Monday, 9 April 2012

Tribute to Kedah : Some History on Administration in Late 19th Century

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah


I am a bumiputera (native) of the state of Kedah but I am not a Malay. Our people during British period were registered as Malayan Arabs and divided between immigrants Arabs who came after British double administration and Malayan Arabs who were invited by the Sultans to serve the court and nobility in term of religion and others during the period of 15th to 17th centuries. Immigrant Arabs in our olden days state mostly were from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Malayan Arabs originally were Yemenis who came from Yemen and India/Pakistan. Today the word Arab is omitted from our identification as to make it easier for them so people are calling us Malays and grouping us as Malays. It is not correct.  In other Malay states, we were not considered as natives. That is why we lived like 19th century immigrants and having to live like poor people in our federal territories. When some Malays are talking about this rights and that rights, we understood how immigrants feel. We tell some Malay brothers that we are also non-Malays and why must you talk like that? But they called us as Melayu tak sedar diri or Malays who deny themselves as Malays.

We are not Malays. My throat sore each time I talk with people from other states including with non-Malay compatriots who keep asking me.... wo kan ni bushi huaren, ni yinggai shi malay ren (It seems like you're non-Chinese, you must be a Malay) : S It is so frustrating. Only people from our state and from our state's palace know about us and our ethnicity. I do not prefer to be grouped as Malays because we are already the natives of our states. I don't hate Malays and many of my relatives are married to Malays but why we are forced to be something which we are not? We speak in the language because it is our state's national language. It is in the form of Kedah Malay with smattering of Arabic and Persian words as compared to other natives like Malays of Kedah because they speak in another form of Malay. We do not speak in the southern Riau Malay (Indonesian island next to Singapore) which was chosen to be the slang and the national language of Malaysia. Actually when I speak in Malaysian Malay, my Malaysian Malay sounds more like Thai slang which is mistaken by some people who never mingle with Thais as Chinese Malay slang and I am only fluent in my state's Malay.  

We still call Kedah state as the Sultanate of Kedah. Last time I talked with a Phd student from China at our level. I did not get the chance to ask his name because he was so eager to know about Malaysia. He asked me whether I am a Chinese or a Malay? I just answered him I am not a Chinese nor a Malay. I am not an Indian also. I am an Arab descent and only a Muslim. Our state traced its history since first century. The sultan today traced his ancestry from previous Hindu rajas. We have gone through a very long history in Malayan Peninsula and we were not yet apart of Malayan Federation until 1948 and later forming a state in Malaysia until 1957. Not all people could have access to museums right? So this site is also serving the people as a museum. It is more interesting than European studies, hahaha.  

Brief History

In the end of 19th century, while we were suppressed as Siamese vassal state in the south, we already have our own developed administration system. The system was quite modern. Beginning in the era of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin (1853-1879), Kedah sultanate become a modern state and increasingly developing.

This situation goes on until the exchange of vassal authority from Siam Empire to British Empire in 15th of July 1909. Our 25th sultan, which was Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah (1882-1943) in the beginning of his rule had managed to visit few countries such as Thailand, India, Burma and Europe in order to get some ideas on how to manage the country. Yes, we were a country, not a state like today. These efforts was initialized by his father before it becomes more stimulating when Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah assume his throne.  

In this efforts of developing our sultanate, the sultan was assisted by few able leaders who among them are the member of royalties themselves such as : 

1. Tunku Abdul Aziz (Young King)
2. Tunku Ibrahim
3. Wan Muhammad Saman

People with the title wan were aristocrats of Arabian ancestry but absorbed into the court. I found that the same thing also happened in Brunei and Sarawak in Borneo Island. In 1870, during the era of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Mukarram Shah, Wan Muhammad Saman was appointed as the Prime Minister of our country (Kedah). Malaysian historian such as Khoo Kay Kim emphasized that Kedah had developed its political system in a more systematic way as compared to other Malay nation-states in Western coast of the Malayan peninsula. Before British interfering in our country affairs, Kedah already posses few experienced government officials who played significant role in the administration and management system of the state. Because of that too, Kedah Sultanate did not have to depend on many British officials in the more southern countries such as Perak and Selangor.     

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace and love, amin!

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