Monday, October 03, 2005

The saga continues .. Harimau mati tinggalkan belang ...

RIAU RESTORATION MOVEMENT - like sands through the hourglass .. the saga continues ...

When efforts were being made to solicit financial support for a restoration of the Sultanate of Riau, the greatest contributions came from among the Pulau Tujoh (Natunas Islands), where several members of the Riau Lingga hierarchy notably Raja Haji Ali (Tengku Selat) bin Raja Muhammad (see photo right). and other Riau aristocrats had vast clove and coconut plantations. Until today his descendants mostly in Singapore still hold deeds to the vast Pulau Tujuh plantations. Raja Adnan bin Raja Salman, Raja Haji Muhammad Fauzi & Raja Muhammad Yusuf are his grandsons amongst others in Singapore.

Anyway, while in exile in Singapore, Sultan Abdul Rahman frequently petitioned the Netherlands East Indies government to have the Sultanate restored. Although he died on 28 December 1930 (in Telok belanga, Singapore), the cause of restoration was not diminished.

This movement became more organised before the outbreak of World War II and re-emerged in 1946 as the Djawatan Koewasa Pengoeroes Rakjat Riau (DKPRR). Both before and after the war, Singapore Chinese who hoped to obtained concessions to mine tin in Riau were among those who supported the restoration. The candidate for sultan was Tengku Ibrahim, son of Tengku Umar, Sultan's Abdul Rahman's youngest son, who had been titled "Tengku Besar" under the Sultanate. Tengku Ibrahim was then working for a Singapore tax company. After a time, however, the position of Tengku Ibrahim weakened, and he and the Chinese supporters of the DKPRR movement dropped out.

The Chinese were heavily invloved in local Riau commerce. During the 18th century as many as 10,000 Chinese had settled on Riau to grow pepper and gambier. In 1785 of the 309 vessels which arrived in Melaka from Riau, twelve or forty percent were Chinese. Visitors to Tanjung Pinang and neighbouring islands were constantly impressed by the commercial dominance of the Chinese and the influence they wielded in the community. By 1910, Chinese made up 58.86 percent of the population of Tanjung Pinang. By 1930, they were two-thirds of the population and in the province generally only 30 percent were locally born (compared to 79 percent of the Chinese population in Java). These patterns exacerbated just before the Japanese occupation when another influx of Chinese occured. Under the Riau Sultanate the Chinese did well, and it is understandable that after World War II Chinese merchats in Singapore were particularly active in raising funds to have the Sultanate restored.

A spin-off of the DKPRR, led by Riau people in Singapore, later formed the Persatuan Melayu Riau Sejati (Association of Pure Riau Malays) in support of the restoration, but was not taken seriously by the autorities.

The Singaproe Free Press of 27 July 1939, 3, quoting and article in Lembaga, the Johor Malay daily newspaper, wrote: "It is understood that two or three claimants to the throne have come forward, but as their line of descent has not been satisfactorily proved, their claims have been rejected. It is to be hoped that the right man will soon be found, so that the old Malay dynasty may be revived."

According to a Dutch archival document, in 1928 there was some investigation of the different claimants for the Riau throne, although they didn't spell out the full details. the report mentions that three different lines could claim rights.

It seems the problem arose after the death of Sultan Sulaiman in 1883. According to a petition included in the 1940 file, Sultan Muhammad (1830 - 44) had three sons, the eldest of whom became Sultan Mahmud (deposed 1857). His daughter Tengku Fatimah married Raja Muhammad Yusuf, the 10th (Bugis) Yamtuam Muda. Their son Tengku Abdul Rahman (d. 1930) became ruler in 1883 when Sultan Mahmud's successor, Sultan Sulaiman, died without a direct heir. Until he was old enough, his mother, Tengku Fatimah ruled on his behalf; thus for two years Lingga had a queen until Sultan Abdul Rahman was installed.

The Dutch colonial authority could have chosen one of the other male descendants of Sultan Muhammad (from Sultan Mahmud or his other two sons). By selecting Tengku Abdul Rahman instead, they shifted the royal line from the 'Malay' to the 'Bugis' family. (Of course, the families had intermarried, but thre was still a tendency to think of the Yamtuan Muda line as 'Bugis'.) Another Dutch report of 1914 says that this had long been a source of resentment for the Malay side, specifically the male descendants of Sultan Muhammad's other sons.

The situation was further complicated because apparently Sultan Abdul Rahman, himself, had suggested he might withdraw his claim if he could be replaced by one of his grandsons, Tengku Mahmud, son of Tengku Umar (whom Dutch say was the youngest son of the Sultan and a part-European woman, who had been given the title of Tengku Besar under the Sultanate).

Dutch accounts thus indicate that there was a group of Riau Malays who felt that Tengku Abdul Rahman should not have been made ruler of Riau in the first place since his 'rights' came through his mother Tengku Fatimah, as his father was descended from the Bugis Yamtuan Muda line, and because there were other male heirs. There was therefore not unified support for Tengku Osman (Othman), even though he was Sultan Abdul Rahman's eldest son.

The Malay rulers of Lingga claimed direct descent from Bukit Siguntang and sovereignty over all the negeri in tanah Melayu. The Keringkasan Sedjarah Melayu by Tengku Mohd. Saleh (Daik/Lingga, 1930) contends that as a consequence of the infringement of the rules of succession when the deposed Sultan Mahmud's daughter, Fatimah, passed the throne to her son (Abdul Rahman, the last Sultan of Lingga whose father was the Bugis Yamtuan Muda), the kingdom of Lingga, 'the greatest in Malay world', comes to an end. The author faces this reality, but also makes it clear that although Johor, Pahang and Selangor have survived, they only became independent sultanates because of the unlawful successionof the last sultan of Lingga.