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Bintulu In Her Early Years : White Rajah, British Colony & Japanese Occupation


Where isBintulu, someone may ask. Bintulu is just a small fishing village in her early days with 5000 population.

Bintulu was acquired by the Brooke's family from the Brunei Sultanate in 1861. The unknown and unexplored new territory attracted the first scientific visitor, an Italian botanist, Odoardo Beccari. Beccari was dropped off at the estuary of the Kemena River by the "Heartease", a vessel which had conveyed 6,000 dollars which the White Rajah of Sarawak then had to pay annually to the Sultan of Brunei for the cession of the Mukah and Bintulu Districts.

" The wooden fort of Bintulu was in ruinous condition," was Beccari's first remarks. At that time, Bintulu consisted of wooden shop houses of a few daring Chinese, mainly Teochew clan from China who settled in the shelter of the new fort built by the Brookes government. Beyong the shops were the houses of the Melanaus on both sides of the river where Kampung Bintulu and Kampung Jepak were located.

Before 1861, the Melanaus had lived at Kuala Segan, Juala Spadok and Kuala Silas. In 1867, Beccari spotted some remains of the houses at these tributaries of the Kemena River.




At Bintulu in 1867, the first ever Council Negeri Meeting (the equivalent of the State Legislative Council today) met. The meeting was sanctioned by the ailing James Brooke and convened by Charles Brooke at Bintulu on the northern fringe of the newly acuired territory. At this little and at last peaceful place Charles Brooke with five of his British officers and 16 Malay and Melanau members met and a new era in the conduct of the affairs of State began, not only for Sarawak but all for the territories of Borneo.

Like the rest of Sarawak, Bintulu was ruled by the Brookes family for about 100 years. In january 1941, Sarawak become a colony of Great Britain. Late in that year, the Japanese attacked Sarawak. The Bintulu airfield was sprayed with bombs. Within several days, Sarawak was overran by the Japanese. The Australian forces liberated Sarawak from the Japanese in 1945. Sarawak then reamined as a British protectorate until 1963 when she joined Malaysia.

The onset of the timber extraction industry in the 1950's brought some life to Bintulu. Timber workers, worked alongside with the local fishermen and sago collectors. In the 1960's, Bintulu celebrated two centenaries. In 1961, it celebrated 100 years of the secession of Bintulu from Brunei. In 1967, it celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the First Council Negeri Meeting. No one in Bintulu knew then, that in the waters off the Bintulu coast are large reserves of "bubbling gold". A year later, one of the world largest reserves of natural gas was discovered.


Bubbling Black Gold Found : A New Era Begin


Nothing was done to this bubbling gold until 1974, when the national oil company PETRONAS was formed in the aftermath of the 1973 oil embargo which resulted in the oil price shock. It became very attractive to harness the bbbling gold from the waters of the once pirate-infested waters off the Bintulu caost.

The government then engaged an international consultant to prepare a development master plan. One of the recommendations was to build a deepwater port at Tanjung Kidurong.

When the Malaysia LNG Sdn. Bhd., a joint-venture company was established on June 14 1978, Bintulu awaited the implementation of the multi-billion dollar gas plant. Less then a month later after the gas company was formed, the Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) was created to coordinate and implement development activities in Bintulu.

The onset of the gigantic projects required upgrading of the services and facilities of Bintulu. As such, within a period of ten years, formed Bintulu from its fishing village into growing industrial centre in this part of the world.

In 1978, Bintulu was a small town. It has 220 shophouses, surrounded by several kampungs on one side and government offices on another side. The estimated 14,000 persons mainly fished or farmed to earn their livings. Other worked in the timber camps while those in town were traders and civil servants.

A new era then begin.........