spelling: Setiawan; origin: from Malay, a portmanteau of Setia Kawan,
meaning "Loyal Friend") is a region in the Manjung district of
The region covers an area of 331.5 square kilometers (128 square
miles) and as of year 2000, its population was 95,920. Sitiawan
town, the principal town of Sitiawan sub-district (mukim
), is located at .
Folklore mentions Sitiawan as Kampung Sungai Gajah Mati.
a thriving Foochows (Chinese: Fuzhou) settlement of industrious
migrants, mostly from the district of Kutien in Fuzhou,
According to legend, Kampung Sungai Gajah Mati (literally: "the
village by the river where elephants died") is the place where two
drowned after one of them,
overladen with tin ore, got stuck in the mud of the Dinding River
at low tide. Efforts to help save the elephant were in vain and
everyone gave up and left. However, the second elephant refused to
budge and hung on to its friend, resulting in them drowning
together in the rising tide. Thus the setia kawan
friend) name was derived.
In the late 19th century, tin, together with rubber sheets, formed
the main commodities of commerce. They were often carried by elephants and
loaded onto waiting steamships destined for Penang.
the 1870s, when an outbreak of smallpox struck the settlement, and
in line with the Chinese belief of naming a place to enhance its
, the locals chose to name the
locality Setia Kawan -- the "loyal friend" -- to harmonise with
nature and appease the dead elephants. The name eventually became
shortened to Sitiawan
In September 1903, the settlement got a boost with the arrival of
more than 360 Christian Foochows desperate to escape the poverty in
Fujian. They were led by two Chinese pastors and settled down in
what is today known as Kampung Koh. Most of these immigrants worked
in rubber plantations in Sitiawan. The Foochows also built four
wells, two in the 1930s and another two in the 1950s. These
heritage wells still exist but are no longer used.
, who led the Malayan Communist Party
years, was born in Sitiawan in 1924.
Sitiawan grew from a small settlement with rubber tapping
and latex processing
as the main economic
activity. The town was flanked by various Chinese
settlements comprising mostly descendants of immigrants from the
Kutien district of Fuzhou,
The original settlers were encouraged by the British
to plant rice. The settlers, however, found that paddy-planting is
not suited to the soil of the region and so they changed to
livestock farming, before discovering that the land was much better
suited for rubber plantations.
The rapid development of the urban settlements saw the plantation
and estate areas developed and converted into residential and
commercial areas. In the 1980s, the large remainder of the rubber
estates underwent mass conversion into
plantations because prices of palm
oil were better than those of rubber sheets and latex. Oil palm is
also a much less labour intensive crop than rubber as rubber needs
to be tapped regularly.
has not been a major economic activity, but the town centre derives
some economic advantages from its close proximity to Pangkor Island which is a famous niche tourist
The development of the town had been rapid in the 1990s.
One of the
main reasons was the establishment of the Royal Malaysian Navy's Naval Base in
Lumut, approximately 10 km from the town
The Naval Base is currently the largest in Malaysia.
The base has acted as a catalyst for the development of commercial
activities in the town, serving both the residents of the base and
sailors visiting from other countries.
There are many schools in Sitiawan, such as Sekolah Menengah
Kebangsaan Ahmad Boestamam
, Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan
Nan Hwa, Sekolah Menengah
Kebangsaan ACS Sitiawan
. The first mentioned school is named after
Ahmad Boestamam, an historical
figure who helped to gain independence from the British.
SMJK Nan Hwa, was previously a private Chinese school which has
been converted into a government partially subsidised school. It's
70th anniversary was celebrated on 1 September 2006 in SMJK Nan Hwa
school hall. A thousand-person dinner was held at Ku Tien
Association Hall to commemorate the auspicious day.
ACS, formerly an English school was founded by Chinese Christian
missionaries. Its 100th anniversary was celebrated in 2003 and
making it the oldest secondary school in Sitiawan. As of 2006 it is
still standing strong even at the advanced age of 103. ACS is the
first school in Manjung to set up a scout troop.
Foochows heritage has been prominently identified with Sitiawan.
The making of "mien siang
" (with red rice
wine), Kong piang
buns and "goroow"
(sweet and sour soup cooked with fish maw) are all part of the
unique tradition which is a vital part of the daily living of the
residents of Sitiawan, especially those in Kampung Koh today.
Recent intense development on transportation routes between Lumut,
and Sitiawan along the
Dindings river have brought both prosperity and pollution to what
was once a relatively quiet town. The primary industries within
Sitiawan are rubber, palm oil, mineral ore, fishing and ship
Around the year 2000, Sitiawan residents began to be involved in
bird breeding activities.