| 479,121 (2009)|
SM Teknik Sandakan
| Turtle Islands National Park, Berhala Island - Sabah, Berhala Island|
Sandakan ( Jawi: ???????, Chinese: ; pinyin: ) formerly known at various times as Elopura, is the second-largest town in Sabah after the Kota Kinabalu City, on the north-eastern coast of Borneo in Malaysia. It is located on the east coast of the island in the administrative centre of Sandakan Division and was the former capital of British North Borneo. The town has an estimated population of 157,330, while the whole municipalities area has a total population of 396,290.
Before the founding of Sandakan, the area has became the attention of German and British. In 1864, a German consular service ex-member been awarded a piece of land in the Sandakan Bay by the Sultanate of Sulu to monopoly rattan trade in the east coast of Borneo as Spanish has blockade the Sultanate possessions in the Sulu Archipelago. The German presence over the area has raised the British attention and as a method to stop it, an protocol was signed between the British, German and the Spanish to recognise Spanish sovereignty over the Sulu Archipelago and as a return the Spanish would not intervene the British affairs in northern Borneo. The Sultanate began to loosely govern the eastern part of North Borneo as on 1878, the Sultanate sold their land to an Austro-Hungarian consul who later leave the territory to a British colonial merchant.
Sandakan began to prosper when the British North Borneo Company (BNBC) start to built a new settlement in 1879, developing it as an active commercial and trading centre as well becaming the main administration centre for North Borneo. The British also encouraged the migration of Chinese from British Hong Kong to develop the economy of Sandakan. But the prosperous was ended when the Japanese started occupied the area, with a continuous war and the Allied bombing in 1944, the town was totally destroyed to the ground. Unable to fund the high cost of the reconstruction, the administration capital of North Borneo was moved to Jesselton with the administration of North Borneo been handed to the Crown Colony government. As part of the 1948–1955 Colonial Office Reconstruction and Development Plan, the crown colony government began to help the development of fishing industry in Sandakan.
Like most of part of Borneo, this area was once under the influence of the Bruneian Empire in the 15th century before been ceded to the Sultanate of Sulu between 1600s and 1700s as a gift for helping the Bruneian forces during a civil war that happened in Brunei. When Spanish power began to expand in the Philippine archipelago, they took a first measure by restraining trade activities of foreign nations with Sulu by establishing a port in Zamboanga on 1855 and issued a rule in which any ships want to engaged in trade with the Sulu Archipelago must first visit the Spanish port. In 1860, the Sultanate of Sulu have became important to British as their archipelago could benefit the British to dominate trade routes from Singapore to Mainland China. But in 1864, William Frederick Schuck, a German ex-member for the German consular service arrived in Sulu and met Sultan Jamal ul-Azam, who encouraged him to remain in Jolo. Schuck associated himself with the Singapore-German trading firm of Schomburg and began to working with the interest of the Sultan and Datu Majenji, who is an overlord in the island of Tawi-Tawi. While he continue his voyage to Celebes, he decided to open his first headquarters at Jolo. Large quantities of arms, opium, textiles and tobacco from Singapore were shipped to Tawi-Tawi in exchanged for slaves from the Sultanate.
In November 1871, Spanish gunboats bombarded Samal villages in Tawi-Tawi islands and blockaded Jolo. As war in the waters of Sulu began to escalate, the Sultanate came to rely on Singapores market for assistance. When the Sultanate increase their close trade relations with the British trading ports of Labuan and Singapore, this has forced Spanish to take another major step to conquer the Sulu Archipelago. The arrival of German warship Nymph at Sulu Sea in 1872 to investigate the Sulu-Spanish conflict making the Sultanate believed Schuck has a connection with the German government, thus the Sultanate grant Schuck a piece of land in the Sandakan Bay to establish a trading port for the monopoly of the rattan trade in the northeast coast where Schuck could operate freely without the Spanish blockade. The intervention of German on the Sulu issue have raised the attention of the British and make them suspicious over German aims especially when the Sultanate have asked a protection from the German. Schuck then establish warehouses and residences in the Sandakan Bay along with the arriving of two steamers under the German flag and served as a base for the running of gunpowder and firearms. A first European settlement was then built by a Scottish arms smuggler from Glasgow named William Clarke Cowie who named the settlement "Sandakan", (which in the Suluk language means "The place that was pawned"). This settlement was soon renamed Kampong German (Kampung Jerman), due to the presence of several German bases there. When another German warship Hertha visited Sandakan Bay, its commander described the activity in Kampung Jerman:
... during our stay, two small steamers under German flag, ostensibly coming from Labuan, ran in; also third, of about the same size, with a flag of all yellow, the property and flag, as I was told of the Datu Alum. Judging from the stores in the settlement, cotton goods, arms and especially firearms, appears to be the articles of trade with the natives of Sulu.
In 1878, the Sultanate of Sulu sold their land in north-eastern Borneo to a Austro-Hungarian consul Baron von Overbeck. After some efforts by Overbeck to sell northern Borneo to Kingdom of Italy for use as a penal colony were unsuccessful, he withdrew in 1880, leaving Alfred Dent to manage and established the British North Borneo Company with Sandakan became the capital of North Borneo in 1884. As the capital of North Borneo, Sandakan become an active commercial and trading centre. Main trading partners were Hong Kong and Singapore. It is not surprising, therefore, that many Hong Kong traders eventually settled in Sandakan so that in time the town was called the Little Hong Kong of North Borneo. The Cowie settlement was accidentally burnt down on 15 June 1879 and was never thereafter rebuilt. A British Resident, William B. Pryer then moved the administration to a new settlement on 21 June 1879 to a residence in what is today known as Buli Sim Sim near Sandakan Bay. It was Pryer who gave the settlement the name Elopura meaning "Beautiful Town". Several years later the settlement was again renamed Sandakan. The name Elopura, however, is still used for some local government functions of the Sabah State Legislative Assembly, including elections.
During Pryer tenure of becoming the first Resident of Sandakan, one of his first tasks was to establish law and order. But since the local natives, although cowed by the guns of the British Navy, considered the British as transgressors in their land, hostility towards the authority of the British North Borneo Company was natural. Hence, Pryer had to import his police from India and Singapore. His first contingent of police was made up of Indian Sikhs whose stature alone must have been quite frightening to some of the natives. The Indian police were probably from the Sepoy Company in India and were generally called Sipai by the locals.
Meanwhile, the Spanish continue to strengthened their blockade over trade activities in the Sulu Archipelago, this resulted in the opposing of the blockade by German where many of their trading ship been seized by Spain, both Berlin and London has stated the archipelago should remain open to world trade route. Soon, the British began to co-operate with German when rumours about the seizure of British trading ship by the Spanish began arriving to Great Britain thus give the need for a stronger action. British and German then refused to recognise the Spanish sovereignty over Sulu. But with the strong opposition from German over the illegal seizures of their ships and the British fear over the German presence (which are more stronger than the Spanish during the time), a protocol known as Madrid Protocol was then signed in Madrid to secured Spanish sovereignty over the archipelago and making Spanish free to wage any war with the Sultanate of Sulu without being fear of other foreign western powers intervention and as a return the Spanish would not intervening the affairs of British in northern Borneo.
The prosperous of Sandakan as the capital of North Borneo was however ended when the Japanese occupied the town on 19 January 1942. During their occupation, the Japanese had restored the previous name of Elopura for the town and established a prisoner-of-war camp to held their captured enemies. Allied planes started raiding Sandakan on September 1944 and as the Japanese fearing for any further retaliation from the Allied forces, they began to moved all prisoners and forced them to marched until Ranau. Thousands of British and Australian soldiers lost their lives during this forced march in addition to Javanese labourers from Dutch East Indies. Only six Australian soldiers survived from this camp, all of whom had escaped. Sandakan was completely destroyed both by bombing from Allied forces and the Japanese occupation.
At the end of the war, the British North Borneo Company returned to administer but was unable to finance the huge costs of reconstruction. They gave control of North Borneo to the British Crown on 18 July 1946 with the new colonial government has choose to moved the capital of North Borneo to Jesselton instead of rebuilding it as the cost to reconstruct the town are much high due to the devastating damage. Although Sandakan have no longer became the administration capital, it still remained as the "economic capital" with its port handles activities relating to the export of timber and other agricultural products in the east coast. To improve the facilities, the Crown Colony administration designed a plan, later known as the "Colonial Office Reconstruction and Development Plan for North Borneo: 1948–1955”. This plan provide Sandakan with the establishment of Fisheries Department on April 1948. As a first step towards the development of fishing industry in Sandakan, the Crown Colony devised the "Young Working Plan" through the "Colonial Development and Welfare Scheme". Through this plan, the British administration was given the responsibility to import basic materials required by fishermen and distribute the materials at a price lower than the one offered by the capitalist. As a result, the fishing industry in Sandakan saw a great involvement by Hong Kong towkays.
Sandakan is located on the east coast of Sabah confront with the Sulu Sea and the town were known as one of Malaysia port town. The town is located approximately 1,900 kilometres from the Malaysias capital, Kuala Lumpur while only 28 kilometres from the international border with the Philippines and 319 kilometres from the capital of Sabah. The district itself is surrounded by Beluran (known as Labuk-Sugut District before) and Kinabatangan district. Not far from the town, there are three islands which are part of the Malaysian Turtle Islands namely the Selingaan, Gulisaan and Bakkungan Kechil. The nearest islands to the town are Berhala, Duyong, Nunuyan Darat, Nunuyan Laut, and Bai island.
During the British period, Sandakan grew quickly as one of the largest British settlements in the east coast of North Borneo including has ever become the former capital for the territory. It grew rapidly due to the export activities as a port town. The port is important for palm oil, tobacco, cocoa, coffee, manila hemp and sago exports. In the mid-1930s, the export of tropical timber from Sandakan has record a level of 180,000 cubic metres which made the town as the worlds largest exporter of hardwood. Many Sandakan wood logs are now found in Beijings Temple of Heaven. Sandakan also enjoyed modern developments such as telegraph service to London and paved streets before Hong Kong and Singapore.
A number of cultural venues has their place in Sandakan. The Sandakan Heritage Museum, situated at the Jalan Lebuh Empat, is the main museum of Sandakan. The museum located in the right-hand side of the ground and in the 1st floors of the Wisma Warisan Building which is next to the municipal building. Beside that, a cultural festival known as Sandakan Festival were celebrated once a year on the town since been introduced in 2000 by the Sandakan Municipal Council.
Another museum in Sandakan is the Agnes Keith House which is located at the top of the hill along Jalan Istana. The house known for the former home to Harry Keith and his wife Agnes Newton Keith. Other historical attractions including the Malaysia Fountain, Chartered Company Memorial, Chong Tain Vun Memorial, North Borneo Scout Movement Memorial, Sandakan Japanese Cemetery, Sandakan Liberation Monument, Sandakan Massacre Memorial, Sandakan Memorial Park, Sandakan War Memorial and the William Pryer Memorial. While for the oldest religious buildings are the Parish of St. Michaels and All Angels, the Sam Sing Kung Temple and the Masjid Jamek who was opened by a Muslim cloth merchant from India, known as Damsah in 1890.
A number of leisure spots and conservation areas are available around Sandakan. The Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary is the place where orphaned or injured orangutans are brought to be rehabilitated to return to forest life. Established in 1964, it is one of only four orangutan sanctuaries in the world. Other conservation areas are the Malaysian Turtle Islands where many turtles lay their eggs on the islands. They cover an area of 1,740 hectares which includes the surrounding reefs and seas and the islands are also ideal for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving.
Another attraction is the Gomantong Caves, which become home to hundreds of thousands of swifts who build their nests high on cave walls and roofs. Other than swifts, the caves are also inhabited by millions of bats. Much more, the Sandakan Orchid House has a collection of rare orchids and along the Labuk Road from Sandakan there is a crocodile farm, which housing about 1,000 crocodiles of various sizes.
The main shopping area in Sandakan is the Harbour Mall. Launch in 2003, it is located in Sandakans new central business district and build on a bay of reclaimed land. It is part of the Sandakan Harbour Square and considered as the first modern shopping mall in the town. In 2014, a new mall project with 341 units of store has been launched and will become the second main shopping destination for Sandakan once it finished.
Rugby is very popular in Sandakan. Eddie Butler, a former Welsh Rugby Union captain, described it as the "Limerick of the tropics". In 2008, at the newly built Sandakan Rugby Club, the Borneo Eagles-Sabahans (a team which included a few professional Fijians), hosted at the Borneo 10-a-side tournament for the eight and last time. Next year, the tournament will change to seven-aside.
Other than rugby, a sport complex containing a badminton court, swimming pool, weightlifting room, hockey stadium, football stadium, cricket field, boxing facility and field archery available on the town.