HL Deb 29 July 1862 vol 168 cc974-5

said, he desired to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to an extract from a newspaper called the Singapore Free Press, which related to a transaction of considerable interest and some importance; so much so, that seeing the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty in his place, he took the opportunity of making an inquiry on the subject. The Singapore Free Press made the following statement:— The Sarawak screw steamer Rainbow, Captain Hewat, which arrived here on the morning of the 2nd current, from Sarawak, brings us tidings of six of the large Llanun pirate prahus that have of late been doing so much mischief on the coasts of Celebes, Borneo, and Java, and which managed to elude the vigilance of all the war steamers sent out by the Dutch authorities in search of them. A condign punishment has, however, overtaken them, and probably at a moment when they thought themselves beyond that part of their route where danger of opposition was to be looked for. To Captain Brooke and his small force is due the sole credit of having given the only effectual check of late years to the career of these formidable pirates, who for some seasons past have been making desolating cruises throughout the Archipelago, in spite of the exertions of the Dutch men-of-war, and with entire forbearance towards them on the part of the British navy. The noble Lord, having related the particulars of the destruction by the Rainbow of a squadron of six pirate boats, which had taken several prisoners from Muka and the neighbouring villages, read the following passage from the Free Press:The rescued prisoners state that another Llanun squadron, consisting of five boats, separated from the one destroyed, and went in the direction of Billiton and Banca, and it would, no doubt, soon make its appearance among the islands in the China Sea, and on the coast of Borneo. Her Majesty's steam-ship Scout, now in this harbour, ought at once to proceed in search of this squadron, and do something to relieve the English navy from the slur which the continued apathy of naval authorities to the existence of the Llanun piracy so near our doors is calculated to bring upon it. All honour to the little Rainbow and her gallant commander, Captain Hewat, and the other brave men who accompanied him. He wished to know from the noble Duke, Whether any information had been received on the matter to which he had called attention, and what steps would be taken for the suppression of piracy in the Indian Archipelago?


said, that Her Majesty's Government had received information with reference to the proceedings of the Rajah of Sarawak against the pirates, from an officer who had taken part in the proceedings, but the details were rather meagre. It was quite true, however, as was stated by that officer, that it was useless to attempt to overtake the pirates with a vessel of 1,400 tons, because they had vessels of very light draught, and the moment they were pursued by a vessel of war they sought the protection of the shoal water, where the large vessels could not follow; and it was necessary, therefore, that small gunboats should be provided to follow them. It was quite true that for the last two years piracy had been very rife in the Indian Archipelago, and Her Majesty's Government had called the attention of the Government of the Netherlands and the Government of Spain to the matter, with a view of organizing a proper naval force to put down piracy, and it was expected that an arrangement would shortly be come to between those Powers with that view. The only way in which that could be done was by means of a fleet of gunboats which had but a shallow draught of water. He believed that the officers upon the station had done their duty as far as they could to clear the seas of those pirates, but it must be remembered that the difficulties with which they had to contend had of late years very much increased. Hong Kong used to be the head-quarters of the Admiral, and from thence it was easy to send down ships of war against the pirates; but now the station had been removed to the northward, so as to take in Japan, and the coast to be overlooked by our naval force had considerably extended. Besides this, the necessity of affairs in China of late had withdrawn many of the small vessels which would otherwise have been employed in the suppression of piracy. He hoped, however, that in the course of a short time arrangements would be made in connection with the other Powers claiming property in the Archipelago, by which all difficulties would be removed, and piracy effectually suppressed.