The title is bestowed by His Royal Highness the Sultan of Perak. In full it reads ‘Orang Kaya-Kaya Panglima Kinta Seri Amar Bangsa Di Raja’, but commonly it is referred to as Dato’ Panglima Kinta or the Lord of Kinta.
Before the advent of the British administration, Kinta was the fief of the Dato’ Panglima Kinta, one of the eight Chieftains in the Perak socio-political hierarchy. Even after the arrival of the British in Kinta in 1878, the only person of rank residing in Ipoh was the Dato’ Panglima Kinta. The District Collector and Magistrate (later, the District Officer) was south in the District Capital of Batu Gajah. The British Resident was even further away, in Taiping, then capital of Perak. The Sultan of Perak was in Kuala Kangsar.
There are two versions about the origin of the Dato’ Panglima Kinta. According to one legend, the first holder of the title was a Sumatran sea captain who came to Kinta probably in the 16th century. He was chosen by a genie to be the ‘Kulop Kinta ‘. He took an Orang Asli wife and started the line of the Dato’ Panglima Kinta. The Sultans later recognized his descendants as the Territorial Chiefs of Kinta.
In another version, the second Sultan of Perak, Sultan Mansur Shah was invited in 1577 to be the ruler of Aceh in Sumatra. On his journey downstream, the Sultan stopped at the confluence of the Perak River and Kinta River, where he married the daughter of an Orang Asli village chief. The Sultan decreed that when a son was born, he would be bestowed with the title ‘Maharaja Kinta ‘ and vested with the power to rule the Kinta Valley.
According to both versions, the Dato’ Panglima Kinta was the result of a liaison with an Orang Asli woman, whose child was recognized as the ruler of the Kinta Valley. Ipoh began to boom under the tenth Dato’ Panglima Kinta Mohammad Yusuff (see photos), who held the title from 1884 until 1903. He encouraged Chinese, Sumatran, Indian and other immigrants.to come to lpoh in 1884 by subdividing vast tracts of his land on the west bank of the Kinta River and in Kampung Paloh into building lots which he then sold.
As a result, the town became increasingly cosmopolitan. His open-door policy benefited not only the new immigrants but also the Malays, many of whom prospered because of increased trade opportunities. By the 1890s, the Dato’ Panglima Kinta himself was· reported to be one of the richest Malays in the country, owning mining land, commercial properties as well as palatial residences in Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar and Taiping.