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The Death of Yap Ah Sze

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The Death of Yap Ah Sze.

The contention between the Chinese (primarily the Hakkas) started with the death of Kapitan Liu Ngim Kong, then Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur. When Kapitan Liu was dying of sickness he had wanted Yap Ah Sze to take over his position but the latter declined the offer. Kapitan Liu wanted Yap Ah Sze for the position was because he was reputed for honesty and straight dealings, and commanded great influence with the miners. However, Yap Ah Sze declined the offer. After due consideration, they decided that Yap Ah Loy (a Fei Chew Hakka) should be the new Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, this decision was not well accepted by Kapitan Liu’s relatives (which included clansmen of the surnames Liu, Kon and Chong). Soon quarrel broke out between the two factions and the bitterness lasted for some time until Sutan Puasa came forward to explain that it was the Sultan’s intention to see Yap Ah Loy become the next Kapitan. This explanation had silenced the quarrel but not the enmity between the two sides. This showed that right from the start, Yap Ah Loy’s Kapitanship was challenged.

Knowing the fact that Yap Ah Sze played a role in the decision of Kapitanship, his popularity among the Liu’s relatives as well as the Hakkas (of Kah Yeng Chews) in Kanching had declined considerably. Furthermore, Yap Ah Sze was appointed the “nominal” headman in Kanching. In February, 1869 (during Chinese New Year), about five months after Yap Ah Loy became Kapitan China, Chong Chong arrived in Kuala Lumpur. Chong Chong was a mining headman who had given employment to Yap Ah Loy at Lukut nearly fifteen years earlier. Chong Chong like Yap Ah Loy was a Fei Chew Hakka and he came with the intention of challenging the Kapitanship of Yap Ah Loy. Kapitan Yap had suspected his intention of coming to Kuala Lumpur but gave him a warm reception anyway. When Chong Chong was staying in the town, news reached Kapitan Yap that Chong Chong and his men wanted to create disturbance and assassinate him that night. Thus, Kapitan Yap took full precaution by placing thirty special guards around the town. Nothing happened that night. But trouble soon broke out when Chong Chong and his men caused some disturbance in Sutan Puasa’s residence with the intention of wanting the Kapitan to arrest him so that he could cause an uprising from his people. Ever tactful and clever was the Kapitan, he did not do so, instead he compensated Sutan Puasa on Chong Chong's behalf, and told Sutan Puasa that the compensation was from Chong Chong. Seeing this, Chong Chong left Kuala Lumpur for Kanching. From this point onwards it becomes very clear that Chong Chong was not only the leader of the late Kapitan’s dissatisfied relatives but also the Kah Yeng Chew Hakkas at Kanching.

The Kah Yeng Chews frequently created trouble for Yap Ah Sze in Kanching. The fact that Yap Ah Sze had a mild disposition and was only interested in trade did not affect their attitude. They resented the fact that a Fei Chew (Yap Ah Sze) was their commanding chief, instead of one from their own clan. Knowing this hostility towards himslef, on the twelfth day of the Chinese New Year, Yap Ah Sze left Kanching secretly on horseback, accompanied by a servant with the hope of escaping. However, his departure was known. As soon as he reached the hills outside Kanching, he was set upon by Chong Chong’s men and murdered. The horse he was riding subsequently arrived in the market place opposite Kapitan Yap’s house in Kuala Lumpur. Its empty saddle brought news of its master’s death. It was said that the horse neighed loudly three times and wept for its master. With the murder of Yap Ah Sze, Chong Chong had removed Kapitan Yap’s most important friend and ally.

Kapitan Yap took the necessary steps he could to investigate the circumstances of the murder. He assembled a large force including Sutan Puasa's men, and advanced to Kanching to demand an explanation as well as to recover the body of Yap Ah Sze. The Kah Yeng Chews denied involvement and simply said that they knew nothing about the matter. As they had no proof, the Kapitan was compelled to let them go. Kapitan Yap then sent a messenger to Chong Chong requesting for a meeting. But Chong Chong refused to come and merely replied that he knew nothing about Yap Ah Sze's death. Kapitan Yap had no choice but to moved to Chong Chong’s camp. As soon as the Kapitan’s men were near the camp, Chong Chong and his men fired their guns and fled into the jungle. Kapitan Yap’s men went in pursuit but failed to capture Chong Chong.  The Kapitan and Sutan Puasa then went back to Kanching to demand debts owed to Yap Ah Sze’s widow but the Kah Yeng Chews refused to hand in the dues. This frustration resulted in fighting between the two sides that ended up in the death of more than 100 Kah Yeng Chews. This incident was known as the Massacre of Kanching and is considered a dark chapter in Kapitan Yap Ah Loy’s history. Ever since then, the enmity between Kapitan Yap Ah Loy and Chong Chong widened and soon ended up in open conflict.

 

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The History of Yap Ah Loy
This page was last modified on September 12, 2000