Miri is a city in northern Sarawak, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. Miri is home to a population of about 300,000 people and is thus the second largest city in Sarawak. It serves as the government administrative centre of Miri District (4,707.1 square kilometers) in Miri Division of Sarawak. Miri was elevated to city status on May 20 2005 and it is the 9th city in Malaysia and its local authority i.e. Miri City Council is the 10th city council in Malaysia.
Miri is the birthplace of Sarawak's and Malaysia's petroleum industry, which remains the major industry of the city. The first oil well was drilled by Shell in 1910, and is now a state monument and one of Miri's tourist attractions. Shell also built Malaysia's first oil refinery in Lutong, a suburb of Miri in 1914. Recently, vast oil reserves were discovered just offshore northeast of the city. Miri has grown phenomenally since oil was first discovered in the early 1900s, burgeoning into the modern and dynamic business, commercial and educational centre it is today.
The city's other major industries include processed timber, oil palm production, and tourism. The world famous Gunung Mulu National Park with the Sarawak Chamber, a half an hour flight from the city, is one of the favourite eco-tourism destinations. Miri is also the main tourist gateway for the Loagan Bunut National Park, Lambir National Park and the Niah Caves at the Niah Caves National Park. Miri is lately known for its exotic coral reefs as well.
The earliest officially recorded oil find in Malaysia was made in July 1882 by the British Resident of the Baram district in Sarawak. The oil was used by the local residents for medicinal purposes and later for lighting lamps and waterproofing boats. Commercial exploitation only began in 1910 when the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company, the forerunner of the present Sarawak Shell which was granted the sole right to explore for petroleum in Sarawak, struck oil in the town of Miri, marking the start of the Malaysian petroleum industry.
By the 1950s, attention turned to the seas as the onshore oil fields in Miri shows serious depletion. This was made possible by new improvements in offshore petroleum technology. Marine seismic surveys were carried out for the first time in Sarawak in 1954. The shift offshore began to show results in 1962 with the discovery of oil in two areas offshore Sarawak. Other finds followed in rapid succession. The first offshore oil platform was West Lutong, about 6 miles from shore.
The last onshore oil field was shutdown in early 1970s as oil production from offshore Miri started. Miri started developing very fast ever since the Parliament enacted the Petroleum Act which force Shell and Exxon to share their oil revenues with the people of Malaysia. It is by this time that Miri began developing its tourism and service industry.
In 1989, the vision for Miri to become a city was mooted. The proposal received the blessing of Sarawak state government in 1993. A public forum was held in 1994 and a grand signature-collecting campaign was organised in 2004 and more than one-third of the population in Miri had put down their signatures in support of the government's efforts for Miri to obtain city status. Miri had the city blue-print drawn up in the early 2000s, while the government together with the private sector had managed to fulfill the Federal Government's ten main criteria of becoming a city. The Sarawak State Government approved the then Miri Municipal Council's application for Miri to be elevated to a city and concurrently the Council to be upgraded as Miri City Council on 20 May 2004. The Federal Government approved its application on 16/3/2005. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak made an order on 12 May 2005 on the establishment of Miri City Council. The King of Malaysia, Seri Paduka Baginda Yang Di-Pertuan Agong XII issued the Instrument for conferment of city status of name Miri City Council on Miri Municipal Council with full jurisdiction on Miri City on 13 May 2005. The appointment of Mayor, Deputy Mayor and City Councillors of Miri City Council was published on Sarawak Government Gazette on 19 May 2005. On 20 May 2005, the official proclamation of Miri City and appointment of Cr. Dato Wee Han Wen as first Mayor of Miri City Council were held at Miri and this was then followed by city day celebration. Now, 20th May every year is the Miri City Day.
With no air or sea forces stationed in or around Sarawak, the British government encouraged the Brooke Regime to adopt a "scorched earth policy" in the event of a Japanese attack. Later, it was proposed to develop a Denial Scheme. Denial Schemes were in place to destroy the oil installations at Miri and Lutong.
The oilfields in British Borneo lay in two groups: one at Miri close to the northern boundary of Sarawak, and the other thirty-two miles north, at Seria in the State of Brunei. The crude oil was pumped from both fields to a refinery at Lutong on the coast, from which loading lines ran out to sea. Landings were possible all along the thirty miles of beach between Miri and Lutong and there was, with the forces available, no possibility of defending the oilfields against determined attacks. Plans had therefore been made for the destruction of the oil installations.
In December 1940, a company of 2/15th Punjab was sent to Miri for the protection of the demolition parties, and in May 1941 the rest of 2/15th Punjab was sent there to provide a garrison. This lone battalion consisted of approximately 1,050 soldiers under the command of Major C.M. Lane. These troops were entrusted with the destruction of Miri Oil Fields. It was to be known as the Miri Detachment.
In December 1941, The Brooke Government which had already heard of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (on 7 December 1941) quickly ordered the complete and total destruction of the oil fields and airfields at Miri and Seria. Orders for the demolition of the refinery at Lutong and the denial of the oilwells reached the officer commanding at Miri on the morning of the 8th December, and by the evening of the same day the task was completed.
On the 19th December 1941 the Dutch flying boat X-32 from Tarakan Island sank the Japanese destroyer Shinonome (Cdr. Hiroshi Sasagawa) of 1,950 tons off Miri, while another flying boat X-33 damaged a transport ship. The destroyer could not take the pounding and went down with her entire crew of 228 officers and men.
Miri fell to 2,500 Japanese invaders on 17 Dec 1941, after two days of fighting. The small garrison of Dutch troops was no match for the Japanese.
Miri's population consists of Chinese, Dayak, Malay, Melanau, Indian, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Iban, Bidayuh, Penan and other indigenous groups. Through this broad classifications, the races are further sub-divided into different tribes, each having their own particular areas of abode, occupation and language.
Miri Airport is the third busiest airport in Malaysia in terms of aircraft movement after Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Kota Kinabalu International Airport and receives flights from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Labuan, Sibu, Bintulu and many other smaller towns throughout Sarawak. The airport is also an important aviation hub for MASwings's fleets to rural services that operate connecting flights to isolated communities in the interior. It serves as the essential airway to national parks such as Mulu Caves, Niah Caves, and Lambir Hills. MASwings is headquartered in Miri Airport. Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia operate flights from Johor Bahru, Kuching and Kuala Lumpur to Miri.
From a bustling oil town, Miri is experiencing a development boom into a brand new resort city. The skyline of Miri has changed a lot ever since. There are ambitious plans for Miri. The Miri Waterfront and Marina Park projects will give a complete facelift to Miri City in the near future.
Miri is often called the Northern Gateway to Sarawak and is one of the state's main and most important tourist attractions. It boasts to be surrounded by four world-class national parks (Mount Mulu National Park, Niah National Park, Lambir Hills National Park and Loagan Bunut National Park).
Lambir Hills National Park contains very diverse species of flora and fauna and is ranked as the 12th mega-biodiverse site in the world. The Loagan Bunut National Park has Sarawak's largest natural lake and also contains diverse species of birds. There is also the recently gazetted Miri-Sibuti Marine National Park that has one of the region's most beautiful coral reefs and diverse marine life.
The "Grand Old Lady" was situated on top of Bukit Telaga Minyak (Oil Well Hill). It was formerly called Canada Hill (the old folks said that there was one Canadian who lived there and his main business was to recruit foreign and local workers to work in the oil fields around this mountain). Oil Well No. 1 is the first oil well in Malaysia to be drilled by Shell Company in 1910. After a productive six decades and estimated 660,000 barrels of oil, it was shut down in 1972. It was eventually declared a national monument.
There was a lookout tower near the monument where the visitors can have a good view of Miri City with the sea as its horizon. The tower was dismantled to make way for the construction of Miri Petroleum Science Museum and it is now being replaced by a viewing platform provided on top of this Miri latest landmark. The museum itself also provides various kinds of exhibitions apart from those related to oil industry.
The Grand Old Lady is accessible through narrow and steep road. While slowly moving your way up to the hilltop, you can have a glimpse of the nice scenery on both sides of the city which is being divided by this hill.
In addition, Miri is also well-known for its fine handicrafts, especially the bead products. Handicraft shops along Jalan Bendahara and Brooke Road are favourite destinations among tourists and locals.
The entertainment outlets, restaurants and road-side cafes along South Yu Seng and North Yu Seng Roads, are the ideal and popular night spots.
The Miri Golf Club is set among the rustic surroundings of a Malay Kampung (Village) on top of a sand bar between the Miri River and the South China Sea.
Discovery of oil in 1905 brought wealth, prosperity and tremendous growth to the then small fishing village of Miri. Today, Miri has evolved into a bustling metropolis. To cater for the recreation of the expatriates flowing in from the Netherlands and England, Miri Golf Club was established as early as 1910.
Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus is the first offshore campus of Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia. Opened in 1999 in partnership with the Sarawak Government, it serves the educational needs of local and foreign students. Curtin Sarawak is the first foreign university campus to be set up in East Malaysia.
Sited on a site, with a large man-made lake and the parent university’s signature brickwork buildings, Curtin offers world-class facilities and a home for students from all over the globe. Curtin University also offers courses, ranging from Foundation programmes, Bachelor and Master's degree as well as PhD-level programmes.