March 19, 2012

An account of Mat Salleh by Fraser

The following report was published by The Straits Time dated 4 July 1899.

Mat Salleh's sword which he surrendered to Cowie in one of their encounters

Mat Salleh, the rebel chief who has given no end of trouble to the British North Borneo Government until he secured easy terms for submissions has again taken on bad courses. He and the Tegahu tribe attacked several of the Sanswon tribe. Mr Fraser, a Government official, last April, went in person in search of Mat Salleh to call him to account. Mr Fraser met Mat Salleh in person, and had great difficulty in bringing him around. The following are extracts from Mr Fraser’s report:

I then spoke to Mat Salleh about attacking the Sanswon and told him Government expected him to stop that sort of thing and asked him to help me bring about a meeting of the chiefs of the Tegahus and the chiefs of Sanswon and Tambunan; to this he at once agreed and a meeting was arranged for next day. I pointed out to him that any question of compensation for loss of buffaloes or other property and for heads must be relegated to a future date, as both sides were too far sore for there to be any chances of a quiet settlement at present. Mat Salleh wished to dispense altogether with any question of compensation. I, however, pointed out that as he and his friends had seized upwards of eighty buffaloes and also other property, besides killing over thirty people and whereas he and his friends had lost no property and very few lives, his suggestion was rather one-sided and unfair; so he agreed to leave the question of settlement at a future meeting. On the day and place for the meeting, I went and met Mat Salleh and told him that, as we had come unarmed, he and his people must do the same and he gave orders accordingly. Before the ceremony of swearing peace began, Mat Salleh again opened up the question of compensation, and for nearly an hour gave me reason after reason why his plan was better, however, I did not see it in his light and so he gave in. All went off quietly till near the end when there was some slight trouble, a Tambunan man, dressed in loin cloth and a soldier’s scarlet tunic with white facings, suggesting that if a Bajow tribesman was caught stealing eggs or fowls, might all the curses rest on his head. Mat Salleh got annoyed and it was not until it had been pointed out to him that there was no reason to take it personally that he quieted down; still it rather spoilt the harmony which up to then existed. After the whole thing was over and having taken a photo of Mat Salleh, I returned to Nodoh. I wrote to Mat Salleh, impressing on him that in the future, if he had any complaint against the Tambunans, he must complain to the Government and not fight.

Note : Who were the Sanswon? What happened to the picture of Mat Salleh that Fraser took?
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