Kuala Lumpur has its origins in the 1850s, when the Malay Chief of Klang, Raja Abdullah, hired some Chinese labourers to open new and larger tin mines for tin prospectors. The miners landed at the confluence of Sungai Gombak (previously known as Sungai Lumpur, meaning "muddy river") and Sungai Klang (Klang River) to open mines at Ampang, Pudu and Batu. These mines developed into a trading post which became a frontier town.
The tin prospectors settled in Ampang, and formed gangs within themselves. The two largest Chinese gangsters, the Hakka-dominated Hai San and the Hokkien-dominated Ghee Hin, frequently engaged in warfare to gain control of tin production in the town. The incessant warfare between the two factions brought tin mine production to a standstill, prompting the British, who ruled Selangor as one of the Federated Malay States at the time, to appoint a Chinese Kapitan (headman) to administer Kuala Lumpur. Hiu Siew, the owner of a mine in Lukut, was elected as the first Kapitan. As one of the first traders to arrive in Ampang (along with Yap Ah Sze), he sold provisions to the miners in exchange for tin.
During the early times, Kuala Lumpur had many problems, including the Selangor Civil War; it was also plagued by diseases and constant fires and floods. Around the 1870s, the third Chinese Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur, Yap Ah Loy, emerged as leader, and became responsible for the survival and subsequent systematic growth of this town. He began to develop Kuala Lumpur from a small, obscure settlement into a booming mining town. In 1880, the state capital of Selangor was moved from Klang to the more strategically advantageous Kuala Lumpur.
In 1881, a flood swept through the town, following a fire that had engulfed it earlier. These successive problems destroyed the town's structures of wood and atap (thatching). As a response, Frank Swettenham, the British Resident of Selangor, required that buildings be constructed of brick and tile. Hence, Kapitan Yap Ah Loy bought a sprawling piece of real estate for the setting up of a brick industry which would spur the rebuilding of Kuala Lumpur. This place is the eponymous Brickfields. Hence, destroyed atap buildings were replaced with brick and tiled ones. He restructured the building layout of the city. Many of the new brick buildings mirrored those of shop houses in southern China, characterised by "five foot ways" as well as skilled Chinese carpentry work. This resulted in a distinct eclectic shop house architecture typical to this region. A railway line increased accessibility into the growing town. Development intensified in the 1890s, leading to the creation of a Sanitary Board. Kapitan Yap Ah Loy spent a sum of $20,000 to expand road access in the city significantly, linking up tin mines with the city, these roads include the main arterial roads of Ampang Road, Pudu Road and Petaling Street.
As Chinese Kapitan, he was vested with wide powers on par with Malay community leaders. He implemented law reforms and introduced new legal measures. He would also preside over a small claims court. With a police force amounting only 6, he was able to uphold to rule of law. He built a prison which could accommodate 60 prisoners at any time. Kapitan Yap Ah Loy also built Kuala Lumpur's first school and a major tapioca mill in Petaling Street of which the Selangor's Sultan Abdul Samad had an interest.
In 1896, Kuala Lumpur was chosen as the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States. A mixture of different communities settled in various sections of Kuala Lumpur. The Chinese mainly settled around the commercial centre of Market Square, east of the Klang River, and towards Chinatown. The Malays, Indian Chettiars, and Indian Muslims resided along Java Street (now Jalan Tun Perak). The Padang, now known as Merdeka Square, was the centre of the British administrative offices.
During World War II, Kuala Lumpur was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army on 11 January 1942. They occupied the city until 15 August 1945, when the commander in chief of the Japanese Seventh Area Army in Singapore and Malaysia, Seishirō Itagaki, surrendered to the British administration following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kuala Lumpur grew through the war, the rubber and tin commodity crashes and the Malayan Emergency, during which Malaya was preoccupied with the communist insurgency. In 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from British rule. Kuala Lumpur remained the capital through the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963.
On 13 May 1969, the worst race riots on record in Malaysia took place in Kuala Lumpur. The so-called 13 May incident refers to the occurrence of violence between members of the Malay and the Chinese communities. The violence was the result of Malaysian Malays being dissatisfied with their socio-political status. The riots resulted in the deaths of 196 people, and led to major changes in the country's economic policy to promote and prioritise Malay economic development over that of the other ethnicities.
Kuala Lumpur later achieved city status in 1972, becoming the first settlement in Malaysia to be granted the status after independence. Later, on 1 February 1974, Kuala Lumpur became a Federal Territory. Kuala Lumpur ceased to be the capital of Selangor in 1978 after the city of Shah Alam was declared the new state capital. On 14 May 1990, Kuala Lumpur celebrated 100 years of local authority. The new federal territory Kuala Lumpur flag and anthem were introduced.
On 1 February 2001, Putrajaya was declared a Federal Territory, as well as the seat of the federal government. The administrative and judicial functions of the government were shifted from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya. Kuala Lumpur however still retained its legislative function, and remained the home of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Constitutional King).
4, Jalan Ushawan 6
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