Friday, May 15, 2009

Penang Prison(槟城四坎店监狱)

The view facing the Dato Kramat Road

The above photos are the views from Jalan Gaol

Penang Gaol

The infromation from the tourism borchures, reported that the oldest prison is Taiping Prison(太平监狱). Taiping Prison was completed in 1879. The second oldest prison is Penang Prison , the 3rd is Johore Bharu Prison(now a museum) in 1883. The famous Pudu Jail in Kuala Lumpur was built in 1895, but it was closed in 1996. The Penang Jail is the only heritage prison from Strait Settlement which is still in use today. Prison or Jail or gaol, is a place where individuals are physically confined and deprived of personal freedom. It is part of the nation's legal criminal justice system, imprisonment is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the Judge under court trial , or by statutory law or the police without trial(e.g. Internal Security Act). Prison is an important institution in society.

The official web site of Jabatan Penjara Malaysia, did not provide much information on the history of the prisons, especially Penang prison. When I searched the said web site on 14-5-2009 , it was still under construction. There was no mention of date when Penang Jail was established. But it provide information on the list of names of person in charge of Penang Prison. The earliest name was Colonel William T. Butterworth, from 1849-1944, which is not possible, as it will mean that he held office for 96 years. The historical documents on Penang prison may be destroyed during the 2nd World War.

The internet did not provide much help on the date of establishment of Penang Prison, unlike Taiping Prison. The only evidence of the date is the year clearly written on the entrance arch of Penang Prison , 1849. From that information, it revealed taht either Taiping prison is not the oldest prison in Malaysia, as Penang prison was much earlier at 1849; or the construction of Penang prison did not meet the criteria of a complete definition of prison?

The Penang Prison was located at Gaol Road (or Jalan Gaol/Jalan Penjara), from Jalan Barrack to Jalan Utama(Western Road), which is near the general hospital. In fact the left side wall of the prison is at Jalan Utama/Jalan Dato Kramat junction, facing the Lorong Kulit entrance leading to City Stadium. The Chinese called it New Prison or sin-kha-ku(新骹拘), some called it Dato Kramat Prison(槟城四坎店监狱) , as the side wall is at Jalan Dato Kramat .

The Penang Prison is not the first prison in Penang. The first prison in Penang was Fort Cornwallis. Francis Light landed in Penang in 1786, he first built the fort with nibong palm; 3 years later in 1789 he rebuilt the fort with the import convict labor. He built the fort with bricks with the same star shaped layout and size. It was the military and administration base for the British East India Company. The first prison was there. The Fort Cornwallis was reported used until around 1811. ( The Straits government transported Indian convicts from India to the straits settlement as a source of cheap labor. Penang was then the designated penal colonies together with Bencoolen, on the south west coast of Sumatra(now Indonesia). Later on Singapore and Malacca was also designated. (note: A penal colony is a settlement used to detain prisoners, and generally used them for penal labor in an economically underdeveloped part of the state territories or colonies. It is larger than prison farm.) The strait settlement and the earlier Bencoolen, were the penal colonies for the prisoners from India who were serving sentences for more than 7 years.

In 1819, Singapore was found. Some of Indian convicts were sent to Singapore.

The Fort Cornwallis was not big enough for the increasing convicts, the first convict prison was a place called Chowrusta Lines located at Penang Road(believed is located at today's Chowrasta Market). However as the convicts from India was increasing, the Chowusta Lines was found to be too small. Another larger jail was erected on the opposite side of the Chowusta Lines(believed to be today's Penang Police headquarter). The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 resulted in British given up Bencoolen of Sumatra, but took over Malacca from Dutch. In 1825, the convicts from Bencoolen were transported and added to the existing convicts in Penang. The Jail in Penang Road was not able to cater for the need. In 1832, the capital of strait settlement moved from Penang to Singapore, all prison administration was under control from Singapore. In 1833, slavery was abolished. The fresh convicts were still sent from Penang to Malacca in 1840(This provided support that the Penang prison was not large for incoming convicts, the excess convicts were sent to Malacca, the new Penang prison was built after the 1840.

The Penang Prison was built in 1849, by the convict labor from Malabar, called Malabaris. In 1848, the first Sikhs arrived as political prisoners in Malaya, first to Singapore Jail with their leader Maharaj Singh. These were the officers and armies of annexed Punjab, after the 2nd Punjab War. Their deputy leader, Kharak Singh was transferred to Penang Jail in 1857, as he was suspected to plan a uprising in the Singapore prison.

From 1841-1936, 4 prisons were built by British to house the convicts from India. Penang ceased to be penal colony in 1860. There were two types of jail in Strait Settlement, one for the locals, and the other for the Indian convicts. It was reported that there was a local jail in Acheen Street. After 1860, no more convict jail in Penang.

During British rule, especially under straits settlement; initially the convicts were under the Engineer in Charge of Public Work(Colonial Engineer) located at Singapore, he was in charge of all the three states under his jurisdiction, including Penang Jail. A committee was set up and met in Penang on Nov, 1827 , to set a new code for employment of the convicts as warders, this rule is know as “Penang Rules”.It was only under General Man( the Resident Councilor of Penang from 1860-1867), and Captain Hilliard being Superintendent, under Colonel Butterworth,the abolishment of free warder was approved, and petty officers raised from among the convicts. It was called “Buterworth Rule”. It was fully established as confirmed by the letter from General Man to Colonel Butterworth in August 1854. (Note Butterwort Rule was disestablished in 1873) The government of India appointed General Forlong to prepare code of rules based on those system of convicts management inforced in Singapore Jail. The revised Butterworth rule( a prison administration system) resulted in creation of Comptroller of Indian Convicts, a new position. Major John Frederick Adolphus McNair (1828-1910)was the first Comptroller of Indian Convicts from 1857 to 1873. Capt McNair wrote a book with the title “Prisoners their own warders” assisted by W.D.Bayliss, it was published in 1899. It provide a chapter on Penang. But no mention of Penang Jail in the book. Capt Mc Nair was credited for building of many public building in the strait settlement period. One of it was the Istana Singapore,the oldest part of the Empress Place Building , St Andrews Cathedral and Tao Nan School, all in Singapore. In 1872, he was appointed as the first head of JKR or Jabatan Kerja Raya or Public Work Department ( In 1875, he was appointed as Chief Commissioner for the Pacification of Larut in Perak. In 1881-1884, he was the acting resident councillor of Penang, but appointed Resident Councillor in 1884 but it was reported he resigned due to illness in the same year. The McNair Street in Penang was named after him.

The Police Force Ordinance 1871 was only operative in 1872. The police in Singapore,Penang and Malacca was under the Chief Police of Strait Settlement in Singapore. The first Police Chief of Strait Settlement was Colonel Samuel Dunlop,who later become Acting Lieutenant Governor of Penang from 1884-1885. Dunlop Road in Penang was named after him. Major McNair and Colonel Samuel Dunlop were the member of British team in the Treaty of Pangkor 1874 ; and later both of them also in the Commission of Pacification of Larut in 1875. So before 1872, if there was any police force in Penang, it was weak.

The military barracks was moved from Fort Cornwallis to the area where Jalan Sepoy Lines is located today. The name Sepoy is the names given to soldiers from India employed by English. In 1871, Captain Speedy ( full name Tristram Chales Sawyer Speedy(1836-1911) was appointed the Superintenant of Police in Penang. He was credited for bringing in the Indian Sepoy to Penang. It was when he planted the Baobab tree in Penang(at the Jalan Macalister junction), now the oldest planted tree in Penang. In 1873, he resigned and joined Mentri Ngah Ibrahim to raise an armies of Indian Sepoy to maintain order in tin rich Larut. He was appointed as Assistant Residence of Larut in 1874 until 1877. He was the one who gave the name Taiping or Thaipeng(太平), heavenly peace to town of Taiping to the place Klian Pauh. He was also credited for the Kamunting town in Klian Baharu. The remain of the military presence in the area now are Polo Ground(the parade ground for the military), Penang Jail and Jalan Gaol, Barrack Road, and Jalan Sepoy lines. From the history of Capt Sppedy, it can revealed that there were separate of function between the police and prison.Major McNair was the Comptroller of Indian Convicts from 1857-1873; and Captain Speedy was Superintendent of Police in Penang from 1871-1873 . These two men were main contributor to prison history, one for convict prison, and the other one for civil prison. They must know the Penang prison well.....

So there was no written evidence that the Penang Jail was completed in 1849? I hope someone will provide the reference one day to prove that Penang Jail is the oldest prison; and not Taiping prison(in 1879).

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