad at all. He had the characteristics and charisma of a scientist, an innovator, and a visionary.

(Written by Chang Yi)



                                                                              COMPILED BY CHANG YI

     Today, in the 21st century, the Kenyah are still proud indigenous people of Sarawak who maintain their cultural and historical heritage with great care.

     Although many of them have migrated to the towns and cities, the Kenyah still take great care of their traditional dwellings in the Upper parts of the Baram River in the Fourth Division of Sarawak. Most of them are very highly educated and have been Christianized by the Roman Catholic priests in the 1960's.

     Today Long San is centre of their communal and cultural interests.

     Although the Kenyahs who live in the upper Baram continue to grow rice and pepper and tap a little rubber they are looking into other means of earning a livelihood like eco-tourism and education.

     While researching into the history of rubber in Sarawak, I have found that a lot can be retrieved from the various government publications and oral history. And indeed, even as early as the 50's the Kenyah were already very forward looking. They were prepared to take part in the government rubber-planting scheme, which demonstrated their willingness to participate in the economic development of the state of Sarawak.

     Here I would like to share with you what happened to the Kenyahs who lived in Long Selatong in the 1950's and 1960's and their role in developing cash crops in Sarawak.

     The information provided below is excerpted From the Sarawak Museum Journal article by SC Chin,1985

     The Kenyahs are longhouse dwellers with each "apartment" functioning as a corporate group. Co-operative work and reciprocal labour exchanges between the corporate groups are basic features of kenyah social organisations. Kinship is considered bilaterally with equal emphasis on matrilateral and patrilateral kind; however in the naming system, children take on their father's middle name. Although becoming less so, social class is still an important feature in Kenyah social life and ideally, marriage is class endogamous. Post-marital residence is utrolocal.

     The longhouse apartment unit maintains continuitity. It inherits property and establishes permanent rights over land which are passed equally to all the members.

     The Kenyah and Rubber as the new cash crop

     Rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) is by far the most important cash crop of the Kenyah. The significance of this crop to the Long Selatong Kenyah has been described recently, (Chin1982). All rubber trees in the vaillage have been planted with the aid of a government rubber-planting scheme. The scheme provides the planting materials, weedicides, fertilizers, a tree killer and cash subsidies over a five-year period. For the Third Malaysia Plan period (1976-1980) the subsidies totalled $900 per acre over the five years of the scheme.

     All trees in the village belong to two seperate plantings, 1958 and 1969.

     The output of rubber from the trees grown in 1958 was 64 - 515 kg/ha per year in 1982. At the price then of $1.16 per kg this represented a gross income of $70 to $596 (mean of $225) per year. The Long Selatong yields are both variable and low. They represent yields of 36-634 kg/ha per year. The average Malaysian smallholder production for 1978 was 867 kg/ha per year (Bank Negara, Malaysia 1980). The poor production is partly due to understocking in some smallholdings but it is mainly due to the fact that the trees are never regularly tapped.

     The general attitude is to treat the rubber smallholdings as a reservoir of cash, which requires a considerable effort to exploit. The number of working days spent on tapping and processing rubber ranged from 6 to 85 per household for 1978.

     The Kenyahs all in all owned 1.2-4.5 ha of rubber per household in 1978.

     With 1.2 - 4.5 ha per household, the average labour requirements would range from 12.2 - 46.1 man-days per month (excluding travel time). On top of the present range of subsistence activities, households, especially those with two or more adults in addition to the parental pair, should be able to meet this labour demand and manage all their rubber optimally. If all the rubber were tapped, the gross income, based on the average Malaysian smallholder production at 1978 prices would be $1207 to $4526 per household per year.

(In order to update this column I would like friends of the Kenyah community to contribute their recounts of rubber tapping....this would definite help us, from the various ethnic groups, to understand each other better...especially knowing that somewhere in the past, we were all struggling to put a few dollars together and send our siblings to school.....Chang Yi and Edward Sia)


On June 30th 1911, Charles Brooke signed a memorandum with Rev. Brewster, an American Methodist Missionary in Singapore, to provide Henghuas from China the opportunity to settle in Sarawak.

The memorandum was between the Rajah Brooke and the Henghuas. According to the memorandum only 300 Henghuas were allowed to settle in Sarawak. The Henghuas were to be given a reservation on the Igan River of Sarawak. Taxes were to be paid from the second year of their coming according to the individual holdings that had been surveyed. In addition, the American Methodist Mission in Igan was given a partial grant for an Industrial School building. Furthermore a yearly sum of $500 was also granted for the upkeep of industrial and agricultural experiments.

However only 101 Henghuas arrived on 22-5-1912 from Henghua, China. They were led by Rev.Ting Ping Chung instead of Rev. Brewster who remained in China.

The Henghua settlement started with two attap houses and 100 acres of land. Another batch of 40 pioneers arrived on 17 June in the same year.

With the help of Rev. Hoover, the American Missionary, the Henghuas started to plant rubber in Sungei Teku, which is not far from Sungei Merah and Sibu town. Another area, called Panasu, was also settled and rubber was cultivated.

The Henghuas established the Tiong Hing School and Sing Hin School in Sungei Merah and Panasu respectively.

During the Second World War the Japanese took away the rubber gardens of the Henghuas in Sungei Merah to build the Sibu airport whcih continued to be used until 2002!

The Henghuas continued to work on their rubber gardens and helped Sungei Merah and Sibu to prosper. Many Henghuas became wealthy and acquired more land in Sungei Merah and Sungei Teku.

Today, in the Third Division of Sarawak, the Henghuas have made a name for themselves as hardworking, God fearing people. They have created a strong community with an identity to be proud of.

Most of their rubber land in Sungei Merah has been converted to prime residential areas, while the land in Sungei Teku remain under rubber cultivation. In years to come, when Sibu sprawls over to Sungei Teku the rubber trees will make way for roads and houses.

Ninety years after they arrived in Sibu the Henghuas have established a strong foundation in education, business and agriculture. They have indeed helped Sarawak develop and progress into the twenty-first century.

(Based on interviews with Henghua women of Sungei Merah and Chinese articles found in the library of the Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association, Sibu) - Chang Yi June 2004


                                          The Origins of Sibu

When did Sibu come into existence? How did it develop?

Not much was known about the days prior to 1901 as the first Chinese pioneers were here probably on a temporary basis and they were neither historians nor writers. They probably thought of just making a fortune and then returning home to China. And most probably they were following the footsteps of Admiral Cheng Ho and other Chinese business adventurers.

However a few historical evidences could be found to prove early Chinese settlement in the Rejang Basin before Sibu was officially established by the now famous 17 article Memorandum of Understanding with the Rajah, Sir Charles Brooke.

A simple tombstone dated 1867 in the Hokkien and Cantonese cemetery in Pulau Kerto bears evidence that the Chinese Hokkiens were already cultivating crops in Sibu by that time. Another tombstone bearing the name of Hokkien Pioneer Lim Chiong Meng was dated 1910.

According to a hand drawn map in a Chinese archive, Sibu as a settlement was already in existence in 1880. The Hokkiens were living and doing business in attap houses built along the bank of "Lubok Lembangan". Pulau Babi, now a thriving business area, was an island near Lubok Lembangan.

Lubok Lembangan, now dominated by modern steel and concrete construction, was deep enough for ships to sail through.

According to the Sibu Eng Ann Teng Tua Pek Kong Temple history, it was the Hokkien settlers, who came to Sibu in 1871 bringing with them a statue of Tua Pek Kong, a revered diety from China. They then established a small temple for the diety. In 1897, the Sibu Chinese Merchants built a bigger temple with traditional design.

Another valuable historical evidence is a 1897 stone tablet inscribed with a list of donors who helped rebuild and expand the Temple. The government in 1898 granted the land title for the temple.

So when did the Foochows come into the picture?

Wong Nai Siong was a Qing dynasty scholar who was enterprising and adventurous. In 1899 he decided to seek foreign land to help his fellow countrymen. He visited Singapore, Malaya and Indonesia. His six-month search was rather unfruitful. But fate intervened; he was introduced to the Rajah of Sarawak in Singapore. Wong Nai Siong then immediately left for the Rejang River in Sarawak.

Within 13 days, he was convinced that the Rejang Basin had good soil for cultivation. He then left for Kuching where he entered into an agreement with the Rajah.

The 17 article agreeement provided for Foochows to settle in Sungai Ensurai and Sungai Merah in the outskirts of Sibu. On January 21 1901, 72 Foochows arrived in Sibu and settled in Sungei Merah. The second batch of 535 pioneers arrived on 16th March. This later date has been recognised as New Foochow Settlement Day.

Sibu thus became the New Foochow Settlement in 1901.

Rubber, which became the main economic product of this settlement, put Sibu on the world map.

(By Chang Yi, 21 July 2004)
                An extract from the Sarawak Gazette, Monday 22 Nov 1880, Vol 8 No. 170

                                                           (available from Sarawak Museum)


I, Charles Brooke, Rajah make known the following term which the Government of Sarawak hereby agrees to fulfill with any Company of Chinese who will engage to bring into the Rejang River Chinese settlers with wives and families numbering not less than Three hudnred souls, who will employ themselves in gardening and farming paddy or in other cultivations:-

1st - The Government will provide land sufficient for their requirements free of charge.

2nd - The Government on first starting will build them temporary houses, and make a good path to their landing place.

3rd - The Government will give them one pasu of rice per man or woman a month and a little salt and half the amount to every child for the first 12 months.

4th - The Government engage to keep up steam communciation with Kuching and carry any necessaries for those settlers on the most reasonable terms.

5th - The Government will build a Police Station near them to protect them and assist in making themselves understood in the native language and generally look after them.

6th - In carrying out the above engagements the Government expect the said Chinese will permanently settled in the territory of Sarawak.

Kuching. 11th November 1881
 (Contributed by Chang Yi)


On July 9th, 1900 Wong Nai Siong signed a memorandum of understanding with the Rajah which resulted in the New Foochow Settlement of Sibu.

The memorandum included the following 17 articles:

1) The contractors agree to introduce into the Rejang River 1000 adult Chinese agriculturalist men, women and about 300 children and to establish them in that river for the purpose of cultivating rice, vegetables, fruits. But of these immigrants not more than one half are to be introduced during the first year, that, to say before June 30th 1901 and the rest the contractors undertake to introduce during the following year, that is to say, between June 30 1901 and June 30 1902.

2) The government undertakes to advance the contractors the sum of $30 for each adult and $10 for each child so introduced and of these advances two thirds shall be paid to the contractors in Singapore and the balance at Kuching on the arrival of the immigrants here and the contractors undertake that the majority of the immigrants are to be introduced during the first year as mentioned in Para1 shall be brought to their destination in the Rajang within four calendar months from the date they receive the advances in Singapore as above mentioned.

3) The contractors undertake to repay all such advances to the government within six years from the date of this agreement as follows:
Nothing to be paid to the contractors during the first year during each of the subsequent years one fifth of the advances to be paid each year, that is to say $6 for each adult, $2 for each child in respect to the advances paid on their account in accordance with section.

4) The government undertakes to provide for the passage of the aforementioned immigrants from Singapore to the Rejang or in the event of the contractors bringing these immigrants direct from China to the Rejang the government will pay the contractors five dollar for each immigrant as passage.

5) The government undertakes to provide the contractors sufficient land in the vicinity of Ensurai and Seduan streams or elsewhere for the proper settlement of the aforementioned immigrants and to ensure that the immigrants shall get sufficient land for their purpose, the quantity of land not being less than three acres for each adult.

6) On the expiration of the above mentioned term of twenty years any immigrant shall on his application be given a grant for the land occupied by him subject to quit rent at the rate of ten cents per acre per annum, provided that each land shall be fully cultivated.

7) In the event of the government wishing to occupy any land taken up by any of the immigrants a fair sum shall be paid to each immigrant by the government for disturbance in respect to crops, houses, etc.

8) The government undertakes to make suitable landing places, roads and paths.

9) On the recommendation of the contractors the government will recognize the appointment of any competent and suitable man as Kang Choo or headman of each village or settlement: the powers of each Kang Choo will be limited to the settlement of trivial disputes, boundary disputes and other minor matters but these powers will be more clearly defined by the government when necessity, circumstances arise for their appointments.

10) The government guarantees full protection to the immigrants from interference by natives.

11) The government will place no restriction on the immigrants with respect to their planting or on their sale of produces and they will be at liberty to plant what they please and at where they like but it is understood by the contractors that primary object of introducing these immigrants is the cultivation of rice and they in turn undertake to see that this not lost sight of.

12) The government undertakes to ship all provisions, stores for the immigrants and produces sent to them to Kuching on government vessels at moderates of freight as opportunities of shipping by government vessels afford but the government does not undertake to run steamers especially for the purpose of carrying such goods and produces but will do its best to assist the immigrants in this respect.

13) The government will not permit any one to visit the immigrants for the purpose of inducing them to gamble or to gamble with them nor to sell opium to them. Gambling amongst the immigrants may be allowed or not as desired to be advisable by the government and the contractors and if at any time it is allowed it will be confirmed solely to the immigrants under the supervision of their headmen and such headmen will also have the right to sell opium to the immigrants under their charge. The government will make special arrangements with the farmers from time to time to ensure that these rules being carried out effectually.

14) The government will permit that a limited but sufficient muskets may be kept by the immigrants to protect their crops from the ravages of wild pigs etc.

15) After the expiration of two years from the date of this agreement should the immigrants be successful and their settlements be in thriving conditions the government will permit others joining them from China, will assist with fresh immigrants in as far that may be in their powers to do so.

16) Should the contractors be successful in carrying out the objects, and the settlements become successful, they will be permitted to establish trading areas as they may wish and successful planters will also be permitted to trade.

17) As their sureties for the repayment of the advances as agreed upon and mentioned in Para 3 the contractors offer :

Khoo Siok Wen
Kun Boon King

and the said Khoo Siok Wen and Lim Boon King do hereby affix their seals and sign their names as having duly given warranty for the contractors in this respect.

Signed, sealed and delivered on the 9th day of July 1900.

(Source : History of Sibu Chinese: Documents collected by the Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association,1992)
Contributed by Chang Yi


                                                                                                      Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August 2004 12:29 AM