| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 5 Aug 2017 | Asia Samachar |
A British serving as a magistrate in Malaya received a hefty bonus of $500 for passing a Punjabi language test in 1924. Now, that is big money in those days.
“Mr W. J. K. Stark, magistrate, Kuala Lumpur, has passed in Punjabi, for which he receives a bonus of $500,” reported The Straits Times on 4 Sept 1924.
In later days, it is understood that court interpreters, and not judges, received pensionable allowances when they pass certain languages.
“There was also a special English paper. If you sit for the exam and get above 80% for all the subjects, you get a special allowance, which was also pensionable. It was a scheme of service for interpreters,” Harcharan Singh, whose served as a court interpreter in Malaya/Malaysia between 1957 to 1990, told Asia Samachar.
At its independence, the country was known as Malaya. In 1963, Malaysia was formed when Malaya merged with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Singapore left the federation two years later.
Stark comes across as a colourful judge, judging by the newspaper clippings on some of his actions in handling the cases that came his way.
In one news clipping, dated 11 May 1923, the following was reported in The Strait Times: ” …when summonses under the Sale and Food Drugs Enactment were mentioned to him he gave permission for cows to be brought to the court and milked in his presence and the milk bottled and sent to Kuala Lumpur for analysis.”
Stark would have began serving in Peninsular Malaya in 1910. Effective December 1913, he was appointed as Class V officer, having passed the prescribed law and language examinations, and ‘having completed three years’ service from the date of their arrival in the Peninsula’, reported Malaya Tribune (16 Feb 1914).
He served in Kuala Lumpur till March 1926 and was then a First Class Magistrate in Ipoh until November 1928 before going on long leave. In August 1930, he was it was appointed as Controller of Labour in Malaya. Four years later, he was made Assistant Emigration Commissioner for Malaya at Negapatam (also spelt Nagapattinam), a town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
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