KOTA KINABALU formerly Jesselton, is the capital of Sabah state in Malaysia. It is also the capital of the West Coast Division of Sabah. The city is located on the northwest coast of Borneo facing the South China Sea. The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park lies on one side of the city while Mount Kinabalu, which gave the city its name, is not very far away. Kota Kinabalu proper has a population of 543,765, while the larger urban area has an estimated population of 700,000. It is the largest urban centre in Sabah and the sixth largest in Malaysia. Often known as “KK” within Malaysia and internationally. It is a major tourist destination and a popular gateway for travellers visiting Sabah.
In the late 1800s, the British North Borneo Company (BNBC) began to establish colonies throughout North Borneo (now Sabah). In 1882, the Company founded a small settlement on Gaya Island (Pulau Gaya), which was already inhabited by the “Bajau” (seafarer) people. In 1897, this first settlement was burned and destroyed by Bajau rebels led by Mat Salleh. After the rebellion, the Company decided to relocate the settlement to the more easily defended mainland opposite Pulau Gaya. A nearby fishing village named “Api-Api”, was the next settlement of the Company. This new location was then designated as the main harbour and port, as well as the terminus for the North Borneo Railway. It was expanded and renamed Jesselton, named after Sir Charles Jessel, the then Vice Chairman of the Company.
Jesselton was razed by the retreating British early in World War II to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Japanese. After the Japanese takeover of Borneo, it was again renamed “Api-Api”. Rebellions against the Japanese military administration have taken place in “Api-Api”. At the later stages of the war, what remained of the town was destroyed again by Allied bombings as part of the Borneo Campaign in 1945, leaving only three buildings standing. The war in North Borneo ended with the official surrender of the Japanese 37th Army by Lieutenant General Baba Masao in Labuan on September 10, 1945.
Photo credit: SabahTourism.com