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Palembang

dutch, sumatra, road, residency, muara, banka, enim and indies

PALEMBANG, a residency of south-east Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, facing the island of Banka, area 85,918 sq. kilometres; population (1930), 1,098,725. It extends from the mountains which flank the west coast of Sumatra and form the dividing line between it and the residency of Bencoolen, to the Straits of Banka, and except for the mountainous country in the extreme south-west, is very flat and intersected by numerous rivers, which flow eastwards to the sea, and with their many and wide mouths form marsh lands about the coast, which has also many sandbanks. The principal of these is the Musi, which has many important tributaries, and on its banks, some 5o miles from the sea, near which it divides into two main channels, is situated Palembang, the capital of the residency, also a port, and the chief commercial town in South Sumatra, population 108,145 (1,895 Europeans and Eurasians), the largest town in Sumatra. Apart from the public buildings, barracks, hotels, church, European business offices and residences, and a great mosque, which are built of stone, Palembang is a town of native houses, mostly built on piles, on account of floods, and it stretches along both sides of the river, and its inhabitants, and those of the residency are mostly Malays. The depth and width of the Musi river renders Palembang accessible to large ocean steamers, but they are able to cross the bar at its mouth only at flood tide. The port has wharves on screw piles 25o metres long, and is the terminus of the main line of the railway system of South Sumatra. At Plaju, down the river from Palembang, is the petroleum centre in Sumatra of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, the oil, raised at Muara Enim, near the hills in the south-west, being carried to Plaju and refined there. Palembang has a considerable trade with eastern ports in the Malay Peninsula, Siam and China, and there is also important traffic by road and river with the hinterland and regular communication with other ports. in Sumatra, and with Java. The value of its exports, in 1926, was 89,287,248 gulders and of its imports 41,775,831 gulders. This represented the total produce of the residency, for which Palem bang is the only outlet, and the principal items of export were coffee, rubber, copra, cotton, rattans, quinine and coal, from the government-owned Bukit Asim collieries, at Tandjong, not far from Muara Enim. Coffee is the chief crop grown for export, of the Robusta variety, and it is a native cultivation, as, also, are rubber and cotton. Rice is the chief food crop. A Controleur,

also an agricultural adviser, are stationed at Muara Enim, which is connected by rail and by road (with motor-car service), with Palembang, and also by motor road service with Bencoolen on the west coast, passing through Lahat, Tebingtinggi and Muaru Beliti; thus Palembang is linked up by motor with Bencoolen, and, also via Muara Enim, with Muaro Duop, in the extreme south, passing through Batu Raja. A road runs north-eastwards from Muaro Duop to Kaju Agung, and one from Batu Raja to Muaru Kuang, which then forks northwards, to join the Muara Enim-Palembang road : a loop of the Muara Enim-Bencoolen road runs southwards to Pagerkalam, on the border, which has a Controleur. The southern part of Palembang residency, mainly about the roads mentioned, is in course of development; in the northern half little has been done, communications are primitive, and, apart from Surulangun, in the north-west, Talang Betutu, north of Palembang, and Sekaju, on the Musi, in central Palem bang, each of which has a Controleur, the nature of the lands about the coast makes extensive settlement impossible.

Palembang is one of the places in the Dutch East Indies where Islam made its first appearance. Arab colonies in certain Chinese ports, disturbed by Chinese civil war, diverted their commerce to the Dutch East Indies, and Palembang was one of the spots selected for the enterprise. Little, however, is heard about Palem bang in history until in 1812 the Sultan, although he had recog nized British suzerainty (the British occupation of the Dutch East Indies), massacred many Dutch settlers. Thereupon a British force under Colonel Gillespie was landed which drove him from the capital and installed his brother in his stead, Banka and Billiton were ceded to Great Britain, and it was during the ab sence of this force in Sumatra that the Sultan of Jokjakarta en deavoured to destroy European power in Java. The cession of Banka and Billiton to the Dutch, in return for Cochin in India, because of a dispute as to whether Billiton was included in the cession, brought Palembang very prominently before Dutch notice, the more so as Sir Stamford Raffles encouraged the Sultan in his attitude of independence, and in 1825 they abolished the Palembang Sultanate and brought the country under their own rule, whilst recognizing certain chiefs. (E. E. L.)