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ISSN 0036-2131




Muhammad Afif, Anna Wong and Yong Huaimei

Frog Diversity at Keningau Headquarters and Ulu Senagang Substation,

Crocker Range Park, Sabah

Anna Wong, Yong Huaimei, Christopher Wong and

Jumrafiah Abd. Shukor

Population Study on Sambar Deer and Bearded Pigs in Paitan Forest

Reserve and the Surrounding Areas, Pitas, Sabah

Bianca M. Gerlich
Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist: The Rise and Fall of a North Bornean


Datuk Mohammed Yaman Ahmad Mus

(29 September193828 December 2012)

Datuk Mohammed Yaman Ahmad Mus, Past President of The Sabah Society,
passed away at his home in Putatan on Friday 28 December 2012.
Datuk Yaman was born on 29 September 1938 at Putatan in a family of mixed
ancestry of Bajau, Dusun, Iban and Chinese descent. He was educated at Buit
Hill Primary School, Putatan, Sacred Heart Primary School, Jesselton (now
Kota Kinabalu) and All Saints Secondary School, Likas. From his school days
he showed keen interest in graphic arts and took to producing cartoons, comic
strips and paintings.
Datuk Yaman went to the UK on sponsorship and completed his art studies at
Hornsey College of Art (UK) and the London University (A.T.C. London). In
1970 he returned to Sabah to take up an appointment as art lecturer and head
of the art department at Gaya Teachers Training College. He re-activated the
Sabah Art Club and was elected as its new President.
He returned to the UK in 1974, and worked as a freelance graphic designer.
In 1980, he returned to Sabah for good and held many important positions in
the states arts and culture sector, most notable of which was as Director of

Sabah Art Gallery, which he established in 1984. In that capacity Datuk Yaman was
the designer of historical paraphernalia including the Sabah flag, state crest, emblem,
state medals, and state ceremonial attire, including the official robes of the lord mayor
of Kota Kinabalu. He also designed the logos of many organisations including the
State Museum, Sabah Cultural Board, Sabah Art Society, Sabah Islamic Council, and
Gaya Teachers Training College.
Datuk Yaman held the post of President of The Sabah Society in 19831984. He also
designed the Societys logo the twin letters SS shaped in the form of a Murut
leaf motif.
Datuk Yaman was decorated with many state awards including the ADK, ASDK and
PGDK, the last of which carries the title Datuk. He leaves behind two children, son
Rashid and daughter Rokiah, both of whom reside in England. His passing is a great
loss to Sabah and his absence will be deeply felt by all art lovers in the state.
Dr Ravi Mandalam

Hajah Puan Zahra Yaacob

(5 May 19483 December 2012)

Zahra Yaacob was initially a distant acquaintance. I knew of her in the early
1980s by name only, by her reputation as a dynamic squash player and a
champion in the sport, and also as a senior official at the Sabah Foundation
library. But that changed when she was roped into the Sabah Society by
the then President, Dr Richard Dingley. With her natural warmth and
friendliness, we became close friends while serving in the Committee. Zahra
was unanimously elected Honorary Secretary of the Society, a position she
held for 22 consecutive years, from 1985 till 2006, establishing a record as
its longest-serving Secretary. She was so good at it, becoming a pillar of the
Sabah Society, and for several years was almost synonymous with it.
The Society greatly benefitted during her tenure as Honorary Secretary due
to her natural efficiency, orderliness, skills and organisational ability as a
professional librarian. She was Library Officer and Head of Acquisitions
from 19791982 in the Tun Fuad Stephens Research Library of the Sabah
Foundation, and was promoted to Deputy Chief Librarian 19841985, and to
its helm as Chief Librarian from 19852004.

For many years after its founding the Society was itinerant, with no permanent
premises or office to house its holdings of journals, books and other miscellany
or to hold its meetings and public talks. The Society invariably went where
the President or Secretary was located. Meetings were usually held at the
Presidents office or house and talks at the Sabah Museum and, later, courtesy
of local hotels. During the Societys critical period of growth and development
as it established itself as a premier literary and educational local NGO from
the 1980s to the 1990s, Zahra was a central figure. The Society owes many of
its achievements in the two significant decades of these transformative years
and its advance into the new millennium to Zahra for her tireless efforts to
maintain its continuity and activities during the transition. Through her innate
energy and conscientious attention to order and detail she assiduously kept
track of the Societys records and holdings and liaised with members both at
home and abroad as well as officials, especially the Societys all-important
annual submissions to the Registrar of Societies. In 2005 the Society eventually
attained its landmark goal, to own and move to its permanent premises.
Zahras invaluable and wide network of friends, relatives, various alumni,
her peers in the library profession and acquaintances in Peninsular Malaysia,
Sabah and Sarawak was shared with the Society. Coming from a distinguished
family she was also the only girl in a family of boys her siblings
included a brigadier general in the armed forces and a board member of the
Straits Times Group as well as eminent maternal relatives who were royalty.
The Society was able to tap her illustrious connections and reach leading
public and political figures who graced milestone Sabah Society events. Her
determination and persistence often paid off, with VIP speakers becoming de
rigueur for the Societys milestone functions and engagements, which served
to value-add the Societys activities and profile as well as increase its stature.
Eventually Zahra stepped down as Secretary, but to move up to lead the
Society as its President for two terms, 20062008 and 20092010.
During her service with the Sabah Foundation, Zahra was conferred the State
Award of ADK (Ahli Darjah Kinabalu) or Member of the Order of Kinabalu.
After she officially retired from the Sabah Foundation, serving in her last
position as Research Manager in the Borneo Research Centre, she continued
working. An inactive life of retirement was not for her. She joined the Sabah
Environmental Action Committee as Project Officer for its Community
Participation in River Management for the Salut-Mengkabong Lagoon project,
2005-2006, and after as its administrative officer from 20082010.

Zahra held a Bachelors (Honours) degree from the University of Malaya and
Masters degree from the College of Librarianship, University of Wales in 1984,
as well as a Diploma in Public Relations. She specialised in documentation,
bibliography and indexing, and was responsible for indexing the Sabah
Society Journals. Before trans-locating to Sabah she was a librarian at the
National Library of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, where she held the positions
of Reader Advisor (19731976), Compiler of Index Majalah Malaysia (1974
1976), Acquisition Librarian (19761979), and Editor of Buletin Sekitar
During her tenure at Borneo Research Centre, Zahra saw to the publication
of a number of books pertaining to Sabah, including the reprint of John
Whiteheads Exploration of Kina Balu, a seminal work on the natural history
of Mount Kinabalu first published in London in 1893. She was also responsible
for the landmark publication entitled Traditional Stone and Wood Monuments
of Sabah by Brother Peter R. Phelan in 1997. Aside from Sabah Society
publications, she was later involved as a compiler of the Sejarah Ringkas Tuan
Yang Terutama Yang di Pertua Negeri Sabah dan Governor Borneo Utara
published by the Sabah State Library in 2006.
In addition to her work Zahra remained continually and actively involved in a
number of public interest groups and welfare organisations, which also speaks
of her character, social spirit and personal qualities. Among them were:
1. Soroptimist International Club of Likas, Kota Kinabalu, President, 2001
2. Sabah Women Advisory Council: Member Education Committee, 2000
3. Sabah Society for the Blind, Vice-President, 20042006.
4. Sabah Society for the Blind, Wallace Shelter Workshop Committee,
5. Mercy Malaysia, Executive Director, 2010.
6. Befrienders, Kota Kinabalu, Volunteer.
7. Library Association of Malaysia: Member since 1974.
8. Library Association of Malaysia: Executive Board Member, 19891991.
9. Library Association of Malaysia: Chairman Sabah Group, 19852008.
Throughout our friendship I always knew Zahra as a warm, kind and generous
person, with a wonderful sense of humour. Generally referred to as Puan Zahra,
she was always considerate of others. But she could be firm when she had to
be, often tempered by her wit, sense of fun as well as her serendipity. Among
some fond recollections of her is her cornucopia of home-made cakes and

cookies, brought back after the Hari Raya holidays from Peninsular Malaysia,
which she shared with friends and Society committee members. An active and
outdoor person, Zahra was also known to be hardy and adventurous in her
younger days, and enjoyed camping in Taman Negara and going boating with
her library colleagues. Playing squash came naturally to her and she excelled
in the sport. An accomplished mah-jong player, playing for fun, she has been
described by a friend as an expert in the game. But for all her public activities
and persona Zahra remained essentially a very private person, and generally
shied away from publicity. She seldom spoke of her illustrious extended
family ties, but if she did, generally focused more on her immediate family,
her husband and son who were with her in Sabah.
At the time of the celebration of the Sabah Societys 50th Anniversary in
March 2011, Zahra had already moved to Sepang, Selangor to rejoin and
assist her husband in his recovery from a health ailment and her son; both
had returned to the Peninsula before her. At the request of the then President,
Datuk Chan Chew Lun, she came back to Kota Kinabalu for two weeks to help
him with the enormous task of organising the Golden Jubilee celebration and
proof-read the special commemorative account The Sabah Society 19602010.
In recognition of her outstanding contribution to the Societys growth and
development she was presented the Presidents award at its 50th Anniversary
celebration. Undeniably, her departure left a huge void in the Sabah Society
and in the lives of her close friends in Sabah.
But alas, the aggressive resurgence of a residual cancer, treated and controlled
a few years back, sadly and unexpectedly claimed her life in December 2012.
She leaves behind her beloved husband, Hussein Yaacob, son Saberin, an
extended family and a multitude of friends to mourn her loss. May she rest
in Peace!
Patricia Regis

Susan Mary Phillipps

(18 January 19151 February 2013)

On 1 February 2013 Susan Mary Phillipps passed away peacefully at her home
in Kota Kinabalu, where she had spent the last 50 years of her life. Susan first
arrived in the then colony of North Borneo, just after the war, in 1946, as a
young bride, the wife of Alfred Emile Phillipps (affectionately called A.E.),
a merchant trader.
Susans great-grandfather served in the British army in China during the Boxer
Rebellion and his stories, passed down to Susan, inspired a life-long love of
all things Chinese. At Oxford University she studied French and Chinese, and
learnt to speak Mandarin. Following this she worked as a translator at the
Chinese Embassy in London before joining the United Nations Relief and
Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) which sent her out to Shanghai in
1945, after the end of Second World War.
Flying out to the East, she was delayed in Calcutta for several days because of
storms over the Himalayan mountains. It was here that she met and fell in
love with A.E., on his way to Hong Kong and then back to Sabah, where he
had been interned by the Japanese during the war.

They were married in Hong Kong on 8 June 1946, before coming to Sabah,
where they lived in Sandakan, in a small attap-thatched house on stilts over the
water before building a more permanent dwelling, Leila Lodge, on the ridge
above Sandakan town, and it was in Sandakan that five of her six children
Hugo, Karen, Charles, Quentin and Jeremy were born.
In 1956 A.E. retired and the family moved back to England, living in the
village of Liss, near Petersfield in southern England, so the children could
attend school at Bedales. Here the youngest of the children, Anthea, was born,
but soon the wet, grey climate of England and the cold became too much and
in 1958 the family moved back to the sunny climate of Borneo, where A.E
became a partner in, and manager of, the Tuaran Rubber Estate (now a part of
the Sabah Rubber Industry Board).
Susans time here honed her interest in the natural world around her and in
1960 she and A.E. became founding members of the Sabah Society. Gardening
was a passion. She and A.E. hosted garden visits for the Jesselton Gardening
Club members and took part in the flower shows, winning many prizes. Her
diaries from this period are full of the joy she took in the plants and flowers
she added to her garden. She also developed a keen interest in bird-watching
and loved to watch the flocks of snowy-white egrets flying past a backdrop of
Kinabalu, lit up in the evening sunlight, on their way to roost . the long
blue-shadowed summit afloat on a sea of cloud, impossibly high and remote,
yet only thirty miles away. Bird-watching soon became an enjoyable hobby
for all the family.
In 1963 A.E. retired for the second time and, after another short stint in England
while his new house on the seashore in Kota Kinabalu was built, the family
moved back to Sabah. This was where Susan was to live for her remaining 50
years. She and A.E. continued developing their interest in the natural world
and here Susans children grew up, developing their own interests, inspired
by their parents, before going off to boarding schools, universities and jobs.
Hugo studied Chinese at the University of Hong Kong and then emigrated
to Australia, where he worked on the conservation of birds with BirdLife
Australia. Karen, also living in Hong Kong, became a freelance illustrator,
producing many books, including field guides for birds and mammals in
South-east Asia, A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and, most recently,
Phillipps Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo in collaboration with her brother
Quentin, as well as much graphic work for the WWF (World Wildlife Fund).

Charles, staying closer to home, obtained a degree in Forestry from the

University of Wales before taking up the job of Forest Ecologist with the
Forestry Department in Sabah, but later also emigrated to Australia. Quentin,
who studied at Cambridge University, stayed in England to build up his
business, but continued to develop his interest in Sabah birds, writing Phillipps
Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, illustrated by Karen, in 2009. Jeremy, who
followed Susans footsteps to Oxford, also stayed in England, and Anthea,
after obtaining a degree in Botany at the University of Durham in England,
also returned to Sabah, working as the Park Ecologist at Kinabalu Park before
she married Anthony Lamb.
With the death of A.E. in 1974, and with time on her hands, Susan took up
painting. She had always kept a diary from her earliest years in Borneo, and
now she started to make small drawings to illustrate it. Both Charles and
Anthea would bring back memorable flowers they had found on their trips
into the forests, and as Susans talent developed she went on to make fullscale paintings of many of the wonderful plants she saw. Soon she decided to
combine her talents for writing and painting in a book, Enchanted Gardens of
Kinabalu a Borneo Diary, full of stories of discovery and delight, based
around the great mountain of Kinabalu that she loved so much. This was
published in 1995, and is a unique record of the natural world around her
during her life in Borneo and a fitting legacy of her talents and her love of
Across the valley now the great wall of the mountain looms ever closer
and higher, filling the sky; the stupendous bastions and precipices
seeming to lean out over the valley the windowsill of heaven ...
the highest slopes are glistening wet, streaked with bands of shining
white quartzite and streams of white water pouring down the vertical
walls of the summit plateau . The heart lifts to feel the fresh cool of
the hill forest, to hear the calls of tree-pie and barbet echoing across
the valleys, to sense with awe the mountain presence, and to see at
last from close to, the splendid bare summit crags far up in the sky
above the wreath of clouds that hide its mystery.
Enchanted Gardens of Kinabalu a Borneo Diary
Anthea Phillipps

Sabah Society Journal Vol. 29 (2012) 18

Frog Diversity at Keningau Headquarters and

Ulu Senagang Substation, Crocker Range Park, Sabah
Muhammad Afif, Anna Wong* and Yong Huaimei

Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation

Universiti Malaysia Sabah
UMS Road
88400 Kota Kinabalu


Keningau headquarters and Ulu Senagang substation are two of the ten substations
located in the Crocker Range Park, Sabah. A study on frog diversity was carried out
to update the inventory record of frog species found at Keningau headquarters and
to provide baseline information on Ulu Senagang substation. Surveys were carried
out for four consecutive nights at each substation by applying the visual encounter
survey (VES) technique. Two line transects, each 250 m in length, were established
at each substation, and sampling was carried out from 19002200 h every night.
Forty-nine individuals from thirteen species and six families were found at Keningau
headquarters; nine species are new records for that location. At Ulu Senagang
substation, forty-two individuals from nine species in three families were found.
Seven species found are endemic to Borneo. Shannons diversity indices showed the
diversity of frogs at Keningau headquarters (2.301) was higher than at Ulu Senagang
substation (2.069). However, the t-test proves that the values were not significantly
different. This study provides new distribution data for conservation monitoring of
frog species of the Crocker Range Park.


The island of Borneo has high diversity and high endemism of flora and fauna.
Amphibians such as frogs and toads (Order: Anuran) are among the groups with
high species diversity in Borneo; seven families comprising 37 genera and 160 frog
species can be found here. In Sabah 108 species of frogs from 30 genera and seven
families have been reorded (Frost, 2004; Inger & Stuebing, 2005). Most frog species
live on terrestrial and riparian terrain, in both lowland and highland areas.


Frogs are very sensitive towards physical changes in the environment due to their
moist, semi-permeable skin (Inger & Stuebing, 2005). The condition of disturbed
environments can sometimes be determined by studying the frog species dwelling
in the area, e.g. by comparing the species occurrence in old, disturbed or fragmented
forest (Porter, 2010). Thus, frog communities can serve as good biological indicators
for monitoring any changes in the ecosystem (Mertz et al., 2005).
Worldwide, many studies have been conducted on the taxonomy, ecology and
diversity of anurans. Diversity and inventory studies are not new in Sabah, and several
have been conducted in the Crocker Range Park (e.g. Ramlah et al., 2001; Kueh
et al., 2004; Rozita et al., 2012). However, it is highly probable that new species
or additional records will continue to be found in the Crocker Range Park since it
occupies an area of 1399 km2 and has not yet been fully explored. Inventory studies
are important to update the species checklist and for the conservation of the Anura of
Sabah. The main objective of this study was to identify the frog species richness, to
update the inventory record of frog species at Keningau headquarters and to establish
base data for Ulu Senagang substation.


Study site
The study was conducted at Ulu Senagang substation (N 05 21 47.1, E 116 01
42.6) one of ten substations in the Crocker Range, and at the Keningau headquarters
(N 05 24 21.8, E 116 06 01.6) (Fig. 1). Ulu Senagang substation is in lowland
secondary forest at an elevation of 500 m asl while Keningau headquarters is in mixed
dipterocarp forest at 1000 m asl.
Data collection
Two 250-m line transects were established at each substation. The visual encounter
survey (VES) technique was used to search for frogs within an area of five metres on
each side of the transects. Headlamps and torchlights were used to detect eye shine.
Sampling was conducted at 19002200 h on four nights in early June and in October
Every frog caught during the sampling was placed in a transparent plastic bag and the
snout vent length (SVL) and weight of each frog were measured. Identification of the
species was done based on the morphology and using the key of Inger and Stuebing
(2005). Every specimen was photographed, and the frogs were released after the data
had been recorded.

Frog Diversity at Keningau Headquarters & Ulu Senagang Substation

Fig. 1. Map of study site. (Source: GIS Laboratory in ITBC, UMS.)


Statistical analysis
The Shannon diversity index was used to determine the diversity of frog species at
both sites. The t-test was used to prove the significant difference in species diversity
at the two substations.

A total of 91 frogs from 18 species and 6 families (Bufonidae, Megophryidae,

Microhylidae, Dicroglossidae, Ranidae and Rhacophoridae) were found at the two
substations (Table 1). The number of frogs caught at Keningau headquarters (49
individuals, 13 species) was slightly higher than that at Ulu Senagang substation (42
individuals, 9 species).
Table 1. Number of frogs captured according to species.



Keningau Ulu Senagang IUCN


Ansonia longidigita*
Phrynoidis juxtaspera
Dicroglossidae Fejervarya limnocharis
Limnonectes finchi*
Limnonectes kuhlii
Megophryidae Leptobrachium abbotti*
Megophrys nasuta
Chaperina fusca
Meristogenys orphnocnemis*
Meristogenys phaeomerus*
Meristogenys whiteheadi*
Hylarana chalconota
Hylarana luctuosa
Oorrana hosii
Staurois latopalmatus*
Staurois natator
Rhacophoridae Polypedates leucomystax
Polypedates otilophus

*Endemic to Borneo
NT: Near threatened
LC: least concern









Frog Diversity at Keningau Headquarters & Ulu Senagang Substation

Species of Ranidae were the most abundant encountered (8 species), followed by

Dicroglossidae (3 species), then Bufonidae, Megophryidae and Rhacophoridae (2
species each). Only one species of Microhylidae was found. Ranidae are mostly
riparian and spend most of their life cycle near rivers (Ramlah et al., 2001; Inger &
Stuebing, 2005). In this study, most transects were established along the rivers and
sampling efforts were focused there; hence, this is one factor why the study sites were
dominated by Ranidae. Also, Ranidae is a family with wide distribution and many
species around the world; therefore it is not surprising that many members of this
family were found in both study areas.
Limnonectes kuhlii was the most abundant frog species found (15 individuals),
followed by Meristogenys orphnocnemis (14 individuals) and M. phaeomerus (9
individuals), forming 41 per cent of the total.
Seven of the 18 frog species caught are endemic to Borneo: Ansonia longidigita,
Leptobrachium abbotti, Limnonectes finchi, Meristogenys orphnocnemis, M.
phaeomerus, M. whiteheadi and Staurois latopalmatus. In addition, Ansonia
longidigita and Meristogenys whiteheadi are listed as near threatened (NT) in the
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Ansonia longidigita, which was found at Keningau headquarters, usually inhabits
primary forest or old secondary forest with steep terrain at an elevation of 1502200
m asl (Inger & Stuebing, 2005); it was found at Keningau headquarters substation
at an elevation of 1152 m asl. It is reported that A. longidigita is unable to adapt
to modified habitats (IUCN, 2012). In contrast, the other IUCN NT species found
at Ulu Senagang substation, Meristogenys whiteheadi, has been found only in hilly
rainforests below 1300 m asl. The breeding of both these species occurs in lotic, clear,
rocky-bottomed streams, where their larvae cling to rocks in strong currents and feed
on lithophytic algae. Their survival strongly depends on the stream conditions in
areas of undisturbed forest habitat. Yet the quality of its habitat is declining rapidly
due to widespread deforestation in Borneo, making these species close to qualifying
for vulnerable status (Inger & Stuebing, 2005; IUCN, 2012).
Limnonectes finchi is another frog species unique to Borneo. The adult male guards
the fertilised eggs under dead leaves until they hatch and carries the newly hatched
tadpoles to the nearest river or rain pools on the forest floor where the larvae will then
develop (Inger & Stuebing, 2005).
This study added nine new frog species to the inventory of frogs at Keningau
headquarters which was compiled by Ramlah et al. in 2001: Chaperina fusca,
Leptobrachium abbotti, Megophrys nasuta, Meristogenys orphnocnemis, M.
phaeomerus, Polypedates leucomystax, P. otilophus, Hylarana luctuosa and H.
chalconota (Table 2). Leptobrachium abbotti and Megophrys nasuta (Megophryidae)
are common forest wanderers which only return to streams for breeding purposes.


Table 2. Comparison of species composition at Keningau headquarters substation

in previous inventory and this study.

Previous inventory
Results from
(Ramlah et al., 2001) this study
Ansonia longidigita
Ansonia leptopus

Phrynoidis juxtaspera
Megophryidae Leptobrachium abbotti

Leptobrachium montanum

Leptolalax gracilis

Leptolalax pictus

Megophrys nasuta

Microhylidae Chaperina fusca

Kalophrynus pleurostigma

Dicroglossidae Fejervarya limnocharis


Limnonectes finchi
Limnonectes kuhlii
Occidozyga baluensis

Hylarana luctuosa

Hylarana chalconota

Meristogenys orphnocnemis

Meristogenys phaeomerus

Meristogenys poecilus

Rhacophoridae Polypedates leucomystax

Polypedates macrotis

Polypedates otilophus

13 sp.
13 sp.


Note: + Present Absent

Chaperina fusca (Microhylidae) inhabits primary rainforest and forest edges, where
it breeds in small, temporary water bodies that are rich in decaying organic forest
matter. Hyalarana luctuosa (Ranidae) is a fossorial frog species which is seldom
found due to its secretive habits, while Hylarana chalconota (also Ranidae) is a
common frog that is usually seen along small lowland forest streams, but is also seen
in other areas. Meristogenys orphnocnemis and M. phaeomerus (Ranidae) are riparian
species that live in lowland forest with steep terrain. Like Meristogenys whiteheadi,
they breed in clear, torrent, rocky-bottomed streams, and are endemic to Borneo.
Polypedates leucomystax and P. otilophus (Rhacophoridae) are tree frogs that live in

Frog Diversity at Keningau Headquarters & Ulu Senagang Substation

lowland forest and disturbed habitats; both species depend on temporary rain pools
for breeding (Inger & Stuebing, 2005; IUCN, 2012).
Keningau headquarters is located in secondary forest but is less disturbed than Ulu
Senagang substation which is surrounded by rubber plantations and undoubtedly
why the species richness was lower in Ulu Senagang substation. However, certain
species Phrynoidis juxtaspera, Limnonectes kuhlii, Meristogenys orphnocnemis
and M. phaeomerus can adapt to slightly disturbed habitat and were found at both
The Shannons diversity index at Keningau headquarters was 2.301 and at Ulu
Senagang substation 2.069. However, there was no significant difference in species
diversity for the two substations (T-test, t=1.96, P>0.05).


The results of this study conducted at the two substations provide new geographical
information for other researchers on anurans in the Crocker Range Park. The data
collected in this study augments prior baseline data for future monitoring of frogs
at Ulu Senagang substation, and for updating the checklist of frogs at Keningau
headquarters. Also important for future frog conservation are the records of seven
endemic species and two near threatened (NT) species found in the study sites where
the exact locality has been provided.


Frost, D. (2004). Amphibian Species of the World 3.0. An online reference. The
American Museum of Natural History. Accessed 14102010.
Inger, R.F. & Stuebing, R.B. (2005). A Field Guide to the Frogs of Borneo. Natural
History Publications (Borneo), Kota Kinabalu.
IUCN (2012). Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1.
Accessed 22 August 2012.
Kueh, B.H., Ahmad, S., Matsui, M. & Maryati, M. (2004). Notes on the anurans
of Crocker Range Park. In: Maryati M., Zulhazman H., Tachi, T., & Nais, J.
(eds.). Crocker Range Scientific Expedition 2002. Universiti Malaysia Sabah,
Kota Kinabalu, pp. 103112.
Mertz, L.A., Allen, C.J., Harris, M.S., Schlager, N. & Weisblatt, J. (eds.) (2005).
Grizmeks Student Animal Life Resource: Amphibians Vol. 1. Thomson Gale,
Farmington Hills.
Porter, A. (2010). Abundance and Diversity of Anuran Species in Danum Valley,
Sabah, Borneo. The Plymouth Student Scientist 3(1): 3450.


Ramlah, Z., Lizanah, W. & Haidar, A. (2001). An Account of Anuran of Crocker

Range National Park, Sabah. In: Ismail, G. & Ali, L. (eds.). A Scientific Journey
through Borneo: The Crocker Range National Park, Sabah. Vol. 1: Natural
Ecosystem and Species Components. ASEAN Academic Press, London.
Rozita, Z., Wong, A. & Yong, H. (2012). Diversity of Frogs and Their Microhabitats
in the Riparian Area of Mahua and Ulu Kimanis Substations, Crocker Range
Park, Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation 9(1):

Sabah Society Journal Vol. 29 (2012) 917

Population Study on Sambar Deer and Bearded Pigs in

Paitan Forest Reserve and the Surrounding Areas, Pitas, Sabah
Anna Wong*, Yong Huaimei, Christopher Wong and Jumrafiah Abd. Shukor1
Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ITBC)
Universiti Malaysia Sabah
88999 Kota Kinabalu
Jabatan Hidupan Sabah
Wisma MUIS, Jalan Muis
88200 Kota Kinabalu


There were no exact data available on the numbers of Sambar deer and Bearded pigs
killed annually in Sabah for meat. This study, carried out in Paitan Forest Reserve
and surrounding areas, was conducted and is published in an attempt to (a) provide a
simple methodology for collecting data on the relative abundance of Sambar deer and
Bearded pigs in any habitat and location in Sabah for eventual comparative purposes,
and (b) stimulate interest in the idea of working towards a State-wide programme for
monitoring population trends in these species as a basis for management of hunting.


Hunting of wild mammals for meat in Borneo has considerable and, in some areas,
critical nutritional and economic significance for rural people, especially those with
few or no sources of cash income (Caldecott, 1992; Bennett & Robinson, 2000;
Carpaneto & Fusari, 2000; De Merode et al., 2004). The major loss and degradation
of forest that has occurred in Sabah over the past few decades due to repeated
commercial logging and conversion of lowlands to oil palm and other plantation crops
has had major impact on the availability of wild mammals as a protein source for rural
communities. However, in the absence of major surveys and rigorous studies, it has
not been shown that the impact of logging and plantation expansion has been entirely


Two well-known and popular target species for hunters in Sabah are the Sambar deer
(Cervus unicolor), known locally as payau, especially favoured amongst Muslim
communities, and the Bearded pig (Sus barbatus), locally called bakas or babi hutan,
favoured by non-Muslim communities in Borneo (Diong, 1973; Meijaard & Sheil,
2008). Bernard (1994) stated that the Sambar deer is the most hunted deer species in
the west coast region of Sabah. According to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD,
pers. comm.), the number of hunting licences issued for Sambar deer is the highest,
followed by barking deer, then mousedeer. A Sambar deer hunting licence, which
allows the killing of one deer, costs RM50 and is valid for one week. Bearded pig
(RM5 per head and per licence) is by far the most preferred and most consumed
species of wild meat or protein source for non-Muslims throughout Borneo. Research
conducted in the early 1980s showed that nearly half of the total annual protein
requirement for Sarawaks 1.4 million population was Bearded pig (Caldecott &
Nyaoi, 1985).


Study site
The study was carried out in the Paitan river catchment, which is located in Pitas
District in northern Sabah (Fig. 1), approximately 130 km north-east of Kota
Kinabalu. In 2000 the population of the Pitas area was recorded as 30,854, with 29
villages around Paitan (Malaysia Department of Statistics, 2007). The largest ethnic
group is Rungus (18.4%), a Kadazan subgroup (Malaysia Department of Statistics,
Paitan Forest Reserve lies to the south-east of Pitas town, about 28 km from the
junction of the PitasKanibungan highway (N 6 38.77, E 117 12.88). Classified as
class II forest (Commercial Forest), it occupies approximately 70,900 hectares in two
blocks. Only one block has been surveyed; the other block has not been visited due to
access difficulties (Sabah Forestry Department, 2005). This forest reserve has gentle
slopes with low hills about 3060 m high. Approximately 60 per cent of the area is
regenerating heavily logged dipterocarp forest and the remainder is mature secondary
forest. According to residents of local communities, large mammals such as deer and
Bearded pig are plentiful in this forest reserve (Wong et al., 2012).
This study was carried out from 2008 to 2009. Line transects were established and
surveyed in Paitan Forest Reserve in 2008, while night surveys using spotlighting
with four-wheel-drive vehicles were conducted in three oil palm plantations adjacent
to Paitan Forest Reserve in 2009.


Population Study on Sambar Deer and Bearded Pigs

Fig. 1. Map of Paitan Forest Reserve where night surveys using spotlighting and 4-wheel drive vehicles
were conducted. (Source: GIS Laboratory in ITBC, UMS.)



Sampling methods
(a) Line transect survey
Line transect sampling technique based on direct sighting (individuals of Sambar
deer or Bearded pig sighted) and indirect sighting (footprints and markings of Sambar
deer or Bearded pig sighted) were used. In this method, the researcher walks along a
known length of line transect and notes the numbers of target animals sighted and the
indirect sightings (Buckland et al., 1993; Wilson et al., 1996).
Four line transects were established in August and September 2008 within Paitan
Forest Reserve (N 06 27 56.4, E 117 20 05.0), on the border with the Meridian
oil palm plantation. Sites were selected after seeking consultation with the Sabah
Forestry Department at Pitas. The lengths of the line transects were 1.0 km, 3.0 km,
6.0 km and 6.0 km.
When the line transects had been established, the researcher and the team walked
through the forest. Transect walking started at around 0500 h (right before sunrise)
until 0800 h, and at 1900 h (shortly after sunset) until 2200 h. These are the periods
when the nocturnal animals are most active (Wilson et al., 1996; Yasuma et al., 2003).
(b) Night survey using spotlighting
Night surveys using a four-wheel-drive vehicle and spotlighting were conducted in
March and April 2009 in oil palm plantations adjacent to Paitan Forest Reserve where
there were access roads. This method needs at least two personnel one to drive and
the other to observe. The vehicle was driven at a constant speed of approximately
20 km per hour and, with the help of a spotlight, the observer started the survey.
Animals were determined by their eye shine, and the number of individuals detected
was recorded.
The first spotlighting survey was carried out at Meridien Plantation (N 06 27 12.7,
E 117 21 46.6 ) adjacent to Paitan Forest Reserve. Three sites with a total of 43 km
(10 km, 13 km & 20 km) were travelled for the night survey within this plantation.
Another night survey location was Great Surplus Sdn Bhd plantation (N 06 27 49.5,
E 117 20 10.0 ); three sites with a total of 52 km (15 km, 17 km & 20 km) were
surveyed. The third location was Plantation A (N 06 23 34.7, E 117 22 43.3),
located 2 km from the end road of Paitan. Two sites with a total of 35 km (15 km &
20 km) were surveyed in this plantation.

(a) Census by line transect


In August and September 2008, the period of the survey was seven days and six
nights. The width and length of footprints (indirect sightings) were measured and

Population Study on Sambar Deer and Bearded Pigs

casts made. To avoid duplication, same-sized footprints noted during this survey were
considered as the same individual. There was no direct sighting of the target species
noted. During the study, footprints of nine Sambar deer and 29 Bearded pigs were
sighted. The results of the survey are summarised in Table 1.
Table 1. No. of individuals sighted in line transects, 2008.


Length (km)



No. of Individuals
Sambar deer
Bearded pig

Thus, based on indirect sightings, on average the relative frequency was 0.56
individual per kilometre for Sambar deer and 1.81 individuals per kilometre for
Bearded pigs in a 16-km line transect survey.
(b) Night surveys using spotlighting
There were only 7 deer and 22 Bearded pigs sighted throughout the night survey in
Meridian oil palm plantation. Hence, the relative frequency of Sambar deer was 0.16
individual per kilometre, and of Bearded pig 0.51 individual per kilometre.
During the spotlighting survey in Great Surplus plantation 5 deer and 18 Bearded
pigs were sighted, giving an average of 0.10 individual/km of Sambar deer and 0.35
individual/km of Bearded pig.
In Plantation A, 3 deer and 11 Bearded pigs were sighted during the survey, giving an
average of 0.09 individual/km of Sambar deer and 0.31 individual/km of Bearded pig.
All the night surveys using spotlighting were carried out in 2009; the results are
summarised in Tables 2 and 3.
Based on all the night surveys using spotlighting in three oil palm plantations in
Paitan, for a total distance of 130 km, an average of 0.12 individual/km of Sambar
deer and 0.39 individual/km of Bearded pig were sighted (Table 3).


In a census conducted by line transect, 9 and 29 items of evidence of the presence

of Sambar deer and Bearded pig, respectively, were recorded (Table 1) within a total


distance of 16 km. The census was carried out during the time when the animals
are most active before sunrise and after sunset. Based on the footprints of these
two species, on average the relative frequency of Sambar deer encounters was 0.56
individual/km and Bearded pig was 1.81 individual/km.
Table 2. No. of Sambar deer and Bearded pigs sighted during the night surveys.



Distance (km)












Great Surplus


Individuals Sighted
Sambar deer Bearded pig

Table 3. Average no. of individuals per kilometre for Sambar deer and Bearded pig sighted
in three oil palm plantations of Paitan using spotlighting.

Meridian Plantation
Great Surplus Plantation
Plantation A

Sambar deer (ind/km)


Bearded pig (ind/km)


Direct sightings of Sambar deer and Bearded pig were far fewer than records of
indirect sightings. In the night surveys over a total distance of 130 km in three oil
palm plantations of Paitan, there were only 15 sightings for Sambar deer and 51
sightings for Bearded pig, an average of 0.12 individual/km for Sambar deer and 0.39
individual/km for Bearded pig (Table 3). The ratio of Sambar deer to Bearded pig
seen was approximately 1: 3.


Population Study on Sambar Deer and Bearded Pigs

Since no camera traps were used in this study, a better estimation of the population of
Sambar deer and Bearded pig cannot be determined. While there is no known method
to estimate the exact population size of Sambar deer and Bearded pig in Borneo, this
study shows a possible way to monitor relative abundance of pigs and deer both at
one site over time, and between sites. However, the gradual decline in the number
of licences issued over the last eight years suggests that the population is decreasing
(Wong et al., 2012).
In contrast to the information from the ground survey, the majority (86 per cent) of
local residents killed an average of at least one animal per hunting trip (Wong et al.,
2012). One possible factor for the difference in sightings by the researchers and the
locals is the location of the animals. Based on the information given, the shortest time
spent by the local hunters in the forest was one whole night, which could be more than
eight hours. With their experience, their knowledge of the forest and the time spent,
they could easily have travelled much deeper into the forest where the possibility of
sighting the animals was higher. The ground survey in this study showed that after
travelling for about 2.6 km, one can easily see a Bearded pig (0.39 individual/km)
whereas if one travels for about 8.3 km a Sambar deer can be seen (0.12 individual/
Several factors caused the scarcity of data. One was the length of the line transects.
Due to the thickness of the vegetation in Paitan Forest Reserve, the line transects
established were not long enough to obtain adequate data for a large mammal survey
(Rabinowitz, 1993). In addition, the human population density in the rural areas of
Pitas has increased by approximately 45 per cent during the past 20 years (Malaysia
Department of Statistics, 2007). As the human population increases, the demand for
wild meat is likely to increase and this would affect the size of the animal population
(Bennett et al., 1996); this would be true for Paitan as it is a remote area and the
villagers live below the poverty line. Also, the relative abundance of an animal
population is proportionate to the licences issued. A decrease in the number of hunting
licences issued indicates that the relative abundance of the animal population may
also be decreasing (Bernard, 1994; Wong et al., 2012).


This study leads to the possibility that simple relative abundance data available are
useful for comparing population trends over time in one area, and/or to compare
different areas.
Based on the footprints of these two species, on average the frequency of encountering
Sambar deer was 0.56 individual/km and Bearded pig 1.81 individual/km in Paitan
Forest Reserve. In addition, on average, the frequency was 0.12 individual/km for
Sambar deer and 0.39 individual/km for Bearded pig sighted by night surveys using



spotlighting in three oil palm plantations adjacent to Paitan Forest Reserve. Hence,
the ratio of sighting Sambar deer to Bearded pig was approximately 1:3 in Paitan
Forest Reserve and the surrounding areas.


The authors are very grateful to the director of the Institute for Tropical Biology
and Conservation (ITBC), Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) and Sabah Wildlife
Department (SWD) for the opportunity to carry out this research. Sincere thanks go to
Mr Ahmad Adfo, an officer of Pitas Forestry Department, and his staff, who provided
maps and villagers information throughout this research. Also, many thanks to ketua
kampung Muringkat, Puan Siti Alima and villagers who helped us in this study. This
work was funded by Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS0088-BD-1/2006)
for which we are grateful.


Bennett, E.L. & Robinson, J.G. (2000). Hunting of Wildlife in Tropical Forests:
Implications for Biodiversity and Forest Peoples. Environment Department
Papers No. 76. Biodiversity Series Impact Studies. World Bank, Washington,
Bennett, E.L., Nyaoi, A.J. & Sampud, J. (1996). Hornbills Buceros spp. and Culture
in Northern Borneo: Can They Continue to Co-exist? Biological Conservation
82: 4146.
Bernard, H. (1994). The Population Trends of Game Animals in the West Coast
Region of Sabah, as Seen from Numbers of Game Hunting Permission. Sabah
Department of Wildlife, Kota Kinabalu.
Buckland, S.T., Burham, K.P., Anderson, D.R. & Laake, J.L. (1993). Density
Estimation Using Distance Sampling. Chapman Hall, London.
Caldecott, J.O. (1992). Hunting Patterns and Their Significance in Sarawak. In
Ghazally Ismail, Murtedza Mohamed & S. Omar (eds.). Forest Biology and
Conservation in Borneo. Yayasan Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, pp. 245260.
Caldecott, J.O. & Nyaoi, A. (1985). Sarawaks Wildlife: A Resource to be Taken
Seriously, Sarawak Gazette April 1985: 3132.
Carpaneto, G.M. & Fusari, A. (2000). Subsistence Hunting and Bushmeat Exploitation
in Central-western Tanzania. Biodiversity and Conservation 9: 15711585.
Coakes, S.J. (2005). SPSS Version 12.0 for Windows Analysis Without Anguish. John
Wiley & Sons Australia, Milton, Qld.
De Merode, E., Homewood, K. & Cowlishaw, G. (2004). The Value of Bushmeat and
other Wild Foods to Rural Households Living in Extreme Poverty in Democratic
Republic of Congo. Biological Conservation 118: 573581.


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Diong, C.H. (1973). Studies of Malayan Wild Pig in Perak and Johore. Malayan
Nature Journal 26: 120151.
International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (2007). IUCN Red List for
Threatened Species.
Accessed 22 March 2007.
Malaysia Department of Statistics (2007). Population Distribution and Basic
Demographic Characteristic Report Population and Housing Census 2000. http:// Accessed 25
January 2007.
Meijaard, E. & Sheil, D. (2008). The Persistence and Conservation of Borneos
Mammals in Lowland Rain Forest Managed for Timber: Observations,
Overviews and Opportunities. Ecological Research 23(1): 2134.
Payne, J., Francis, C.M. & Phillipps, K. (1985). A Field Guide to the Mammals of
Borneo. The Sabah Society with World Wildlife Fund Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu.
Rabinowitz, A. (1993). Wildlife Field Research and Conservation Training Manual.
Paul-Art Press Inc., New York.
Sabah Forestry Department (2005). Forest Reserves.
Sabah Wildlife Department (1997). Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Dewan
Undangan Negeri Sabah, Kota Kinabalu.
Wilson, D.E., Cole, F.R., Nichols, J.D., Rudran, R. & Foster, M.S. (1996). Measuring
and Monitoring Biological Diversity: Standard Methods for Mammals.
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
Wong, A., Yong, H.M., Wong, C. & Jumrafiah Abd. Shukor (2012). A Study on
Hunting Activity of Sambar Deer and Bearded Pig in Paitan Forest Reserve,
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Guide. Park Management Component BBEC Programme, Sabah Parks.
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Malaysian Meteorological Department, Kuala Lumpur.


Sabah Society Journal Vol. 29 (2012) 1955

Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist:

The Rise and Fall of a North Bornean Kerajaan
Bianca M. Gerlich
Sdring 4
38162 Cremlingen
Thus has Marudu ceased to exist; and Seriff Housemans power received a fall from
which it will never recover, James Brooke wrote in his diary1 on 20 August 1845
after a successful campaign against Syarif Osman of Marudu,2 which had its eventual
tragic climax in the destruction of Marudu by the British Navy. Brooke had managed
to convince Vice Admiral Thomas Cochrane to proceed with a great fleet against
Marudu. The accusation of piracy, which Brooke used intentionally against Syarif
Osman, served Brooke as a pretext for the attack. However, on closer examination,
this accusation turns out to be false. Nevertheless, Cochrane and other commanders
of the British ships, as well as colonial officials, relied on Brookes details because,
in their opinion, he had insight into the situation in Borneo and because he presented
authorities in Singapore, India and London with documents containing allegedly
incriminatory evidence against Syarif Osman.
Brookes actions have had lasting influences on historiography. The British
commanders on site, Keppel and Mundy, cited long passages from Brookes diaries
(the Journals). Furthermore, in direct contact with Brooke were John Templer,
Spenser St. John, and Brookes nephew, Charles Brooke, and in their books they
repeated like the British commanders Brookes portrayal of Marudu as a pirates
nest. Horace St. John, Gertrude Jacob, Sabine Baring-Gould and Charles Bampfylde,
who wrote biographies of Brooke, relied on the same information. As a result, the
1 Keppel (1846: II, 152).
2 Besides the spelling Osman, the spellings Usman and Uthman are also found in the
literature, as well as Houseman/Housemann/Hausman in the British literature of the
nineteenth century. In the oral information on Sabah the name variations Syarif Osman
Indal Lana, Syarif Suman, and Syarif Rom/Rum bin Syarif Osman were mentioned
(Gerlich 2003: 250).



misrepresentation of Marudu found its way into the twentieth century; for example,
into the works of Owen Rutter, Emily Hahn and Robert Payne. In books concerning
the history of Sabah and Sarawak it was customary to portray Syarif Osman as a
pirate; for example: A famous pirate leader of Borneo at that time was Sherif Osman
(Mullen 1961: 5051); One of the most famous pirate strongholds in the history of
piracy in the East Indies was at Marudu and their leader was the widely-known
Serip Usman (Whelan 1968: 1). It was also included in more general works that
do not necessarily have historical content; for example, in the travel reports of Cyril
Alliston (1961), who portrayed Marudu as one of the largest pirate places. David
Leake (1989) called Syarif Osman a pirate leader. Such representation can be found
even in some more recent books which touch upon the topic.3
However, since the 1960s a more differentiated discussion has appeared in the
academic literature dealing with the colonial history of northwest Borneo. In
particular, Ingleson, Bassett and Warren come to different conclusions from those
previous authors who reflected the events only from Brookes perspective. All three
authors stressed that in fact Brooke was the initiator in the destruction of Marudu
because he had defamed Syarif Osman as a pirate. Malaysian authors considered
Syarif Osman as a hero who was brought down by the British: Matilah seorang
pahlawan keturunan darah Raja akibat pengkhianatan dan hasutan Inggeris (Buyong
1981: 15).
In the book Commemorative History of Sabah 18811981, edited by Anwar Sullivan
and Cecilia Leong, which was published by the Sabah State Government on the
occasion of the 100th anniversary of Sabah, Marudu was described as an independent
chiefdom whose interference in the politics of Brunei led to Vice Admiral Cochrane
declaring Marudu as a pirate stronghold and destroying it. Nevertheless, nineteenthcentury colonial officials were already in doubt as to the representation of Osman as
a pirate. Thus Bulwer wrote: Yet it is very doubtful if he [Osman] was guilty of the
charge brought against him by the Brunei Government. He was of Arab descent and a
man of character and energy, and he was acquiring a power and influence which were
disagreeable to the Pangerans of Brunei.4
3 Accordingly, the British literary scholar Ann Lawson Lucas writes in her introduction
to the novel Le Tigri di Mompracem (Salgari 2009: 36), which is set in Borneo: Wir
wissen, dass in den vierziger Jahren des 19. Jahrhunderts das historisch bekannteste und
gefrchtetste Piratennest in der Bucht von Marudu (oder Malludu) im uersten Norden
Borneos lag. (We know that in the eighteen forties, the historically well-known and most
feared pirates nest was in the Bay of Marudu (or Malludu) in the far north of Borneo.)
(English translation by the author of this article.)
4 FO 12/38, Bulwer to Kimberly, 28 May 1872. Here the origin of the charge is blamed on
Brunei. Brooke and Cochrane enforced in August 1845 a letter from the Sultan of Brunei
requesting the destruction of Marudu. This letter was used by Brooke as evidence when
communicating with the British authorities.


Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

Even Captain Belcher, who sailed with Brooke to Brunei in 1844 and who in his
letters to the Admiralty supported Brookes defamation of Syarif Osman, came to a
different assessment in his book after having learnt in Manila of the real behaviour
and motivation of Syarif Osman: At Maludu Bay, in particular, the destruction of
Seriff Housman has deprived the people of that region, of the only energetic ruler who
could have afforded protection to European traders (Belcher 1848: II, 124). Before
Syarif Osman was defamed by Brooke he was recognised as Rajah of Maloodoo by
Governor Butterworth of Singapore (Belcher 1848: I, 170), and even Pascoe, who
took part in the Battle of Marudu as an officer, described him as Rajah (Pascoe 1886:
It is difficult to find reliable contemporary information about Syarif Osman and
Marudu. Generally history is written by the winners and this certainly applies
to Marudu. There are few neutral statements from that period. Those statements
which have emerged in connection with Brookes campaign are biased. One can try
to reinterpret them; for example, from Brookes statement that Syarif Osman was a
known pirate leader one can at least deduce that he was a prominent leader.
The source literature on Syarif Osman consists of official archival letters (the
correspondence of the officers involved in Southeast Asia with the ministries
the Foreign and Colonial Offices and the Admiralty in London, as well as interministerial exchanges), periodicals (Journal of the Indian Archipelago, Singapore
Free Press, Straits Times, Illustrated London News and British North Borneo
Herald), private correspondence (letters between persons involved are also to
be found in archives in London as well as in the Philippine National Archives in
Manila; the correspondence and journals by James Brooke are to be found in the
books of Keppel (1846), Mundy (1848) and Templer (1853)), and travel literature
written by persons involved such as Keppel (1846, 1853), Belcher (1848), Mundy
(1848), Marryat (1848), Cree (Levien 1981) and S. St. John (1862). If these written
sources are evaluated impartially, the relevant oral traditions reviewed carefully and
the historical situation of northern Borneo before and after Syarif Osman (as well as
the position of his descendants) fully considered, then the importance of Marudu at
the time of Syarif Osman can be ascertained, even though perhaps not completely
understood. This article, based on my extensive study,5 represents an attempt to do so.

5 Gerlich (2003). On many matters which will only be touched upon in this article, please
refer to the book for more extensive discussion: it contains the records of oral traditions
that I collected in Marudu as well as those collected by other authors.




The Claims of Brunei and Sulu to Marudu

The sixty-kilometre-long Bay of Marudu is located between the Sulu Sea and the
South China Sea. The land adjacent to the large bay is crossed by many rivers where
settlements were established. The bay and the nearby islands formed the core area of
Syarif Osmans territory. To the south, mountains framed the bay.6 The name Marudu
already appeared on very rudimentary fifteenth-century Portuguese maps,7 on which
not many local names were shown.
Marudu lay midway between the spheres of influence of Brunei to the west and Sulu
to the east. Both had laid claim to Marudu throughout history because they wanted
to control its many economic resources.8 Though Borneos soil may not have been as
fertile as that of the Malay Peninsula, Marudu is represented in the early nineteenth
century as the most fertile region in northern Borneo.9
Marudu had been conquered by Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei (reigned 14851524) who
extended his power over most of Borneo as well as Sulu and, most likely, Luzon.10
Brunei became the most powerful sultanate of that region. Later, Marudu became part
of the inheritance of family members of Sultan Hassan of Brunei. In the eighteenth
century there were internal problems in Brunei which led to a civil war, after which
the areas north of Kimanis were ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to Sulu in gratitude for
its successful intervention in the civil war. Sulu gained importance in the eighteenth
century through its extremely lucrative middleman role with the British/Indian
Chinese tea trade.
Thus with Bruneis civil war the situation regarding suzerainty in northern Borneo
had changed. In 1761 Alexander Dalrymple had to deal with Sulu, not with Brunei,
when he planned to obtain the island of Balambangan, where he wanted to establish
a British trading post. He listed the Bornean coastal regions that belonged to Sulu as
Tirun, Magindora, Marudu, and Kinabalu/Papar.11 Brunei still laid claim to them and
quarrelled with Sulu over the issue. In the 1780s Iranun people settled on the coast
between Tempasuk and Marudu and established local markets, which quickly became
6 Refer to Casio (1977: 310), with reference to Fox: water unites while mountain ranges
divide. Refer also to Brown (1969: 7).
7 Refer to various maps in Nicholl (1976).
8 Warren (1981: 77, 79).
9 Leyden (1837), Hunt (Moor 1837: 53) and Wilkes (Blair & Robertson 19031909:
1717). Based on information provided by a local navigator, Dalrymple wrote (c. 1792):
Malloodoo is, in many respects, one of the most valuable districts on Borneo. Few places
equal it in the abundance of provisions, nor is it destitute of valuable articles of commerce
(Belcher 1848: II, 128129).
10 Refer to Low (1880: 3, 7, 24); Hughes-Hallett (1940: 27).
11 Belcher (1848: 277).


Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

trading centres. The stronger the Iranun were, the weaker was Bruneis influence in
the more northern lands. Bruneis de facto influence ended where the Iranun districts
began. Marudu formed at that time a kind of border territory between the spheres of
influence of Sulu and Brunei.This is supported by the observation of Hunt (Keppel
1846: I, Appendix II: lx, lxi) that in the early nineteenth century the Bay of Marudu
was divided into two spheres of influence: the river district Songy Bessar (Sungei
Besar) was ruled by Syarif Mahomed and sent its products to Sulu, while Benkaka
(Bengkoka) was ruled by an orang kaya who traded with Brunei. However, according
to Dalrymple, the leaders of northern Borneo were virtually independent from the
sultanates of Brunei and Sulu because of the eighteenth-century conflict between the
Both sultanates were weakened further due to succession disputes in the 1820s.
Moreover, Sulu was weakened by the centuries-long Moro Wars with the Spanish,13
and a war of succession after 1823 contributed to the waning of Sulus de facto
control, especially in the northern Borneo territories. Likewise, Brunei had to struggle
in the 1820s with internal succession problems, and had to deal with the British and
Brooke less than twenty years later. So both sultanates had lost even more power after
1820, paving the way for the rise of a new government structure which was able to fill
the power vacuum that had emerged in northern Borneo through the elimination of de
facto control by the two sultanates.
Marudu as an Independent Polity
At least since the 1820s, a tri-partition of spheres of influence could be observed in
Sabah: Brunei, Sulu, and de facto independent territories between the two sultanates.14
These independent polities were designated as no-mans-land (Short 1969: 136) or as
pirate states (Wright 19791980: 209). Since the designating of Marudu as a pirate
state is an invention of James Brooke, the label state still needs to be considered.
According to political theory studies the de facto control is crucial: A state will
therefore be considered as independent if its independence is de facto (Claessen &
Skalnik 1978: 19).
Syarif Osman cannot be represented as a subject of Brunei and Sulu since the two
sultanates no longer ruled over the north of Borneo, which had become de facto
independent. Singh lists Marudu as the main example of the independent chiefdoms
and points to their autonomous status: They were a law unto themselves and
recognised no superior suzerain (Sullivan & Leong 1981: 94).

12 Tarling (1978: 14).

13 In 1836 and 1851 Sulu was forced to enter into treaties with Spain. Wilkes stated during his
visit in 1837 that Sulu had become weak compared to the past when it had controlled much
trade (Blair & Robertson 19031909, vol. 43: 180).
14 Brown (1969: 160); Black (1971: 64); Sullivan and Leong (1981: 85).


Syarif Osman was of course independent, but to mark him only as a chief does
not accord with the political structure that he had created in Marudu. According to
writings on types of government, the difference between a chiefdom and a kingdom
consists of the ability of the king to delegate his power, which is then exercised on his
behalf.15 Syarif Osman delegated his power to other syarif who resided on the many
rivers of the bay and who were subordinate to him. If Syarif Osman had restricted
himself to only one river district, then one could describe him as a chief. However,
since he had united both sides of the large bay and other areas and islands were
also under his government, he can be described as an independent ruler who was
ambitious to build up his own polity.
The creation of a polity in Marudu was not an automatic or natural process, as a
comparison between Marudu and the island of Cagayan in the Sulu Sea shows. On
Cagayan also, Sulus control was no longer effective in the nineteenth century. Here,
however, no one took advantage of the opportunity to establish himself as a ruler. As
in Marudu, there was a foreign coastal population with syarif and datu who, together
with the traditional aristocratic leaders of the indigenous people, occupied the position
of heads. They divided the government into four main districts which Casio (1976:
29) describes as semi-independent although the island was still officially under the
control of Sulu. In this context, he points to the problem that there was no resident
authority in Cagayan who could unite these districts into a single coordinated political
unit. Therefore, no leader in Cagayan succeeded in doing what Syarif Osman achieved
in Marudu by virtue of his charismatic personality. The more successful a leader was
whether a sultan, datu or syarif the more his political structure stood out from
the mass of petty principalities. Syarif Osman was able to use the power vacuum to
create Marudu as an independent and organised political entity and to break loose
from Sulus weakening control.
Both before and after Syarif Osman, no one managed to forge Marudu Bay into a
single unit. Although Syarif Osman built a dynasty, it was weakened by the defeat in
1845, so that it could not continue to hold the polity together. Three years after the
Battle of Marudu, a son of Syarif Osman complained to the Briton Keppel about the
unstable situation in Marudu:
... he [i.e. the son of Syarif Osman] and the chiefs with him admitted that
nothing could be worse than the unprotected state and want of government,
under which they lived; that each petty chief quarrelled with and attacked his
weaker neighbours, while they, in turn, lived in constant dread of an attack
from the more formidable Bajow, or Soloo pirates (Keppel 1853: I, 45).
Members of Syarif Osmans family ruled even after the defeat in areas of Marudu,
but none of them managed to unite the communities around the bay. His son Syarif
15 Sagan (1987: 3).


Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

Hassan resided in the south of Marudu Bay but had conflicts with other leaders and
was even expelled temporarily.16 Another son, Syarif Yassin, fought in the Battle of
Marudu and fled temporarily to Sugut.17 He was perceived as Raja when residing in
Benggaya in 1851,18 and as Sheriff Yassin of Malludu even as principal chief
of the Bay of Marudu in 1879 by the British.19 Syarif Yassin and, after Yassins death,
his son Syarif Hussin resided on the eastern side of Marudu Bay, and Yassins sister
Syarifa Loya was chief of Kalimo village on the Bongon River. There were also other
relatives not mentioned by name, such as the cousin who resided in southern Palawan.
Thus the claim of the family still existed, albeit in competition with others such as
Datu Badrudin and the family of Syarif Shee who ruled the areas on the western side
of the bay (which had previously paid tribute to Syarif Osman).20 In 1845 Syarif
Shees family had also fought under Syarif Osman and did not doubt his claim to
leadership as Syarif Shee even told the British North Borneo administrator W.H.
Treacher (CO 874/72, 8 May 1879).
So after 1845, the Bay of Marudu was again divided into various spheres of influence
which resembled not just a disorganised, but already a lawless, state as the British
observed when establishing the British North Borneo Company in the late 1870s:
The destruction of the regions only energetic ruler produced a descent into the
near complete anarchy Pretyman discovered in 1878 (Black 1968: 178).21
It was typical for Malay thalassocratic (maritime) polities that when their organisation
was broken, they were stagnant or in decline. Marudu under Syarif Osman shows the
characteristics of a Malay thalassocracy. It had developed out of Sulu, as Sulu had
itself developed out of Brunei in the eighteenth century, and Bruneis basic polities
were based on Johore Lama and Malacca.22 They all had their precursors in Srivijaya
and were trade-oriented coastal states that is, thalassocracies which had mainly
in common the Malay language, similar characteristics of political organisation and,
most importantly, trade orientation.

16 PP LXI, 185253, Austen to Parker, 16 March 1852, Enclosure 3, Massie to Austen; S. St.
John (1862: II, 224).
17 CO 144/36, Bulwer to Kimberly, 28 May 1872.
18 PP LXI, 185253, Papers relating to the murder of Mr Robert Burns, testimony of Karnoor,
2 December 1851.
19 FO 12/47, Treacher to Colonial Office, 30 June 1879.
20 For a detailed comparison of the areas of influence of Syarif Osman with those of his
descendants and Syarif Shee, refer to the map in Gerlich (2003: 100).
21 Black refers to Belchers statement that Syarif Osman was the only energetic ruler (Belcher
1848: II, 124).
22 Gallop (1993: 4); Brown (1969: 176); Majul (1977b: 677); Milner (1992: 46). Of course,
certain regional differences between Borneo and Malaya should have been taken into



The Malay-maritime coastal states were created by a group of immigrants who settled
on a particular coast and then dominated the river mouths.23 The previous resident
population became subordinated to the immigrants and, over time, also took on the
values, customs24 and religion of the immigrants or retreated into the interior, where
possibly other groups also had to withdraw. In northwestern Borneo the Malays
occupied the coast but did not advance inland. They settled near the river mouths
and were therefore able to control the trade which flowed upstream and downstream.
The inland village communities were considered a basic political unit,25 with several
settlements on a river forming a river district. Syarif Osman united many river districts
under his leadership.
According to Singh (1990: 237239), three different zones of economic use can be
identified for Brunei and Sabah. The first zone was the mountainous jungle areas, the
primary source of jungle products. This zone was inhabited by the Dusun/Murut. After
1845 several leaders of the Bay of Marudu admit that that there were many tribes
among the mountains with whom they had little intercourse (S. St. John 1862: I,
390). Such statements confirm that the mountainous tribal population did not consider
themselves as subordinates of a particular coastal polity after the decline of Marudu,
whereas, prior to the Battle of Marudu, Syarif Osman seems to have exercised control
over the neighbouring interior tribes (Keppel 1846: II, 192). The second zone was
the coastal lowland zone, which extended about 20 to 40 miles inland, and where
wet rice was grown. The Dusun also lived there, but this area was dominated by the
later immigrants. This zone is considered by Gullick (1969: 168) as a contact zone
between foreigners (outside influence) and natives (interior people) in Sabah. Third
was the sea zone, which was used mainly for fishing by immigrants from Sulu. In
Marudu, the immigrant Bajau, Iranun and Tausug were the coastal population and
were also perceived as Malay authorities (Belcher 1848: II, 120), while the Dusun26
were the earlier inhabitants.

23 Refer to Bronsons model of the trade exchange (1977: 42), which clarifies this political
system. The situation in Borneo is comparable to the situation in Sumatra, to which the
model refers, since there are similar geographic conditions.
24 In Brunei, for example, the Kedayan converted to Islam (Casio 1976: 37). Refer also to
Brown (1976: 184); for the term Malayness see Ali (1975: 60); Milner (1982: 10/11);
Kiefer (1971: 50). The ethnic groups of Borneo who converted to the Islam represented the
main part of the later Malay population (King 1993: 125). Refer also to Dalton (1837: 2/3).
Syarif Osman was a member of a Malay-Muslim society, which regarded itself as elite in
comparison to the other ethnic groups.
25 Refer to King (1993: 197); Appell (1978: 163).
26 S. St. John (1862: I, 390) referred to the Dusun as Idaan in his list of people from Marudu.
In the nineteenth century, the term Idaan was often used synonymously for the Dusun.


Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist


Syarif Osmans Claim to Leadership

Syarif Osman belonged to the Malay immigrant society and was considered a
foreigner. Because of his title Syarif,27 he could easily find acceptance as a prestigious,
idol-like leader: sereibs or seriffs, descendants of the Prophet, have always been held
in high consideration. They are always addressed by the title of tuan-ku, or your
highness, and on state days and festivals occupy a position more eminent than that of
the highest hereditary nobles (Low 1968 [1848]: 123). Syarif were thus equivalent to
the members of royal lineages28 and were able to marry into noble families. They also
founded sultanates, as in Sulu and Pontianak.29 The origin myths of maritime coastal
states in Sabah as well as in the Philippines often go back to the immigration of one
or more syarif.30 Thus syarif were predestined to assume leadership, which was not
limited to religion but affected the whole society and politics.
A further strengthening of Syarif Osmans leadership resulted from his marriage
alliances. One of his many wives was the daughter of Sultan Pulalun of Sulu. This
princess appears in the Sulu genealogies, but not as usual by name. According
to oral tradition she was called Dayang Sahaya and was highly venerated in Marudu.
Even Rutter (1991 [1930]: 205), who worked for the North Borneo Chartered
Company from 1910 to 1915, learned at Marudu that the princess was reputed to
have had supernatural powers and that her grave was very honoured. Her brother was
Raja Muda Datu Mohammed Buyo, the successor to the throne and a friend of Syarif
Osman. Spenser St. John (1862: II, 2078) reports how much Datu Buyo grieved
for his dead sister after the Battle of Marudu and was thereafter hostile to the British
because they were responsible for the defeat and death of his sister and brother-inlaw. Also, Syarif Osmans son Yassin and grandson Hussein married princesses of
the Sulu ruling family. Clearly, dynastic relations with older Muslim ruling houses
of neighbouring countries was an added item reinforcing legitimacy (Majul 1977a:
The marriage with Dayang Sahaya meant that Syarif Osman and his direct descendants
were able to protect their primus inter pares claim against the other syarif and leaders
in Marudu Bay. The marriage was of mutual benefit for both Syarif Osman and the
27 The word Sharif is Arabic and means noble. It is a title which is universally given to
the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed. The full title is Sayid Sharif, the master and
noble. The Arabians generally use the first word, Sayid, alone, but the Moros have adopted
the second (Saleeby 1905: 53). In the Arab world, mainly the Sunnis used the title Sharif
for the descendants of Hasan ibn Ali and Sayyid for the descendants of Husayn ibn Ali,
both grandchildren of the Prophet Muhammad.
28 Refer to Gullick (1965: 67).
29 Refer to Majul (1969) (Sulu), Leyden (1837: 101) (Pontianak).
30 Saleeby (1905: 52 f., 1908: 3); Sopher (1965: 312/313); Majul (1973: 87).



Sultans family. Sulu was at the time under external political pressure, which is
reflected in the Treaty of 1836 with the Spanish. In Syarif Osman, Sulu won a reliable
ally and trade partner. Moreover, Syarif Osman married other daughters of Marudu
Bay leaders for political reasons. Thus these leaders felt bound to him because in the
traditions of northern Borneo and the southern Philippines the side into which the
women married was considered the stronger.31
In oral traditions the number of women who married Syarif Osman is very high
forty or forty-four. The more women a leader managed to acquire, the higher his
prestige.32 Moreover, the fecundity of the leader was of great importance and was
applied to the situation of the whole country: the more fertile the leader, the more
fertile the land. Syarif Osman legitimised his position as the Raja of Marudu by his
tactical polygamy, his potency, his title, and his connection to an old Muslim dynasty.
The role of the raja is considered prominent and central in the Malay world. Loyalty
was an essential element between ruler and subordinates who understood their position
in relation to the raja,33 who was legitimised by a sacred aura.34 The person not
the office was important. The authority of the ruler was based on the willingness
of his supporters to remain loyal. He had to be able to bind the supporters to him.
According to Kiefer (1972: 93), the power of the leader was crucial to his supporters
and was largely derived from his wisdom and his justness, his prosperity, his title, and
the cannons that he possessed, as well as the number of loyal followers.
Syarif Osman as a Charismatic Leader
Even in the cultural sphere of Sulu, to which Marudu belonged through their common
waters,35 a ruler not only obtained his position through inheritance or because of
his office, but also by virtue of his own personality. This style of leadership may be
designated as charismatic authority. A charismatic leader is regarded as superhuman
because of his character, his strength and his ability to help his followers.36 For
the emergence of a charismatic leadership certain conditions also had to be met;
for example, the leader had to be a foreigner. Syarif Osman was perceived as a
foreigner simply because of his Arab title.37 Furthermore, he also knew how to gather
31 Refer to Ileto (1971: 2/3). According to Reber (1966: 98), followers were obliged
traditionally to supply their masters with women for marriage.
32 This statement, applicable to every man, is also reflected in the Darangen, the most popular
epic tale in the Philippines. Before the Quran it was the main source of wisdom and
normative behaviour. It is still respected (Francisco 1977: 655/656).
33 Refer to Milner (1982: 104).
34 This area of sanctity or, one might call it the ideology of legitimacy, is better known as
daulat (Khoo 1991: 18).
35 Casio (1977: 313); see also Philippines Bureau of Printing 1964: 21.
36 Sinha (1995).
37 Even Syarif Osmans grandson, who represents at least the third generation in Marudu, is
still referred to as a young Arab (CO 855/155, British North Borneo Herald, 1 September
1883: 4).

Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

many followers. He ruled by Islam and adat, and he was known for his strict style
of leadership, especially when seeing that the local customary law, the adat, was
respected. With Marudu expanding as a stable trading centre, more and more people
came to settle there because it offered prosperity and protection from pirates and
from the exactions of the colonial powers. Syarif Osman was described as strong,
courageous, ambitious, assertive and self-confident so he must have seemed
charismatic to his supporters.
Syarif Osman also owned many cannons. According to Casio (1976: 29), Muslim
coastal rulers had a monopoly on these weapons, which symbolised wealth, power
and the political office itself. The British discovered eleven large guns in the
fortress in Marudu, together with numerous small brass cannons. In oral tradition
the cannons played an important role in the defeat. According to many accounts,
the main cannons were given particular names: Penamal, Mandi Dara(h), Bujang Si
Dandam/Puasdandan, Gentaralan. Appell, who recorded in the 1960s a legend of the
Rungus Dusun relating to the death of Syarif Osman, reported that there were three
cannons named Sorio, Puasdandan and Putut Karabau which had been endowed with
supernatural abilities by river spirits. It was Syarif Osmans brother-in-law Pompugan
who fired the guns in the wrong order and was thus responsible for the defeat.38 In this
Rungus tradition, magic plays an important role.
Supernatural qualities are essential for a charismatic ruler. Syarif Osman was said to
be generally in the possession of supernatural properties39 and invulnerable: as he
[Syarif Osman], being one of those whom they deem invulnerable, exposed himself to
every fire, and fought to the last (S. St. John 1862: II, 207). Spenser St. John (1862:
II, 208) describes in this context the method of creation of invulnerability (namely,
through the rubbing of their whole bodies with some preparation of mercury)
which, according to him, differs from the method in Sarawak. Magical powers were
invested in Syarif Osman himself or in persons near him, such as his wife Dayang
Sahaya, or items such as his guns.
In addition to his title and his alliances through marriage, it was the charismatic
qualities which legitimised Syarif Osman as a leader and strengthened his claim to
power. Typically, the role of the raja in a Malay thalassocracy was so exalted that
there were really no or only very rudimentary other recognisable concrete
administrative structures. The Raja is not only the key institution but the only
institution, and the role he plays in the lives of his subjects is as much moral and
religious as political (Milner 1982: 113). Syarif Osman had the typical key position
held by a raja: he was the political and religious leader, and everything focused on
him. The Malay conceptualisation of authority was directly linked to the presence
38 Appell (1965: 228229).
39 The terms for Syarif Osmans supernatural abilities which can be found in oral traditions
and in S. St. John (1862) and Appell (1965) are: pandai ilmu, ilmu batin, kitab and ilmu


of a Raja; territory was unimportant, hence the term kerajaan (the state of having a
Raja), which is, more appropriately, the Malay equivalent of the Western concept
of a kingdom (Khoo 1991: 20). For Malay independent constructs the expression
kerajaan can be considered as an adequate designation, if there is a raja at the top.40
Marudu as a Trade-oriented Thalassocracy
As a Malay thalassocracy, the Marudu kerajaan was first of all trade-oriented. Trade
can be understood as the essential foundation of a Malay maritime coastal state. It is
described by Trocki (1979: 52) as the only source of political power that Malays had
ever known. A successful thalassocracy was based on economic activities. The Malay
maritime states exerted primarily political influence if they were able to control the
trade with their peripheral areas. The trade was necessary for the ruler to gain wealth,
which in turn was important to guarantee a large following. Therefore, Milner (1982:
16, 17) states that The kingdom was, in the final analysis, a commercial venture, and
Malay rulers were the greatest merchants in their state.
Syarif Osman concentrated on acquiring the products that were important for trade
with China, especially birds nests. Similarly, marine products were obtained
fish, trepang (sea cucumber or beche-de-mer), turtle eggs, pearls, mother-of-pearl,
shells, agar-agar and tortoise shell. Except for the first three, these products were
mainly used for trade. Trepang was an important domestic food item, but it was also
an important source of revenue in the markets of China and Sulu, as were pearls
and tortoise shell. The goods were stored in Marudu before sale. Other products in
Marudu were rattan, wax, wood, sweet-scented wood (kayu laka), and camphor.
Tobacco and rice were also cultivated and traded. The trade was important for the rise
of Marudu as a kerajaan. Syarif Osman knew how to organise and protect the trade.
The inland population did not come into contact with the merchants. According to the
structures of a Malay coastal state, it was the immigrant society who organised trade
and profited by it. By trading, Syarif Osman gained control over the local population.
He also needed to trade in order to pay his numerous retinue, through which he
became a recognised and respected leader.
In order to attract foreign traders in the port, Syarif Osman not only built storehouses,
warehouses and shipyards in his harbour, but also took defence measures. His strong
fortress, built to secure trade, was two square miles in size, consisting of several
forts and batteries. The complex was protected on three sides by palisades. Protected
within the fortress stood besides houses warehouses and armouries, a village
and fields.41 To be safe from pirate attacks, it was situated a few miles upriver and
40 Kerajaan is associated with the term state: Satu lagi konsep yang ada hubungan dengan
kerajaan ialah negeri atau state. Sebagai institusi, pengertian dan peranan negeri hampir
sama dengan kerajaan (Daud 1987: 10).
41 On Crees map (Levien 1981: 158) of the Battle of Marudu, one can recognise the facilities
and dimensions very well. See Fig. 2.


Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

secured by a wooden barrier with iron chains which was stretched across the river and
could not be destroyed by the British forces. The fortress was one of the strongest in
the whole region.
Furthermore, Syarif Osman had entered into alliances with the Bajau and Iranun,
so that they would no longer be dangerous to him at sea. Likewise, Srivijaya had
bound the Orang Laut contractually. These nomadic sea-faring nations no longer
committed piracy against Srivijaya and Marudu, but rather protected the waters from
pirate attacks. According to Trocki (1979: 208), the rise of the Malay maritime coastal
states was dependent on the ability to control the sea off their coasts. From the report
of Earl, who travelled in Borneo in the early 1830s, the conclusion can be drawn that
in Marudu good, safe trading conditions had been created:
The north-east end of Borneo has not, I believe, been visited by a British
vessel since the abandonment of Balambangan, but, according to the accounts
of the Bugis traders who sometimes touch there, a very interesting change
has lately taken place. They assert that large bodies of Cochin Chinese are
now established on the shores of Malludo Bay and the adjacent parts; and as
the Cochin Chinese are known to be settled in considerable numbers on the
neighbouring island of Palawan, there appears to be no reason for doubting the
correctness of their information (Earl 1971 [1837]: 322323).
The settling of the Chinese in Marudu suggests that Syarif Osman had already built a
safe harbour with good trading conditions. The goods which were handled in Marudu
were indeed primarily destined for the China market. Based on this reference and
on oral tradition (Gerlich 2003: 233) and, of course, on the development of the two
neighbouring sultanates, it can be assumed that Syarif Osman had established himself
in Marudu no later than the early 1830s.
Marudus Spheres of Influence
Syarif Osman succeeded in increasing the number of his followers by a functioning,
organised trading system.This enabled him to enter into more alliance partnerships
and to bind more distant river districts. He could demand tribute from communities
that he in turn was able to protect by his naval power. He had built a strong centre,
which is typical of a Malay thalassocracy, being defined by its centre and not by a
delineated territory. Basically, there is an imbalance of power between the centre
and periphery areas. There are several terms to describe this phenomenon of Malay
coastal states which all emphasise the discrepancy between centre and periphery; for
example, the negara concept (Geertz 1980),42 the galactic polity concept (Tambiah
42 Negara is equated with the capital, the state is defined by negara, which originally meant
town, and is used in Malay simultaneously as palace, capital, state, realm, and again town
(Geertz 1980: 4). Refer also to Anderson (1972: 28).



1976), and the segmentary state model (Kiefer 1971). In the segmentary state model,
the authority outside the centre should not have been exerted politically, but only
ritually and symbolically, so these peripheral districts could have been perceived as
independent. The same applies to Wolters mandala concept (1982). According to him,
the mandala is an unstable circle of kings in a territory without fixed borders, in
which each subjugated unit of the state remained a complete, potentially independent
polity with its own centre and court (Christie 1985: 9).
These centre-periphery theories are applicable to Marudu. As Sulu had become
weaker it lost effective control over peripheral areas, including Marudu. That was the
prerequisite for the independence of Marudu, which then itself formed a polity that
resembled the segmentary state model, similar to a mandala. Marudu had a strong
centre and effective control over neighbouring rivers. The farther away Marudus
areas of influence were, the weaker the influence and the more independent these
areas may have been; nevertheless, Marudu still had some influence there.
Figure 1 illustrates Marudus spheres of influence. The dark grey field is the area in
which Syarif Osmans influence was the strongest (the centre). The lighter the grey,
the weaker his influence.

Fig. 1. Marudus Spheres

of Influence.

Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

The centre consisted of the fortress lying on the Marudu River (later called the
Langkon River). According to an 1851 list by Syarif Osmans son Syarif Hassan,
the people of the adjacent river systems had paid tribute to his father, as had the
people of the offshore islands of Banggi and Balabac. Through this list, Syarif Hassan
wanted to give evidence to Spenser St. John (1862: I, 389 ff.) of the areas which
had been once subject to his father. Other leaders in the bay (Datu Bedrudin and
Syarifs Musahor, Abdullah and Houssein) confirmed his statements. Syarif Hassans
list cites the following locations (from north to south): Udat, Milau, Lotong, Anduan,
Metunggong, Biraan, Tigaman, Taminusan, Bintasan, Bingkungan, Panchur, Bungun
and Tandek. Therefore, Syarif Osman exerted influence from Kudat to Tandik. St.
John also mentioned the Bengkoka district, but the name does not appear directly in
the list. However, the family of Syarif Osmans son Syarif Yassin built one of their
main residences there.43 According to S. St. John (1862: I, 391), Syarif Osman had
also tried to establish a settlement in Mobang (Melabong), which lies near Bengkoka
to the north. In the oral traditions, other places are mentioned as being under Syarif
Osmans rule; for example, the village of Parapat near Limau-Limawan, and the
island of Tambun in front of the Bandau River mouth. Kampar, where he lived and
died, is mentioned as his home village.
The islands in the north of Marudu Bay were also viewed by Syarif Osman as his
direct sphere of influence. He had recovered items from a wrecked and abandoned
ship near Banggi, which confirms that he regarded the area as his own. According
to Belcher (1848: I, 194), Syarif Osman had made an excursion with his ships from
Banggi to Palawan. The residents of Banggi paid tribute to the Malay authorities of
Marudu Bay in 1846, even after the downfall of Syarif Osman (Belcher 1848: II, 120).
The Spanish clergyman Cuarteron, who was a resident of Labuan in 1857, reported
that fifteen years previously Syarif Osman had made a rather cruel expedition against
the people of Balabac as they had refused to pay tribute.44 It is not surprising that
Syarif Osman wished to directly control the entrance to Marudu Bay.
In the medium grey region of Fig. 1 one can see the more remote river systems which
also had to pay tribute but could not be controlled as closely as the districts in the bay.
Syarif Osmans influence extended east to approximately Labuk, and west of Marudu
Bay to at least Ambong, if not to the border of Brunei, which was then very probably
43 It seems that Syarif Hassan had not dealt much with his brother Syarif Yassin who settled
at Bengkoka. Probably Yassin was a child from the marriage between Dayang Sahaya and
Syarif Osman, while Hassan is likely to have had a different mother. When presenting the
list to S. St. John, it was Syarif Hassans intention to declare that the government rightfully
belonged to him (1862: II, 224), so he saw himself as heir to his fathers claim, but he made
no hereditary claim to the places in the east of Marudu Bay; perhaps this is why Bengkoka
is not explicitly mentioned in the list.
44 PNA, Isla de Borneo, Tomo II, Folder 3, Exp 1, 111, Cuarteron to Don Fernando, 28
October 1857. The neighbouring island of Balambangan was not inhabited in Syarif
Osmans time.



Kimanis. The island of Labuan, which is located opposite Brunei Bay and therefore
still further south than Kimanis, was also mentioned in contemporary sources in
connection with Syarif Osman.45
Three facts allow us to draw conclusions about the reign of Syarif Osman over the
Labuk/Sugut area. First, his direct descendants Syarif Yassin (his son) and Syarif
Hussin (his grandson) also ruled there. Yassin fled to the area after the Battle of
Marudu and settled there. He was considered to be the supreme leader and had
married a daughter of a local chieftain named Datu Israel; this suggests he pursued
a marriage policy like his father. Second, the area was known as a particularly good
source of camphor, one of Syarif Osmans main exports.46 Third, this area lies in the
direct eastern neighbourhood of Marudu Bay and had already formed in Dalrymples
time47 a unit combined with the bay (under the name Malloodoo and later Alcock
Province) when the British North Borneo Company ruled there.48
Contemporary sources point to the influence of Syarif Osman on the southwest
coast of Marudu Bay. The population of Ambong told Captain Belcher (1848:
I, 194) in 1844 that Syarif Osman exercised power on the coast between Brunei
and Marudu. He demanded from them support in the form of a ship and crew in
order to help collect tribute in Palawan, Banggi and Balabac. Syarif Osman and
his fleet had made an intermediate stop in Ambong in 1841, as mentioned by Haji
Hassan, who claimed to have seen a European woman during his stay there.49 In all
correspondence regarding that European woman, Ambong is regarded as belonging
to Marudu, which is represented by Belcher as a large district reaching from Kinabalu
to Marudu Bay. The Governor of Singapores letter (Belcher 1848: I, 170) asking for
clarification concerning the woman was directed only to Syarif Osman of Marudu
and not to anyone in Ambong, where the woman was seen, or in Tempasuk, which
lies in Ambongs direct neighbourhood. Most likely Syarif Osmans influence on the
northwest coast of what is today Sabah would not have been everywhere in that area,
but major communities would have paid him respect and tribute.
To the north, Syarif Osmans influence extended at least to southern Palawan, where
he demanded tribute in the form of birds nests. After the Battle of Marudu, his
45 FO 572/1: 7 (1): Memorandum of 31 May 1845; refer also to Tarling (1971: 47).
46 Camphor was discovered in large quantities by the British after the Battle of Marudu.
47 Refer to Dalrymples detailed description of Malloodo (Belcher 1848: II, 128131).
Dalrymple wrote also that the limits of each [district] are not very definite (Belcher 1848:
I, 278). Moor (1837: 53) mentioned the following: Second, Maludu, or Kini Balu, which
includes the provinces of Paitan, and Labuk, and extends from cape Simpanmanjio to the
west end of Sondakan harbour.
48 CO 855/155: British North Borneo Herald, 1 October 1886: 215.
49 Belcher (1848: I, 165). Belcher was ordered to make inquiries regarding an European
woman in Ambong and in his book the correspondence in this regard (pp. 163170)
includes the testimony of the seaman Haji Hassan which appeared in the Singapore Free
Press, 30 September 1841.


Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

followers established a settlement in southwest Palawan in which they lived under a

cousin of Syarif Osman.50 It was only after Syarif Osmans downfall that the Tausug
managed to regain control over Balabac and southern Palawan.51
Syarif Osman also had relations with the residents of Tempasuk, which he visited
in 1844. Relatively independent Iranun settled there in the eighteenth century and
even referred to their leaders as sultans. Brooke used as argument against Syarif
Osman that the Iranun were in league with him. Certainly both Tempasuk/Pindusan
and Ambong had their own leaders who, however they may have been entitled, had
regarded Syarif Osman, due to his position, as superior to them. According to Wright
(19791980: 213), Syarif Osman would have been connected through kinship to the
Iranun leaders and he received tribute from them. Pascoe (1886: 49, 51) mentioned a
relative of Syarif Osman called Sheriff Mahomed who served as parlementaire (i.e.
an intermediary) and who fought bravely but was killed: a fine intelligent young man
about twenty four years of age, an Illanun native (as I understood), from Mindanao in
rich attire, and head adorned with feathers. Even in the British reports of 1844/4552
it is pointed out that Syarif Osman had been recognised by the relatively independent
population of Tempasuk and Pindusan. After all, this area was also in the coastal strip
which was regarded as belonging to Marudu. Their leaders were not as influential as
Syarif Osman since none of them managed to fill the gap left behind by Marudus
decline in 1845. Perhaps Marudus relationship with Pindusan and Tempasuk was
more of an alliance based on an institutionalised or informal friendship between the
leaders, but with Syarif Osman being considered the stronger partner in the alliance.53
Similarly, Syarif Osman may have had such an alliance with Sandokong of Melapi, a
leader on the Kinabatangan River. Sandokong was in possession of the huge birdsnest caves in the Kinabatangan area.54 Since Syarif Osman planned to control the entire
birds-nest trade of the northern Borneo coast,55 it can be assumed that he wanted to
have Sandokong under his control. Kinabatangan district is in the immediate vicinity
of Labuk district, and the existence of a good road was already reported in 1812 by
Hunt (Moor 1837: 54) to have connected Bengkoka in Marudu Bay with Sandakan,
50 Levien (1981: 166); Buyong (1981); Scott (1988: 175/6); Rutter (1922: 105); Rutter (1991
[1930]: 204).
51 PNA, Isla de Borneo, Tomo II, Folder 3, Exp. 1, 111, Cuarteron to Don Fernando, 28
October 1857; Warren (1981: 79).
52 Refer for example to FO 572/1, No. 7, Brooke to Aberdeen, 31 March 1845, Enclosure 1;
Mundy (1848: I, 18). Refer also to Rutter (1922: 98); Tarling (1963: 124); Buyong (1981:
53 Kiefer (1971: 47) points out that these institutionalised as well as informal friendships
frequently formed the basis of alliances. On the importance of alliance networks, refer to
Junker (1999: 76).
54 For Sandokong [Sandukung/Sandukur] as grandfather of the famous Pengiran Digadong
Samah and in connection with the Gomantong caves, refer to Harrisson (1966: 134);
Bampfylde (CO 874/233, 22 Feb. 1883), Bhar (1980: 129 ff). Refer also to Gerlich (1998).
55 Brooke writes: his [Osmans] great object, I hear, is to possess himself by force of all the
birds-nests caves in that part of the coast, and on Palawan (Mundy 1848: II, 17).


which is near the birds-nest caves in the Kinabatangan River area. According to
oral traditions in Marudu Bay Syarif Osman and Sandokong were comrades, and
Sandokong is said to have fought in the Battle of Marudu. He was likely to have been
one of the most influential leaders of his time.
These alliances can be compared with the peripheral areas of the mandala concept. A
supreme ruler is recognised, but the leaders still remain autonomous in their respective
areas. This alliance area is marked on Fig. 1 as a light grey area.
The numerous alliances would certainly have increased Syarif Osmans reputation
and power. Rutter (1922: 100) and Wright (19791980: 213) conclude that Syarif
Osmans de facto region of power must have extended from Tuaran to Tungku, which
lies still further away to the east of Kinabatangan. Wright even mentions the distant
island of Tawi-Tawi.56 However, it is difficult to prove Syarif Osmans sphere of
influence in detail, especially regarding locations far east of Marudu. Contemporary
information indicates that he exercised direct control over the islands and river
districts of Marudu Bay and demanded tribute even from more distant areas. His
sphere of influence was likely to have been almost exactly the area between the two
ancient sultanates of Sulu and Brunei, whose rulers looked at him not as a competitor
but as connected by friendship and kinship.
Foreign Political Relations
As Raja of Marudu, Syarif Osman had created his own kerajaan. He was recognised
by European government officials such as General Claveria of Manila and Governor
Butterworth of Singapore, as well as by local neighbours. Syarif Osman cultivated very
good relations with the two directly neighbouring sultanates. As already mentioned,
he was married to a daughter of the reigning Sultan of Sulu and was a friend of her
brother, the heir to the throne. Sulu had not only acknowledged Marudu, but found it
a reliable partner in troubled times. Syarif Osman was also accepted at the court of
Brunei. He was a friend of Pengiran Usop, who exercised effective control in Brunei
in his position as bendahara (that is, the chief advisor to the sultan). Usops daughter
was married to the Sultans son, the Crown Prince Pengiran Anak Hashim. Syarif
Osman also had relations with him as well as with other nobles in Brunei.57
Pengiran Muda Hassim, who had been living in Sarawak from approximately 1837/38
to 1844,58 and his half-brother Pengiran Bedrudin travelled back with Brooke in
56 The island of Tawi-Tawi was the centre of Balangnini (Ileto 1971: 26), who Brooke claimed
cooperated with Syarif Osman (Mundy 1848: II, 18).
57 Mundy (1848: II, 11, 15).
58 When Tradescant Lay (1839: 178) was in Brunei in 1837, he was told by Pengiran Muda
Hassim (the then bendahara) that he was meditating a visit to all the neighbouring places
upon the coast which acknowledge the supremacy of Brunei, in order to bind them to
that state by leagues of confederacy and exchanges of mutual confidence. When Brooke
visited Sarawak (a vassal state of Brunei) in 1839 for the first time, he met Pengiran Muda

Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

1844 from Sarawak to Brunei, where they were placed by Brooke in opposition to
Pengiran Usop, because Brooke labelled the supporters of Pengiran Muda Hassim
and Pengiran Bedrudin as being pro-British, and those of Pengiran Usop and his allies
as anti-British.59 Therefore in the British literature of that time the alliance between
Syarif Osman and Pengiran Usop is considered as Syarif Osmans real crime, as he
thus necessarily became, in Brookes opinion, an opponent of Muda Hassim and even
of Brooke himself.60
Brooke went so far as to drive out Pengiran Usop from the post of bendahara by
gunboat diplomacy61 and to re-install Muda Hassim. By doing this, Brooke offended
the nobles of Brunei, so they in turn finally fought against Muda Hassim and Bedrudin
(both committed suicide to avoid capture in late 1845/early 1846). Syarif Osman was
well known by those Brunei nobles who represented the real power in the sultanate
(until, that is, the situation was drastically changed by James Brookes intervention).
Thus, Syarif Osman had maintained good foreign relations with both sultanates,
as well as with neighbouring independent communities and with the main trading
centres in the region. In addition to Sulu and Brunei, he traded with the Iranun from
the west coast of Sabah, the Balangingi from the Sulu Archipelago, the Bugis and, of
course, the Chinese. He was invited by Butterworth to trade in Singapore (Belcher
1848: I, 170). He was in good contact with regional leaders; many may have been
actually present in Marudu, as indicated by the fact that after the Battle of Marudu the
British discovered many influential persons among the dead (persons of considerable
influence: Talbot, in Keppel (1846: II, Appendix V, xciv)).
Hassim who told him of problems with the local population who had rebelled against
Brunei. When Brooke returned in 1840 after a years absence, Muda Hassim asked him to
help end the rebellion and promised him according to Brooke the position of governor
of Sarawak. However, after Brooke had helped quell the rebellion neither Muda Hassim
nor Pengiran Indera Mahkota, Governor of Sarawak since 1827, wanted to pass over the
government to Brooke. Instead, Muda Hassim allowed him only to stay in Sarawak and to
trade. Bassett (1980: 43) explained the confusion in the transfer of Sarawak as follows: It
is difficult to believe, on Brookes evidence alone that Hassim offered the government ...
of Sarawak to Brooke in November 1840 simply because he needed his help to deal with
the rebellion, when none of the Malays viewed the rebellion at all seriously. After 10
months of stalemate, however, Pengiran Muda Hassim was compelled by a threat of force
by Brooke to give the post of governor to him in September 1840, and this appointment
was confirmed by the Sultan of Brunei in 1842.
59 Between Pengiran Usop and Pengiran Muda Hassim old family rivalries existed. Besides,
Pengiran Muda Hassim was appointed Bendahara in the 1830s, and when he was away in
Sarawak, it was Pengiran Usop who became Bendahara after a palace coup in Brunei.
60 Bassett (1980: 48), Mundy (1848: I, 382; II, 12/13), Ingleson (1970: 53).
61 Saunders (1969) details the events that led to the re-installation of Muda Hassim as
Bendahara. Based on several eyewitness accounts, Saunders points out that the gunboat
diplomacy of the British forced the Brunei Malays to depose Pengiran Usop. The British
ships, which towered above the wooden houses in Brunei, posed threateningly in front of
the audience hall of the Sultans palace, which was open to the water, and a gunner was
ready with a burning torch.


In the early 1840s Syarif Osmans authority in northern Borneo was more far-reaching
than that of other leaders. He was regarded as an ambitious and strong leader who
could offer protection and whose government was considered to be effective and


Usmans career was cut short by a man of similar temperament and talent (Warren
1981: 79).
From 1840 James Brooke established himself in Sarawak. To consolidate his position
there he gradually eliminated potential opponents, beginning with the leaders of
the adjacent river populations.62 With the move to forcibly restore his protg
Muda Hassim to the powerful position of bendahara in Brunei, Brooke extended
his influence and intervened actively in the politics of Brunei. Brooke had basically
disposed of Pengiran Usop after October 1844, and the Sultan was supposedly under
Brookes control (through Muda Hassim and Bedrudin).
Syarif Osman as a Potential Rival to James Brooke
Around this time Brooke may have heard of Syarif Osmans influence in Brunei
and Sulu because before 1844 he had not written anything negative about Syarif
Osman. Now he was afraid that Syarif Osman could possibly intervene in Brunei63
and that this could affect his plans to bring the whole of northwestern Borneo under
his influence.64 Thus, Brooke began his campaign against Syarif Osman with the reinstallation of Muda Hassim in Brunei. He was especially afraid of the unpredictability
of Syarif Osmans reach of power. Brooke was able to control the situation in Brunei
in favour of his own interests, yet he could not control Syarif Osman by means of
Muda Hassim.65 Marudu was a kerajaan, independent of Brunei, and thus dangerous
in Brookes view because Syarif Osman possessed precisely the connections which
62 Refer to Tarling (1971: 46).
63 Memorandum on Brun, 3 July 1845, in: PP LXI, 18521853, Cochrane to Admiralty, 21
July 1845, Enclosure 1.
64 Before James Brooke could gain a foothold in Sarawak, he had planned to go first to
Marudu, inspired by Raffles views and by the deeds of Dalrymple in North Borneo. He
described his plan in a report for the Royal Geographical Society: refer to Keppel (1846:
II, Appendix I: vii ff.). (Proposed Exploring Expedition to the Asiatic Archipelago, by
James Brooke, Esq., 1838). Refer also to Tarling (1978: 66); Keppel (1846: I, 14); S. St.
John (1897: 270). When Mundy operated on the Borneo coast in September 1846, he stated
Brookes goals in Borneo as achieved and described him as the current de facto sovereign
of the whole coast of Borneo Proper, from point Api to Malludu, 700 miles in extent!
(1846: II, 266).
65 Thus, according to Brooke, Muda Hassims attempt to command Syarif Osman not to
come to Brunei as long as he practised piracy was unsuccessful. Refer to FO 572/1, No. 7,
Brooke to Aberdeen, 31 March 1845.

Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

Brooke wanted for himself. Syarif Osman had extended his sphere of influence to
the borders of Brunei and was free from the influence of colonial powers and from
control by the sultanates. The sultanates, on the other hand, had to deal with the
Europeans themselves: Sulu with the Spaniards, and Brunei with the British. To the
east of Borneo, the Dutch were extending their influence.
Syarif Osmans alliances with members of the ruling families especially Pengiran
Usop and Datu Mohammed Buyo, who were critical of European interference in
their affairs66 might even have contributed to his reputation of resisting European
influence. Marudus destruction represented a preventive measure by Brooke: the
elimination of a potential opponent of the imperial policy of expansion which Brooke
wanted to enforce in Borneo.67 With the destruction of Marudu he ensured that his
own personal leadership in Brunei and, of course, in the whole of northwestern
Borneo would not be interfered with by Marudu.
Whether Syarif Osman would ever have turned against Brooke is questionable.
He had taken no direct action against the British when they had deposed Pengiran
Usop as bendahara even though he certainly must have been alarmed by it. Syarif
Osman took only increased defensive measures and only after the British fleet
was already in the Bay of Marudu. Most likely, Syarif Osman did not know what was
brewing against him after October 1844, because until then he had been recognised
by domestic and foreign governments.
Because Brooke could not exert any influence on Marudu through his good contacts
in Brunei and because an independent state could not be attacked easily, Brooke again
used the ploy he had already used successfully against the leaders of the river districts
in Sarawak. He portrayed Syarif Osman as a pirate in order to gain the support of the
British Navy, which was only allowed to intervene when the East Indian trade routes
were considered to be no longer safe.
Brooke was aware of this and was also aware that while the British and the
Indian governments insisted on a policy of non-involvement in the native
states of Borneo, they would sanction activities for the suppression of piracy.
It was this issue of piracy which enabled Brooke to obtain the naval support
which was essential for the success of his wider aims (Ingleson 1970: 38).

66 Pengiran Usop was not generally hostile against the Europeans. Indeed, he often sought
contact; for example, with the Dutch in the 1830s (Tarling 1971: 50). Even against Brooke,
he was not hostile in 1842 (Keppel (1846: I, 324325); Tarling (1971: 53); Bassett (1980:
44)). Conflicts arose only because of Brookes direct intervention in Bruneis policy,
especially because Brooke had forcibly removed Usop from his office by for no apparent
67 The foundation of the British position in the north-east was helped enormously by the
British Navys decisive defeat of pirates in the Marudu Bay region in 1845 (King 1993:


James Brookes Campaign against Syarif Osman

Thus, Brooke started a campaign against Syarif Osman. First, he succeeded in
convincing Captain Belcher (with whom he was travelling along the coast of
northwestern Borneo after the restoration of Muda Hassim as bendahara in October
1844) not to deliver the letter to Syarif Osman from Governor Butterworth in
Singapore, in which Syarif Osman was referred to as Rajah of Maloodoo (Belcher
1848: I, 170). Brooke persuaded Belcher to allege that Syarif Osman was a pirate.
Belcher reported (following Brooke) that Syarif Osman was planning a piratical
expedition against Palawan. Belchers letter of 5 December 1844, addressed to the
Admiralty which was responsible for the security of the sea routes is, however,
in contrast to reports in his book (1848), in which he gave a detailed chronology of
his journey. In his letter he indicates that the expedition was made by Syarif Osman to
demand tribute. After Belcher and Brooke had separated, Belcher went on to Manila
where he was informed by General Claveria that this was also untrue, but that Syarif
Osman went to a stranded ship near the island of Banggi and took everything still
usable. In his book, Belcher wrote less accusingly and even described Syarif Osman
as the only energetic ruler in northern Borneo who could protect European traders.
Perhaps this discrepancy may be traced to the temporal and spatial distance between
Belchers writing of his letter and of his book. When he wrote the letter dated 5
December 1844 he was still under the influence of James Brookes statements. On
his part, Brooke wrote at that time about the piracy of Syarif Osman in letters to
Wise (CO 144/1, 31 October/5 November 1844). It was imperative for him that other
persons represented Syarif Osman as a pirate so Belchers letter to the Admiralty
was of great significance to Brooke. A start on the systematic defamation of Syarif
Osman had been made.
In February 1845 Brooke went on the offensive, after having received through
Captain Bethune his official appointment as Agent near the person of the Sultan
of Brunei. Since the beginning of his operations in Sarawak, Brooke had hoped to
be officially recognised by the government in London. Now Aberdeen (that is, the
Foreign Office) had granted him this unpaid office and also informed the Sultan of
Brunei in a letter that Brooke was now officially allowed to conduct negotiations for
the United Kingdom. Brooke was to ensure Bruneis cooperation in the protection of
Bethune was instructed to send the Foreign Office letter to the Sultan and to look for a
suitable site for a naval station in northwestern Borneo. Labuan was under discussion
since it was halfway between Singapore and Hong Kong and it promised to have
coal resources. Brooke supported the idea of having a British colony on the island
of Labuan, partly because it could serve to control Brunei. So Brooke and Bethune
travelled to Brunei, where they arrived on 24 February 1845 and immediately met
with the Sultan and other nobles. Brooke prepared a memorandum for the British
government in which he outlined the advantages of Labuan and the need to eradicate

Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

piracy, in particular the elimination of Syarif Osman. Only one day after his arrival
in Brunei, he persuaded the nobles to sign a letter requesting that action be taken
against Syarif Osman because official procedure required that notice of this concern
be conveyed by the Brunei Government to Brooke.68 In Brookes diary, the following
statement is dated 25 February 1845: The rajahs of Borneo have addressed to me
the following letter, in my public capacity, which I conceive will be sufficient to gain
protection for Borneo, if it does not enable the authorities to act in the offensive, and
at once to crush Malludu and its pirate gang (Mundy 1848: II, 15).
Strangely, this letter from the Sultan and Muda Hassim to the Admiralty was dated
6 March 1845. The reason for post-dating it to 6 March can be explained by another
event. On 5 March Brooke wrote:
Received intelligence from Malludu: Sheriff Osman has fortified himself, and
is prepared to resist the threatened attack of the English; and report further
states, that if the British squadron do not attack him, he will, at all events,
assault Brun for having entered into a treaty with us. Throwing aside all
speculative points, our first endeavour must be to crush the Sheriff, or at any
rate to protect the capital (Mundy 1848: II, 29).
The exact message received by Brooke is an open question. Certainly it was not
as dramatic as he described it. Marudu was already known as a strong fortress. If
Syarif Osman had threatened Brunei then he was most likely referring to Brookes
protgs Muda Hassim and Bedrudin and not to the Sultan or Brunei itself. Brooke
took this message as the reason to newly date the letter from the Sultan and Muda
Hassim, which he had actually received 13 days earlier, to make it more obvious why
the Brunei authorities would seemingly ask at this point in time for the protection
of the British against Marudu. As Marudu and Brunei were previously allied by
flourishing trade and friendly bonds, it is questionable whether the Sultan had signed
this letter voluntarily. In February/March 1845, Captain Bethunes ship was at anchor
in Brunei and thus potentially threatened the Sultan and the nobles. This letter was
very important for Brookes plan to win the Navys support for an offensive against
Marudu. So he handed the letter and Bethunes and Belchers statements against Syarif
Osman to Vice Admiral Cochrane in Singapore, where he had gone together with
Bethune after his stay in Brunei. The Navy officials relied on Brookes information
since they believed he had insight into the local situation, and because he could also
provide them with local complaints about Syarif Osman. Thus Brooke managed to
win the Vice Admirals support for his projects in Brunei and Marudu.
68 Brooke had done the same in 1843 during his campaign against the Saribas and Sekarang
communities. At that time he had asked Pengiran Muda Hassim in Sarawak for a letter
requesting the destruction of these communities, which was to be handed to Captain
Belcher. Here, too, an oral request would have been sufficient, as Belcher was on the spot.
Yet, for the purposes of the British authorities, Brooke required written proof from local
people that these two communities were committing piracy.


Vice Admiral Cochrane also addressed a detailed letter to the Admiralty. He presented
letters from Captains Belcher and Bethune as well as the Sultans letter dated 6 March
1845. Brooke, recognised as an Agent by the Foreign Office, sent in turn a copy
of the same letter from the Sultan, as well as his two memoranda to the Foreign
Office (Memorandum on the Suppression of Piracy and Memorandum on the Royal
Family of Borneo, both dated 31 March 1845, FO 572/1, No. 7). He also sent
copies of the Sultans letter and of the first-mentioned memorandum (on piracy) to
Governor Butterworth of Singapore. This letter campaign was based on Brookes
misrepresentation of Syarif Osman as a pirate and a danger to the security of Brunei
and, more specifically, to British interests in Brunei.
The Charge of Piracy
In these letters, Brooke tried to provide evidence of the offence of piracy. In his
documents of 1845 he mentioned three ships in particular: the Sultana, the Lord
[Viscount] Melbourne and the Wilhelm Ludwig. In mentioning these ships, Brooke
was attempting to associate them with acts of piracy. In fact, they were shipwrecked.
The Sultana was shipwrecked on 4 January 1841 in the vicinity of Dumaran Island,
which lies northeast of Palawan. Most survivors were able to make it to Brunei,
where they were robbed of their possessions, taken prisoner and treated as slaves.
However, nineteen people landed in Marudu. One of them, Haji Hassan, said: When
at Maloodoo, I lived in the house of a Syed, and was treated very well (Belcher
1848: I, 165). He only stayed there a few days before he travelled to the south with a
crew from Marudu and stopped in Ambong, where he saw a European woman who
lived there (Singapore Free Press, 30 September 1841). In October 1844 Governor
Butterworth asked in a letter which by Brookes instigation was not delivered
for Syarif Osmans assistance to resolve the case with regard to the European woman
in Ambong. Butterworth makes no mention of possible Sultana crew members
enslaved. He could have asked Syarif Osman for their release if it was assumed that
they were still staying in Marudu. However, in June 1845 in Singapore, Brooke had
Church, the Resident Councillor, prepare two testimonies of former Sultana crew
members in which they reported:
We are there seized and detained by Shireef Osman, the chief of the place,
who treated us in every respect as slaves. After a time, myself and Mahomed,
here present, were handed over to Dattoo Bureedeen, of Marudu. We remained
there about two years, when the Dattoo conveyed us and Jose the drummer to
Borneo, and handed us over to Pangeran Usuf (PP LXI, 185253, Cochrane
to Admiralty, 21 July 1845, Sub-Enclosure 2, Statement of Bastian Martinez).
These statements were sent to the Admiralty in London to provide evidence against
Syarif Osman and, of course, also Pengiran Usop. However, first, it is quite strange
that Brooke obtained these statements exactly at that point when he desperately needed
to persuade the Vice Admiral to fight against Pengiran Usop and Syarif Osman; and,

Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

secondly, even if things were as the two sailors testified, the fact of slavery was still
no proof of piracy. The British, and also Brooke, knew that shipwrecked persons
automatically became by law the property of the finder.69
The same weakness of a claim of piracy applies to the shipwreck of the Lord Viscount,
which ran aground on the Luconia Shoal off the coast of Brunei on 5 January 1842.
Here, Captain Bethunes only accusation is that Syarif Osman had sold the sailors
into slavery.70 In 1842 twenty crew members were held in Brunei, but eventually they
were handed over to Brooke, who did not connect their fate with Syarif Osman, but
with Usop. With the case of the Lord Viscount, as with the Sultana, neither Brooke
nor Bethune went so far as to construct a possible pirate attack by Syarif Osman.
The third ship, the Wilhelm Ludwig from Bremen, became stranded unlike the
other two ships in the waters of Marudu itself, on a small island called Mangsi,
probably in October/November 1844. According to Brooke, the alleged looting and
burning of this European ship was the answer of Syarif Osman to Muda Hassims
demand that he must not come to Brunei any longer and was a deliberate continuation
of his pirate deeds.71 However, General Claveria explained to Captain Belcher in
Manila at the end of 1844 that Syarif Osman had gone there to take the salvage left
behind by the crew. In fact, it was unwritten law in Southeast Asia that the salvage
belonged to the ruler on the spot.72 After the Battle of Marudu, a ships bell, furniture
and anchor chains from the Wilhelm Ludwig were found, but these came not from
a pirate attack as Brooke had claimed in August 184573 but as salvage of an
already abandoned ship in Marudu. In none of the cases not the Sultana, the Lord
Melbourne nor the Wilhelm Ludwig can acts of piracy by Syarif Osman be proved.
Brooke and the British Navy officers influenced by him had no evidence, a fact which
Belcher also noted: Serif Osman ... never engaging himself in any active Piracy
he encouraged the real actors in every possible way supplying arms and food, and
assisting in the disposal of the plunder (CO 144/1, Report on Balambangan, p. 64/
archive numbering).
However, Belcher claimed as did Brooke that Syarif Osman had practised
indirect piracy. But if they adopted this stance, then they logically should also have
charged with piracy all those persons involved in this type of trading system, including
69 Brooke wrote in his diary in 1842: I had some scruples about three Kleeses of the Sultana,
who had been sold at Malludu Bay, bought there by an Arab Seriff, and brought here. By all
their laws and customs they were his slaves, purchased at a distance, and, as I had no right
to claim them , I paid a fair price for them (Keppel 1846: I, 326). In 1883 the British
stated: A few years ago these shipwrecked unfortunates would have been naturally looked
upon as the undisputed private property of the finder and no one would have dreamed of
arguing that point (CO 855/155: British North Borneo Herald, 1 May 1883: 4).
70 Letter of Bethune to Cochrane, 1 April 1845, in: PP LXI, 18521853, Cochrane to
Admiralty, 10 April 1845, Enclosure 1.
71 FO 572/1, No. 7, Brooke to Aberdeen, 31 March 1845.
72 Refer to Manguin (1991: 45, n. 14); Andaya (1993: 95).
73 Refer to Keppel (1846: II, 151152).


the majority of Malay and Borneo nobles! Syarif Osman participated in the trading
system and, of course, in slavery in a similar manner to other nobles of Sulu, Brunei
and other places. When it suited his purpose, Brooke, on the one hand, tolerated this
kind of cooperation with alleged pirates, while, on the other hand, he readily used it
as evidence against someone who was standing in his way. He had no real evidence
of active piracy by Syarif Osman, so he tried to create a picture of Syarif Osman as a
pirate by citing the cases of the three ships.
Brooke seemed to have a very thorough knowledge of what constituted piracy
but he was unwilling to accept the legal results attributed to the definition.
Hence, he redefined the concept of piracy in order to rationalize some of
his illegal activities. They [Brooke and the British Navy] distorted the legal
term to fit the forces of the Borneo states and thus to justify attacking them.
To suggest that James Brooke did not know the legal definition of piracy in
international law is to insult his intelligence (Hamzah 1991: 15, 18).
In April 1845 Cochrane had promised to support Brooke, who now urgently awaited
his support as he feared that the situation could escalate in Brunei. Muda Hassim
was not nearly as popular as Brooke tried to make out to the authorities. He was
afraid that Pengiran Usop might seize power with support from Syarif Osman.74 In
May 1845 he again went with Bethune to Brunei, where they learned that in the
meantime the American ship the Constitution had anchored in Brunei waters and
the Americans had tried to enter into trade relations with Brunei but had failed to
do so due to translation difficulties. This provided a further argument for Brooke to
urge the authorities to intervene. In the official correspondence with Aberdeen (the
Foreign Office), Brooke stressed that the visit of the Constitution had weakened the
pro-British side. In addition, he pointed to possible interference by the French who
showed interest in Basilan Island in the Sulu archipelago. When he corresponded
with the Foreign Office, Brooke did not use the charge of piracy as his main argument
because the Foreign Office did not have jurisdiction over piracy matters, so he instead
emphasised concern about the security of the British sphere of influence in Borneo,
which could be threatened by the Americans or the French.
Bethune and Brooke travelled immediately from Brunei to Singapore to promote their
cause. Here they asked Church, the Resident Councillor, to record the testimonies of
two former slaves from the Sultana who had travelled with them to Singapore. He
could have recorded the statements previously when they were all in Brunei where
Brooke had obviously ransomed them,75 but it looked more official if Church recorded
them. Brooke used these statements for another letter campaign in June/July 1845.
Again he wrote to the Foreign Office, while Cochrane sent to the Admiralty a letter
74 Refer to Brookes Memorandum on Brun, 3 July 1845, in: PP LXI, 18521853, Cochrane
to Admiralty, 21 July 1845, Enclosure 1.
75 Refer to the statement of Bastian Martinez, 20 June 1845, in: PP LXI, 18521853, Cochrane
to Admiralty, 21 July 1845, Enclosure 1, Sub-Enclosure 2, Enclosure.

Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

with many enclosures which he had received from Brooke. However, when Cochrane
wrote his letter on 21 July 1845 he must have known that it would reach London only
after he would have intervened in Brunei and Marudu. Thus, their letters were only
directed to obtain ex post facto approval of their operations.76
The Offensive against Pengiran Usop
Cochrane set out for the northwest of Borneo with eight heavily armed ships. Such a
fleet brought fear and terror to the Siamese: upon departure of the fleet from Malaya,
the Siamese immediately took preventive defensive measures because they assumed
they would be attacked.77 Cochrane and Brooke arrived in Brunei on 8 August 1845
in order to proceed against Pengiran Usop. Officially, he was accused of having
held British subjects in slavery. The Sultan and other nobles could also be similarly
accused of slavery, but Brooke did not want to eliminate them at that time. The later
secretary and biographer of Brooke, Spenser St. John (1879: 101), saw it as fortunate
that two British subjects were held as slaves by Pengiran Usop because that provided
a pretext for Cochrane to proceed against Usop.
The Vice Admiral again got the Sultans written approval for his planned action and
he persuaded the Sultan to declare that Usop was rebellious and would probably
attack the pro-British party after the British had departed. There is no doubt that the
ships in Bruneis waterways intimidated the Sultan so much that he had no choice but
to sign the document.
Following Brookes statement, it was demanded that Pengiran Usop should appear
before the Sultan unarmed and in the presence of British soldiers, otherwise the British
would attack his residence. He had one day to comply. According to the statement
of Edward H. Cree, the surgeon of the Vixen who was present in the negotiations,
Usop took part in the first meeting but refused to sign a British contract to suppress
the piracy, whereupon they gave him one day to sign, otherwise they would fire upon
his house (Levien 1981: 156). Usop then barricaded himself in. Expecting a violent
confrontation, the people fled. Cree describes how a shot was fired through Usops
roof, which the British considered a warning. The Pengiran defended himself and then
shot back in turn. The British, however, claimed that he had started the fight because
their first shot was only a warning. Thus, they were able to justify the destruction of
the house. The first shot was a heavy hit and, of course, the British had opened the
attack with it, but later authors followed the opinion of the Vice Admiral that Usop
76 This was a common practice at that time because the post to London took three months
on average. The Battle of Marudu was actually approved afterwards; refer to Aberdeen
to Brooke, 18 October 1845, FO 572/1, No. 11. Brooke owed the Navys help to the
engagement and the decisiveness of the officers in Southeast Asia who often decided on
their own initiative, but certainly also tried to seek the opinion of other Britons on the spot.
77 Singapore Free Press, 49/10, 4 December 1845.



had attacked first.78 Usop was put to flight and his influence destroyed in Brunei. He
returned after the British had departed and tried to fight Muda Hassim and Pengiran
Bedrudin, but they put him to flight again. Usop escaped to Kimanis, which belonged
to him as sungai tulin (inheritance). Brooke later urged the Sultan to impose the death
sentence on Usop, which was enforced in October 1845.
The Battle of Marudu
Cochranes fleet left Brunei and reached Marudu on 17 August 1845. The Vixen,
Pluto, Nemesis, Wolverine and Cruiser sailed deep into the bay. Cochrane gave
the command to Captain Talbot. With 24 boats loaded with guns, he went to Syarif
Osmans position. Talbot was to fall back if victory was endangered. The British did
not know Syarif Osmans exact position, but were led to him by two Brunei natives
who according to Cree (Levien 1981: 161) acted under duress. Early in the
morning of 19 August 1845 Talbot entered the river leading to the fortress. The pilot
failed to inform the Captain of the full situation as he overlooked the fact that one side
of the fort was accessible by land; here Talbot could have sent soldiers.
Syarif Osmans position consisted of two forts, one equipped with three cannons,
the other with one (see Fig. 2). The forts, separated by a creek, were decorated with
colourful flags, a sign of the presence of many distinguished leaders and personalities.
Syarif Osmans own banner a red flag with a tigers head flew over the fort.79
He had placed a barrier made of tree trunks and iron across the river about 200 metres
ahead of his fortress so that enemy ships could not proceed, but the gunners of the fort
could fire on the attackers.
Before the battle commenced, Syarif Osman had sent Syarif Mohammed with a flag
of truce and asked for negotiations, but the British did not agree. The British began
to work on the barrier with axes, whereupon Syarif Osman opened fire. The battle
took about an hour and claimed nearly ten dead and twenty wounded on the British
side. Cree describes how a squad of soldiers landed on the right-hand river bank and
successfully targeted the fortress with rocket projectiles (Levien 1981: 161). These
weapons might have been superior to those of Syarif Osman and caused havoc in the
fortress. The only chance of the Marudu defenders lay in the persistent bombardment
of the barrier to avert an assault. However, after firing they had problems in bringing
the guns back into position (according to Pascoe).80 When the British broke through
after an hour, most of the defenders fled. There was some hand combat, but the battle
had already been decided. Probably the loss of skilled combatants by the rocket fire
78 For example, Hahn (1953: 114); Irwin (1955: 91); S. St. John (1879: 102); Evans (1978:
15); Baring-Gould and Bampfylde (1989 [1909]: 115). Rutter (1991 [1930]: 189/190)
noted that the first shot by the British was fired over the house.
79 Pascoe (1886: 50). Lieutenant Pascoe of the Vestal admired a defender of Marudu who, in
a bold action, re-erected the flag after it had been shot down.
80 Pascoe (1886: 49); Evans (1978).


Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

Fig. 2. Plan of the Battle of Marudu.

Ground plan of the attack on Marudu

H. High jungle.
1. English force.
2. One Rocket battery.
K. Boats 21 in number, eight of them
with guns.
1. Agincourts launch.
2. Vixens pinnace.
3. Daedalus launch.
4. Vestals launch.
5. Agincourts barge.
L. Small ditch which before the action
was supposed to be a deep branch of
the river.

A. Enemys stockade.
1. Eight-gun battery.
2. Eight gingalls (large, often
mounted, muskets).
3. Burial ground.
4. Serip Usmans house.
B. Three-gun battery.
C. Floating battery.
D. Double boom made of two tree
trunks, one 7 feet and the other 5
feet in circumference, fastened to
each launch by an iron chain.
E. Jungle that had been cut down and
undergrowth about breast high.
F. Gardens.
G. Malay town.

(Levien 1981: 158)



was too high for a more effective defence. A report in the Straits Times in October
1845 (Vol. 1, no. 1, p 2) states that 240 fighters from Marudu were killed and wounded:
The slaughter has been very severe ....
The Britons found many prominent leaders among those killed, but Syarif Osman was
not found. Cochrane suspected that he had fled to his small house in the countryside.
The British assumed that he had been wounded. He did not show up again in the
history of Borneo. Therefore Cochrane and Brooke assumed that he had died when
they controlled the location a year later.81
After the flight of the defenders, the British fell upon the location, sacked, killed, and
set fire to the fort, burning down (to their own anger) some camphor warehouses. The
British even ran the risk of being trapped by the fire. They made the guns unusable or
took them on board their ships.
The sailors and marines chased after them [the Marudu-defenders] in such an
unruly manner that one of the officers, Lieutenant Pascoe of the Vestal, was
disgusted: all was helter-skelter as if going to a fair, he said later. The navy
had done a great deal of damage with gunfire and there were many dead and
wounded, but some of the sailors and marines treated the whole affair as a
great lark (Evans 1978).
Finally, the British caught some animals and ended their operation with a picnic.82
People who searched for possible survivors a day later in the ruined fortress were
expelled as looters with a few shots.
Brooke and Cochrane tried again to justify the destruction of Marudu as a pirate
hideout through physical evidence. They took the ships bell of the Wilhelm Ludwig,
which they had found in Marudu, as evidence of piracy, although it was made clear
by Belcher that the bell had come to Marudu as salvage.
As a result of Brookes defamation of Syarif Osman, Marudu was destroyed on
Cochranes command. Based on constructed evidence, Cochrane and Brooke won
approval for the destruction of a flourishing trade centre in northern Borneo. Marudu
had fallen victim to the preventive measure of Brooke, namely, the destruction of a
potential opponent of imperial expansionism and of his own claim to leadership in
northwestern Borneo.
However, the charge of piracy was so massively driven by Brooke that it has
repercussions to this day. On 19 August 1845 he not only caused hundreds of people
81 Brooke called Dayang Sahaya a widow (CO 144/1, Brooke to Foreign Office, 25 May
82 Refer to Rutters report (1922: 104).


Thus Has Marudu Ceased to Exist

to lose their lives and destroyed their settlement, but he also destroyed the memory
of the real Marudu. Clearly it was not a pirate hideout and Syarif Osman was not the
powerful leader of Borneo pirates, but a raja who was about to build up Marudu as
a kerajaan (kingdom), independent of Sulu, Brunei and other regional powers. The
significance of what Syarif Osman achieved in Marudu is in large part lost or has
been ignored.
Thus has Marudu ceased to exist.


Official Records
Public Records Office, London
Admiralty Records
Adm 1/5548: China and Mediterranean
Colonial Office Records
CO 144: Labuan, Original Correspondence, 18441906
CO 855/155: The British North Borneo Herald & Gazette (18831940)
CO 874: British North Borneo Papers, 18781915
Foreign Office Records
FO 12: Borneo, 18421875
FO 71/15
FO 572 (Confidential Prints): Papers respecting Borneo, 18441847 and Brunei,
Sarawak and British North Borneo
Parliamentary Papers
PP LXI (18521853):Borneo Piracy and Attack on Brunei; Attack on Brunei; Borneo
Piracy; Bethunes Instructions of 1844 and Attack on Brunei; Instructions for
Commission of Inquiry; Brooke; Brookes Dismissal from Governorship.
Philippine National Archives, Manila
Isla de Borneo
Tomo II:
Folder 1: Exp. 1, 13b, 17.11.1882
Exp. 2, 49, 12.11.1848/6.5.1846
Folder 2: Exp. 1, 11b, 27.3.1845
Folder 3: Exp. 1, 111, 28.10.1857
Exp. 2, 1213b, 10.3.1858



Exp. 4, 1620, 16.5.1858

Exp. 5, 2121b, 20.8.1858
Exp. 6, 2224b, 22.9.1858
Exp. 9, 4776b, 15.7.1862
Exp. 16, 112113b, 3.3.1877
Folder 7: Exp. 1, 122b
National University of Singapore
The Singapore Free Press, 18451847
Straits Times and Singapore Journal of Commerce (JulyDecember 1845)

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