( Original Article )
Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore on 29 January 1819. Travelling on the Indiana with a squadron that included the schooner Enterprise, he anchored at St John’s Island at 4.00 pm on 28 January 1819 before setting foot on Singapore island the next day. 1 The site on the Singapore mainland where Raffles landed is today marked with the statue of Raffles, which is located by the Singapore River behind Parliament House. 2
Raffles anchored at St John’s Island, but remained on board the Indiana
while locals from Singapore island were called aboard. Raffles consulted them,
asking if the Dutch had authority over the main island, and noted that
only the Temenggong held fort there.
The next day, Raffles and William Farquhar landed at a local river
(there is a dispute as to whether they landed at Singapore River or Rochor River further east),
and visited the Temenggong.
3 Raffles named his landing location South Point.
The Temenggong, a vassal of Sultan Hussein, was consulted and a provisional treaty was agreed upon. Thereafter, the British flag was planted upon Singapore shores, troops were dispatched and instructions left for a fort to be built at what is now known as Fort Canning Hill. Sultan Hussein (Tunku Long) arrived on 1 February, whereupon the trio agreed on a treaty on 6 February. Raffles departed Singapore on 7 February, leaving Farquhar in charge of the inchoate settlement. 5
Wah Hakim’s interpretation
Wah Hakim, a 15-year-old eye-witness to the events, testified that Raffles arrived in the company of Farquhar who wore a helmet, and a Sepoy who carried a musket. They were entertained with fruits, including rambutans, at the Temenggong’s home, leaving at about 4.00 pm that afternoon. 14 The British then left, returning 12 days later, but they remained by the shore, living in makeshift attap huts. Tunku Long was found fishing in the Straits of Rhio by two princes, Raja Ombong, the former’s kinsman, and Enche Wan Abdullah, both of whom were paid 500 pounds for their effort. Upon his arrival, the Tunku conducted negotiations with Raffles at the Temenggong’s residence first, and later at Raffles’s, which was located in Padang Senar. 15
The Temenggong’s letters, however, testified that there were at least nine vessels that brought the British: seven ships, one kura-kura and one ketch, although Munshi Abdullah highlighted in the Hikayat Abdullah that there were four ships instead. Accounts from the Temenggong and Munshi Abdullah also differed on who conducted the negotiations. The former noted that Farquhar left for Malacca soon after, leaving Raffles to do the negotiations. 16
Munshi Abdullah’s interpretation
Munshi Abdullah recorded that it was only Farquhar who first landed on 29 January 1819, without Raffles. The controversy was discussed by C. A. Gibson-Hill in the article “The Date of Munshi Abdullah’s First Visit to Singapore”. Gibson-Hill concurred that Raffles might have remained on board the Indiana, sleeping, during that first visit to Singapore. 17
Captain Crawford’s interpretation
Another interpretation is that Captain J. G. F. Crawford commanded the Investigator, the H. C. vessel that surveyed Singapore waters upon the initial landing of Raffles and Farquhar. 18
Cho Clan Archives
Another version recorded in the Cho Clan Archives claims that Raffles had his ship’s carpenter, Chow Ah Chi, a Toi San Cantonese from Penang, lead the way in posting the East India Company’s flag on Singapore island. Chow reportedly landed on the banks of the Rochor River, and Raffles consequently followed his vanguard’s route and probably landed at the Kallang Basin, rather than the shores of the Singapore River. 19