Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Loh Family in Perlis

(revised on 22 Nov 2011 & 25 Nov 2012)

Perlis is the smallest state in the Malay Peninsular. The history of the Chinese settlements in Perlis is very often lack of documentation. The early Chinese groups migrated to Perlis were the Hakkas from Cenxi of Guangxi and Dapu of Guangdong. Other Chinese ethnics including those from Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan came later. The Chinese influx to Perlis was probably due to the discovery of tin mines near the northern region of the State neighboring to the Thai border. 

Located far away from the capital, Kangar, is the little mining town, known as Kaki Bukit or meaning foothill in English. This place is occupied by the Chinese Hakka descends and was once headed by a prominent Chinese miner, Loh Seng Heng and his family. Kaki Bukit was first discovered by Lt. Col. Sir John Campbell in the early 1930s when he led a team to explore the inner site of Wang Kelian. Around this time, there was already a Chinese chief, named Lee Lei Kam, who represented the Chinese community in Perlis. He was appointed as the Chinese Kapitan by the Raja of Perlis and lived in Kangar. Kapitan Lee Lei Kam served during the 1930s but shortly afterwards the Kapitan system was abolished.

During the exploration led by Sir John in 1928, one of team members was Loh Seng Heng. He  later amassed large tin mining concession by the State Government of Perlis, as token of appreciation for his keenness to develop the newly-found tin mines at Wang Kelian. Loh Seng Heng, later the patriarch of the Loh Clan in Kaki Bukit was of Dapu Hakka origin. He co-founded the Kaki Bukit Tin Mines together with Sir John in 1935. During the early time of the mine establishment, Loh Seng Heng brought in Chinese coolies particularly selected from Guangxi region and neighbouring area of southern Guangdong in China.

According to the folks, there was a time where more than 3,000 coolies were employed to cast the tin ore near the foothill. However, there were no  official documentation regarding with the records of coolies deployed and the actual capacity of tin mined there. Loh Seng Heng's eldest son, Loh Ah Tong inherited his father's property worth millions and they owned a beautiful spacious English mansion near the former mine sites in which still exist today.

Loh Ah Tong who later joined politics and became a member of the State Council. In recognition to his contribution to the Chinese community in Perlis, he was conferred the title Dato' by the Raja of Perlis.

Dato' Loh Ah Tong,
Loh Ah Tong was born in 1904 in Lahat, Perak to Loh Seng Heng, he married Lee Leong Ying. Loh Ah Tong was educated at St. Michael's Institution in Ipoh and had various business interests, ranging from tin mining to rubber plantation and land proprietorship.

Loh Ah Tong was the Unofficial Member of Perlis State Council and Perlis State Executive Council in 1948. He was also the Chairman of Local Council for Kaki Bukit (1957 - 1960), Member of Licensing Board, Committee Member of the Perlis State Welfare for the the Committee Chinese Advisory Board. Loh Ah Tong was the President of Adult Education Association, Perlis Football Association, Malaysian Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, Henry Gurney Memorial Fund of Kaki Bukit, Vice-President of the Malayan Chinese Association. His other appointments including, Adviser Juvenile Court, Visitor of Kangar General Hospital, Chairman of the Board of Governors for Stella Maris School (Kangar) and Kong Hwa School (Kaki Bukit), Chairman of Ching Wah Koong Fooi Association (Kaki Bukit) and many other appointments.