Labuan Museum

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Entry Fee : Free
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It was a hot Wednesday afternoon when I visited this museum that is located right in the middle of Labuan's town centre. There was not much space around the building as it was flanked by the TM Point building and the Labuan Tourist Information Centre. The museum houses the history of human settlement in the island, colonial activities, and ethnic groups that live there.

Entrance to Labuan Museum. 
The museum comprised of two floors. The upper floor was dedicated solely for the cultural history and customs of multiple ethnic groups in Labuan. So first up, was the history of the island. Legend has that Labuan was once colonised by Kublai Khan. But the sure thing is Labuan was part of Brunei before 1846, before being handed over to the British. The British developed the island's economy by starting the coal mining industry there and making the place a duty free zone. The Japanese invaded Labuan in 1942, making the island their base in the attack all over Borneo. However, three years later the Allied Forces led by Australia defeated the Japanese. The British returned and stayed until 1963, when Labuan together with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore formed the Federation of Malaysia. It was then made a Federal Territory in 1984.

Prehistoric Era
Many of the prehistoric artifacts found were on the mini islands around Labuan. Ceramics, stone-based tools and human remains were found in Pulau Enoe and Pulau Burong, a tiny limestone island. In a small cave in Pulau Burong, fossils of human remain were found. Therefore it is believed that during the Stone Age, Pulau Burong served as the burial site and the bodies could have been brought from Labuan Island itself. Similarly, in Pulau Enoe, findings of human remains could mean the island served as an ancient burial site. Remains of blue-white ceramics of the Chinese Ming dynasty were also found in Pulau Enoe, indicating trade between China and Brunei in those days.

Labuan Under Various Colonisation
This section had write-ups about the occupation of Labuan by various foreign powers. Labuan was ruled by the Brunei Sultanate until 1846, when it was given to the British through a mutual agreement. The British developed the island, hoping it will rival Singapore in terms of economic potential. However, in the late 19th century, the coal mining factories in Labuan began to wind-up one by one and the island was no more able produce enough to sustain the administration cost. In 1890, the British administration decided to handover the administration to the North Borneo Company. The Company rejuvenated the economy of Labuan. They built undersea communications cable connecting Labuan to Singapore and Hong Kong. They also built railway to connect coal mining areas to the main port (today the town centre of Labuan). In 1942, Labuan fell to the Japanese. The island functioned as the operations centre in the North Borneo for the Japanese and also supplied energy source for their navy. Artifacts from the colonisations that were displayed in the museum include anti submarine weapon, bombshells and various other weapons.

Anti-submarine projectile

End of WWII and Independence
The rest of the sections in the ground floor covered the stories of Japanese surrender in Labuan and rise of nationalism spirit amongst the locals. On 16 September 1963, Labuan achieved independence from the British by joining the Federation of Malaysia.

Ethnical Communities in Labuan
Cultural history and customs of the following ethnic groups were mentioned in the upper floor.

Brunei Malays - They are believed to be one of the native inhabitants of Labuan and are the majorities of all ethnic groups in the island.

Kadayan - Also amongst the earliest inhabitants, Kadayans, together with the Brunei Malays make up 50% of the total inhabitants of Labuan. From studies, it is believed that Kadayans probably originated from Java or Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan).

Sikh - The Sikh community in Labuan was pioneered by Bhagat Singh who arrived in 1868 to work in the coal mining industry. He passed away in 1923 however the five generations that are rooted to him still live in the island.

Kadazandusun - Kadazandusuns make up 7% of Labuan's total population. They moved Labuan from Sabah in the 18th and 19th century for employment. During WWII, they were also brought in together with the Malays, Chinese and Indians and Javanese to resist the Japanese.

Chinese - A large scale Chinese immigration to Labuan believed to have happened during the height of the coal mining industry in late 19th century, with the British bringing in workers from Hong Kong and Singapore. The Chinese today make up 12.5% of the total population.

Indians - Although there is no record of Indian emigration to Labuan, it is believed that most of them are the descendants of the soldiers from Madras (now Chennai) brought in by the British in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Indians make up 2% of Labuan's population.


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