THE PASIR SALAK INCIDENT
From the outset, the British Resident was an unwelcome figure and the Malay chieftains
viewed him with suspicion as they too were at the Resident's mercy and this prompted an
uprising against the British.
Pasir Salak, a traditional Malay village with its 'rumah kutai' (homes with long roofs)
easily discernible, about 60km from here, is said to be where Malay nationalism was born
against British greed and arrogance. The Rumah Kutai are the historical site because of in
that house have History of the Pasir Salak Tragedy, Weapons (the Malay Keris, Golok,
Swords, Guns, etc), Transportation, Old Home Furniture, Copper antiquities, Clothing
and Traditional costumes, Tools for farming, Embroideries, Musical Instruments,
Manuscript, Model of Buildings.
At the peak of the uprising, the British Resident James W.W. Birch was murdered by an
Orang Asli, Si Putum, on the behest of Datuk Maharajalela, while bathing near the banks
of Sungai Perak in Pasir Salak.
This bloody incident in Pasir Salak saw fast and furious reaction from the British side
with Datuk Maharajalela, Datuk Sagor, Si Putum and Pandak Endut captured and
executed. Nevertheless, the incident served as a reminder to the British that the Malays
were neither feeble nor easily fooled.
As said by Rais, Birch's murder clearly indicated the nationalistic fervor of the Perak
Malays then. "It was a defining moment not only for the Malays in Larut and Pasir Salak
who were in a crusade to save the state from foreign domination, but also for the British
who failed to understand the Malay psyche and the significance of the Malay royal
institution and its power.
"In the context of Birch's murder, it shows that the Malays were ready to react in
whatever way they could when the sovereignty of their royal institution was at stake," he
3.0 HERITAGE SITE MANAGEMENT
The nation's history written by the colonial masters described those involved in the Pasir
Salak incident as criminals but history rewritten after independence portrayed them
appropriately as heroes. And being aware of the significance of the bloody episode in
Pasir Salak, the former Perak Menteri Besar Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib in 1987 proposed
that the Pasir Salak Historical Complex be built. It was opened by the Regent of Perak
Raja Nazrin Shah in 1990.
3.1 Interpretation and public presentation
At first impression, one would get the idea that the town is rather quiet and slow but
people are friendly and helpful. Anothers that, some activities are provided in Pasir Salak.
For examples, the Pasir Salak Cultural Centre offers cultural activities such as cultural
performances, poetry reading, demonstration of ikatan tengkolok (tying of traditional
headgear), and traditional pastimes like congkak (boardgame), main wau (giant kite
flying), gasing (top spinning) and sepak takraw (wicker ball game).
Anothers that, Pasir Salak Riverine Resort, situated on the banks of the Perak River offers
a unique insight into Malay kampung life. The resort, located at the site where Birch was
assassinated, has 40 chalets with 100 rooms. It was built by the Perak Foundation at the
cost of RM10 million.
Perak Menteri Besar Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib said the resort was not just a holiday
retreat but a place to familiarise guests with the life of a traditional Malay community.
The resort offers boat rides, bicycles to explore the village around Pasir Salak, and
traditional massage from experienced "bidan kampung" (midwives) who live around the
4.0 ISSUES AND DISCUSSION
PLACES OF INTEREST AT PASIR SALAK COMPLEX’S
Nature and Adventure
Dato' Maharaja Lela's Fortress
Situated approximately 50 metres from the Pasir Salak Historical Complex. And close to
the original official residence of Malay warrior Dato' Maharaja Lela, the structure of the
fortress in its original form was basically square, and surrounded by deep drains. The
fortress, along with the official home, was burnt to the ground by British colonial forces
in retaliation to the killing of the British Resident Birch in 1875. Plans are afoot by the
National Museum and Perak State Government t re-constructs the residence and the
fortress used by Datuk Maharaja Lela.
James W.W. Birch's Grave
According to records, James Birch was murdered on the 2nd of November 1875 while he
was taking a bath in the Perak River. His corpse was recovered by the British and he was
finally laid to rest at what is now Bandar Baru, 5 kilometres from Pasir Salak.
Within the Pasir Salak Historical Complex are situated two fine examples of traditional
Perak Malay houses, popularly known as the "Kutai" Houses ("kutai" is a vernacular title
meaning "old" or "ancient"). The structure and constructure of these houses are original
and unique, built using only wood, with special joints and grooves but totally without the
use of metal, (nails,etc). The Kutai Houses have value that show the Malay traditional
houses and culture happen at that time. The old age of furniture in Kutai Houses reveal
the heritage by past until now.
Pasir Salak Cultural Centre
The Pasir Salak Cultural Centre offers cultural activities such as cultural performances,
poetry reading, demonstration of ikatan tengkolok (tying of traditional headgear), and
traditional pastimes like congkak (boardgame), main wau (giant kite flying), gasing (top
spinning) and sepak takraw (wicker ball game). Located within the compounds of the
Pasir Salak Historical Complex.
Pasir Salak Historical Complex
Time seems to stand still in this little village beside a slow river. Pasir Salak is well-
known for its ancient Malay architecture and craft and every wooden house is decorated
with intricate traditional designs and nature inspired motifs. Here, too stands the
memorial dedicated to the historical incident in which the first British Resident in Perak,
J.W.W Birch was slain by the late Maharaja Lela, Dato' Sagor and Si Puntum. There are
also two 'Kutai House' (Perak traditional house) inside the complex. These houses would
display various local historical and Malay culture artifacts.
The Attraction in Pasir Salak
Pasir Salak Complex’s The Malay Keris
Jam Suria Dapur Keris" (Keris Oven) is used by
blacksmiths to create the Malay Keris
J.W.W Birch Monumen Rumah Kutai (Malay Traditional House)
As a conclusion, the Pasir Salak site is totally having their own history from the past of
decade. Many significant values can be found in this historical site. For example, the
establishment of Pasir Salak Complex’s is to remind all generation about the sacrifice of
crusader such as Datuk Maharajalela, Datuk Sagor, Si Putum and Pandak Endut and also
warriors of Perak in defending their dignity, customs and religion. Pasir Salak is the place
where Malaysia's modern history began, Malaysia's cultural heritage. It's where the spirit of
independence from the British got shape, where democracy was in Malaysia was born and
therefore an important piece of the Malaysian heritage. For our information, the Pasir Salak
Historical Complex has been included in the calendar of events for Visit Perak Year next
year. This initiative is to give awareness or remain to public about the scarification of Perak
warriors in defending this places.