Friday, February 5, 2016


By Mansor bin Puteh.

Sultan Hussain felt distraught more so after Raffles was replaced by Colonel John Crawfurd at the new British Resident of Singapore, a post which seemed to be more superior to the Sultan himself.

Sultan Hussain Shah, having a typical Melayu mind and thinking, sulked and then took a ride from a ship called ‘Julia’ owned by the Sultan of Kedah in the north of the Peninsula Malaya, to flee Singapore to sail to Melaka (British Malacca) where he lived in a self-imposed exile in 1825 where he died a year later, and he was buried in the Trengkerah Masjid where his mausoleum still exists and is being preserved till today. 

He could not protest as it was not his nature; he only cried on the last night he was in Singapore and staring outside of the widow of his Kampung Village Palace, then made of wood.

This created the Confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia which lasted a few years. And occasionally some disputes arose between some factions in Southern Philippines and Malaysia with some military incursions happening quite recently.

Singapore held its general election on 11 September, 2015 barely six months after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, which saw the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) led by his son, Lee Hsien Loong, winning with a larger margin.

And the next day, on 12 September, 2015, a Saturday, that a special event was organized at the Malay Heritage Center (MHC) or Taman Warisan Melayu at the former Kampung Gelam Palace which was where the Sultans of Singapore had lived at in grand style, in Gelam Village before the seventy-nine descendants of the Sultan were forced or compelled to evict to make way for the establishment of the MHC.

This was not the first time such an event was held at MHC by Prince Shawal and the other members of the other now defunct royal households in Singapore and the region.

Here the coterie of members of the former royal households of the Sultanate of Singapura had converged to commemorate the occasion which saw the ascension of Tengku or Prince Shawal as the Pretender to the Throne of the Sultanate of Singapura, which on a more formal setting would have been a more elaborate affair.

Here, with Prince Shawal, it only required a pledge; one he and the others knew and accepted, but which could not result in him being accorded any advantages or princely rewards, and he still has to live in his one-bedroom rented apartment in the McPherson district in Singapore and commute to work as it is too costly for any average Singapore citizen to own and drive around with virtually no parking space to park his car, even for those who could afford it. 

The name Singapura was derived from the ancient Melayu-Hindu words for Lion City and it was so called when an ancient Melayu-Hindu prince saw a lion in the jungles there.

His elder brother, Prince Mustapha had declined to accept the post because he said he would prefer to support his younger brother as the role as Pretender to the Throne involved a lot of energy and commitment that Shawal seemed to have a better grasp of, that also requires him to go to many places in Indonesia for functions that celebrate the diversity of the Melayu Sultanates in the region called Nusantara Melayu or Melayu Region of Southeast Asia. 

And to add glamour to the occasion, few other members of the royal households of the other neighboring Melayu states in the region also appeared to give credence and support to the Prince.

All of them wore their customary costumes albeit without the medals and colorful ribbons that bedeck their chests that they would have managed to get from other ruling Melayu states had the Sultanate of Singapura continued to exist.

It looked like a tablo or a Melayu wedding procession that had been held; but beyond the simplistic notion of royal extravaganza lies the undeclared idea that the Sultanate of Singapura still exists even if it is in the minds of the major actors and performers.

To some of the visitors to the MHC, they did not see much in the function that was being held, other than to be intrigued by what they are seeing and to record it.

To Prince Shawal sitting in the center of the group of Melayu royals from his clan and those from the neighboring Melayu states, it was more than what many could conceive and perceive.

The local English daily in Singapore the Straits Times and also the Melayu daily Berita Harian had reported on him and how they said that he is trying to get the relevant authorities to engage Prince Shawal and his clan more in the activities of MHC, without mentioning too much about why it had come to this, and after so long since the Sultanate was said to have been left to decay until only the palace stood to torment those who saw it as the colors faded with the glamour that was once associated with it, and be reminded five times a day when the muezzin calls the Faithful to pray from the Sultan Masjid nearby.   

The truth of the matter is that the local newspapers in Singapore won’t be brave enough to write even more other than the simplistic version of the historical events that had led to Prince Shawal to have to be appointed the ‘Customary Head’ or Pretender to the throne of the Sultanate of Singapura.

And the event that happened at MHC on Saturday afternoon of 12 September, which saw a parade of the members of the royalty led by Prince Shawal to the Memanda Restaurant, wanted to show to the public in Singapore and the authorities a bit more than that.

But the truth is that they can never go beyond the simplistic exhibition of royal exuberance and historical significance, least of all a defiance and insistence that the Sultan of Singapura may still exist amongst the Singaporeans of today despite the Prince not having much to exert his royal duties and authorities.

In real life, he is but a mere logistics supervisor with an airline in Singapore.

At the Memanda Restaurant, Prince Shawal offered dinner to the guests comprised of the members of the royalty and other guests; and it was also where the palace chief used to have his residence, then called Gedung Kuning or the Yellow Mansion, which had also been bought over by the Singapore authorities. 

It is also unfortunate that the Sultanate of Singapura had to be formed in a dramatic and less insidious way by the British who appointed an exiled Melayu prince, Prince Hussain Shah, a.k.a. Prince or Tengku Long, as the first Sultan of Singapura on 31 January, 1819 at the Padang or Field on the island near where the Prince had landed from Penyengat Island where he had lived as an exile, and where Raffles had found him and compelled him to come to Singapura to be installed as the first Sultan of the state.

But what happened afterwards have not been mentioned by many historians before, which is found in my novel, ‘Hussain and the story of an island…’ that depicts the establishment of the Sultanate of Singapura and how Raffles’ successor, Colonel John Crawfurd had caused its untimely demise, by using deceitful ways, the Melayu ruler and his entourage had not comprehended, being people of simple tastes and values and not familiar with British cunning ways and other psychological devices that caused the Sultan to suffer indignities and in the end persecution. 


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