In a local Press today there is an article about Kapitan Yap Ah Loy. The article is celebrating 180 years of the man the writer want us to believe that he (Yap Ah Loy) is be responsible for the rebuilding of Kuala Lumpur. What utter crap. I thought I am the best bullshitter around, but this writer takes the cake whitewashing the real history of Yap Ah Loy. Why? Most probably he is pissed that historians are declaring that a Malay man is the founder of Kuala Lumpur and not this triad leader named Yap Ah Loy.
Of course, Yap Ah Loy deserves a place in our history – but a place as what? Did he discover Kuala Lumpur? Of course not, it was already there when he became Kapitan. Was he the first Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur? Kidding me? He was the third Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur. He was not even the automatic candidate and was not part of the clan whose candidate should be elected Kapitan. Yap was already a small Kapitan – the Kapitan of Sungei Ujong when the Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur, Liu Ngim Kong, employed him as his Panglima. The supposed heir to the title of Kapitan was supposed to be another guy named Chong Chong but since Ah Loy was very close to Kapitan Liu, the dying Liu decided to appoint Yap to succeed him instead. To confirm himself as Kapitan (because the Chinese community did not want Yap as Kapitan) he got an old friend Raja Mahadi and Sutan Puasa to confirm his position as the new Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur and thus sowed the seeds for the Chinese involvement in the on-going Klang Civil War.
So what did he do that was remarkable in his first years as Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur? Well, Yap ensured that he controlled the prostitution business in Kuala Lumpur. He also owned a few gambling dens and a helluva lot of opium dens. Tin was a side business to him – two tin mines at most. He was very political and was the head a secret society that gave him the power to ensure his place as Kapitan. When Chong Chong killed a good friend of his, he chased Chong Chong and when Chong Chong found refuge in a small village called Kanching, Ah Loy massacred the whole village when they refused to cooperate in handing over Chong Chong to him.
And when war broke out between Klang and Selangor Palace due to the interference of Tengku Kudin, who stole Raja Mahadi’s fiance, Yap Ah Loy decided to bail out on his friends in Klang and join forces with the Tengku Kudin and the Sultan of Selangor. And to show his respect to the Sultan of Selangor, Yap offered the Sultan a huge bale of opium.
But throughout the civil war, Mahadi showed that he was the better war lord and had better generals and army and actually conquered Kuala Lumpur twice. Ah Loy was already a bankrupt at the end of the war. Only when the Temenggong of Pahang decided to join forces and help out the Selangor Sultanate did it turn the tide of war. Oh yes, Ah Loy also borrowed money from Malacca to buy rockets to destroy Kuala Lumpur in order to chase our Mahadi from Kuala Lumpur.
And when Mahadi lost in 1873 (after over ten years of battling for his right to be King of Klang), Kuala Lumpur was at peace again. Ah Loy became the town’s administrator working closely with the British to make Kuala Lumpur the capital city of Selangor. However, it really wasn’t Ah Loy who rebuilt KL, it was the British who used the Civil War to entrenched themselves into local politics and commerce. One of the most significant pay off to the British in their part to defeat Mahadi was the gift of land to the son in law of a man named Guthrie. Familiar name? That piece of land given to him became the cornerstone of a great empire called Guthrie.
Anyway, it’s 180 years since the Kapitan Cina of Sungei Ujong became Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur and we are supposed to celebrate it? What for? If we celebrate it, we are celebrating a person who is basically a mass murderer, a successful pimp with more than a thousand prostitutes under his control, a gambling den tycoon, a powerful drug lord with his opium dens all around the town and an unsuccessful war general. If we want to remember him, let’s remember who he really was and no need to white wash him as the founder and rebuilder of Kuala Lumpur. Because he wasn’t.
But then again, I could be bullshitting you.