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|The Opium Monopoly|
THE OPIUM MONOPOLY
BY ELLEN N. LA MOTTE
XIII - BRITISH NORTH BORNEO
BRITISH North Borneo occupies the northern part of the island of Borneo. Area, about 31,000 square miles, with a coast line of over 800 miles. Population (1911 census), 208,000, consisting mainly of Mohammedan settlers on the coast and aboriginal tribes inland. The Europeans numbered 355; Chinese 26,000; Malays, 1,612; East Indians about 5,000 and Filipinos 5,700. The number of natives cannot be more than approximately estimated, but is placed at about 170,000. The territory is under the jurisdiction of the British North Borneo Company, being held under grants from the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu (Royal Charter in 1881).
Like many other British colonies, opium is depended upon for part of the revenue. The Statesman's Year Book for 1916 observes on page 107: "Sources of revenue: Opium, birds' nests, court fees, stamp duty, licenses, import and export duties, royalties, land sales, etc. No public debt."
In this frank manner, our attention is called to opium, which appears first on the list of sources o revenue.
Going over the files of the Government reports, we will begin with the "Supplement to the Official Gazette for British North Borneo. Administration Report for the Year 1910." Published June 1, 1911. On page 3 we read: Customs and Trade: The import and export trade of the state shows a healthy expansion. . . . It is interesting to note that imports show an increase at every station. Out of the 47 headings of Tariff, there are only 7 which show decreases. . . . The largest increases appear under cloth, $147,106; opium, $132,692, and iron ware, $218,620. . . . The general all round increases . . . are of course due to the demand for supplies of all kinds in connection with the opening of rubber estates."
The Supplement to the Official Gazette, Report for 1912 (published in December, 1913) is also a report of general prosperity. Page 4: "Trade: The volume of trade for the year 1912 was $11,139,122, giving an increase over 1911 of 18 per cent. . . . Imports: As in 1911, all stations show an increase of imports. Out Of 47 headings, 33 show increases, 12 show decreases, and 2 remain stationary. Increases: There was an increase under rice, flour and grain . . . the increase under other headings include sundries, opium, machinery, etc."
The next Government Report is not so happy. Opium imports show no "healthy expansion." Thus, the Supplement to the Official Gazette, Report for 1913 (published 1 February, 1915) says on page 4: "Other decreases in imports were opium, $108,18o. The decrease in opium was due to the abolition of the Opium Farm, which also held the Labuan Farm, and opium was therefore no longer imported from Labuan for use in the West Coast and the Interior."
Still more bad news as to opium, in the report for 1914, (published 1 February, 1916). All imports drop. Page 4 records "Decrease in imports. . . . Railway and telegraph material, rice, flour, grain and opium." In this year the opium imports only amount to $58,464. This general falling off in all imports may have been due to the war. But the opium situation was apparently growing serious. On page 17 of this same report we read that "Thirty-two ordinances were passed by the Council and became laws during the year. Among them the Opium and Chandu."
The brevity and meagerness of these official reports often leave one puzzled as to their meaning. The Supplement to the Official Gazette for 1915 (published October, 1916), shows still more discouraging news as to opium. Imports that year amounted to only $31,299. But, in spite of this discouragement, hope still remains. The same report shows optimism under the head of Excise. "Excise: $627,225, against $467,078, an increase in the net revenue of $160,147, due to Government taking over the sole control of the sale of chandu (smoking opium) and the collection of other Excise duties, formerly farmed."
This explains the Ordinance passed by the Council the preceding year, regarding Opium and Chandu. Since the Government has taken over 44 sole control of the sale of chandu " and will collect the excise duties systematically and thoroughly, we may still hope for some future report which will show once more a "healthy expansion" in the opium revenue.
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