The British Intervention and Yap Ah Loy’s Downfall

Kuala Lumpur was no doubt recovering from the civil war but the process seemed to be quite stagnant for a while. From 1875 to 1878, during the 3 whole years, the town and the workforce remained the same. Yap Ah Loy himself was facing possible bankruptcy in 1878. At that time Yap Ah Loy was nevertheless the ruler of Kuala Lumpur, but his method of administration remained the same as if he was controlling the petty Chinese gang in 1860s. The ethnic segregation was very severe as well. There was an apparent marked division between the Chinese and Malay areas on Java Street since early 1870s.

Anyhow, with Yap Ah Loy’s great contribution, Kuala Lumpur became the regional centre of Selangor in both economic and social aspects. The British caught the chance and moved the centre of government of Selangor state to Kuala Lumpur in 1880. Hence Kuala Lumpur also became the political centre as well and it also represented the power of the British colonisers.

In 1881, a disastrous fire happened in Kuala Lumpur, following by a flood swept through the town later in the same year. These successive problems destroyed the town’s structures of wood and atap. Yap Ah Loy’s effort on rebuilding the town after the civil war was again burnt to ground. As a response, Frank Swettenham, the British representative of Selangor, replaced temporary buildings with brick-and-tile structures. Swettenham also employed bullock carts to remove the rubbish on the streets, drew up building regulations and widened streets. By 1887, there were 518 brick houses in Kuala Lumpur, the dirtiest opium shops and brothels became the neatest town in the colony.

Yap Ah Loy’s brick industry we mentioned before, was due to the request that buildings must be constructed of brick and tile. The British power took place the Chinese society led by Yap Ah Loy and became the driving force of development of Kuala Lumpur.



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