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Malay Nationalism, 1896–1941

  • Radin Soenarno

The political concept of the Malays was essentially a product of the society they lived in. Before the British intervened in the Malay States in 1874, the Malay society was a feudal society par excellence. The Ruler, known as the Sultan, was eminently feudal and autocratic. He was responsible to none. He was assisted, in his capacity as Ruler, by senior and minor chiefs whose number varied from State to State. For example, in Pahang, there were four Major Chiefs, known as Orang Besar Ber-Empat. Under them there were the Orang Besar Lapan, the Eight Chiefs, and this group was followed by that of sixteen and thirty two. This was essentially a Hindu political pattern. In other Malay States this regular arrangement did not exist, but the main principle remained, namely, that there ran in descending order, from the Sultan downwards to the Penghulu, the village headman, an absolute autocracy. Each chief or Penghulu in his respective capacity was a sultan miniature.

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1. For a detailed examination see Gullick, J. M.Indigenous Political Systems of Western Malaya. (London, 1958).

2. Wheeler, L. R., The Modern Malay. (London, 1928). p. 102.

3. See De Josselin De Jong. Minangkabau and Negri Sembilan. (The Hague, 1952) for a sociological study of this.

4. For some comment on this, see: Thomson, V.The Landward Side of Singapore, (pub. in Pacific Affairs. Vol. xiv. No. 1, 03 1941) p. 32.

5. Stoney, B. O., The Malays of British Malaya. (pub. in 20th Century Impressions of British Malaya) p. 277.

6. Wheeler, L. R., The Modern Malay, p. 176.

7. Van Der Kroef, J. M. The Role of Islam in Indonesian Nationalism and Politics. (pub. in The Western Political Quarterly. 03 1958) p. 33.

8. Thomson, V.The Landward side oi Singapore, (pub. in Pacific Affairs, Vol. xiv, No. 1, 03 1941) p. 32.

9. Van Der Kroef, J. M., p. 36.

10. Nik Ahmad b. H. N. Hassan. The Malay Vernacular Press (A Dissertation submitted for the Degree of B.A.(Hons). Singapore, 1958. p. 10.

11. Gibb, H. A. R.Modern Trends in Islam. (Chicago Uni. Press 1947) p. 42.

12. Van Der Kroef, J. M., p. 38.

13. From Editorial, Neracha, Jan. 8, 1913, (Quoted by Nik Ahmad in Malay Vernacular Press) p. 13.

14. Silcock, T. H. and Ungku, Aziz. Asian Nationalism and The West. Ed. Holland, W.H. (N.Y. 1953) p. 284.

15. Thomson, , V. Postmortem, on Malaya, p. 304.

16. Wheeler, L. R. The Modern Malay. 176.

17. Thomson, , V. Postmortem, On Malaya, p. 303.

18. Gullick, J. M.The Malay Administrator. (pub. in Merdeka 05 1957, Vol. 1, No. 1, Singapore) p. 78.

19. Seruan, Azhar. 10, 1927, p. 17.

20. Abdullah, T.. What is The Meaning of Freedom? (pub. in Seruan Azhar, 12 1926.)

21. T. Abdullah.

22. For this, see the Party History by Osman, Hasan (Ed.) Berita Pergerakan Kesaruan Melayu 1926–1937. (Singapore 1937) p. 5.

23. Silcock, T. H. and Ungku, Aziz. p. 285.

24. Straits Times. 27 January 1948.

25. Quoted by Al-Ikwan, , 16 02 1931, p. 182.

26. Mujallah, Guru, Editorial, 08 1931.

27. Quoted by Mujallah, Guru, 03 1930, p. 47.

28. Quoted by Mujallah, Guru, 06 1931, p. 42.

29. Mujallah, Guru, 03 1930, p. 48.

30. Mujallah, Guru. Editorial, 12 1928.

31. Seruan, Azhar. 12 1926.

32. Gullick, J. M.The Malay Administrator. (pub. in Merdeka Outlook 05 1957, Vol. I No. I, Singapore) p. 81.

33. Hidop, Melayu, (Ipoh 1946), p. 27.

34. Hidop, Melayu. p. 27.

35. Hidop, Melayu. p. 28.

36. Gullick, J.M. p. 81.

37. Saudara, . 7 11 1931.

39. Silcock, and Aziz, . p. 285.

38. Umno — Ten Years, 1946–1956.

This pamphlet records, “The Persaudaraan Shahabat Pena appeared by its name, as a literary organization, the main aim of which was the improvement or the Malay Language; but in reality it was a political movement, believing in “Hidup Bahasa, Hidup-lah Bangsa” (Alive the Language, Alive is the Nation). Their political activities were hidden behind the facade of their literary activities” p. 7.

40. Haji Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad, formerly Head of the Department of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, was the honorary Adviser of the Association from its date of inception till the outbreak of the War. (From an interview).

41. Utusan, Melayu. Editorial, 10 11 1939.

42. The Straits Times. 27 January 1948.

43. Ibrahim, Yaacob. Sekitar Malaya Merdeka. (Jakarta, 1957) p. 21.

44. Ibrahim, Yaacob. Nusa dan Bangsa Melayu, (Jakarta 1951). p. 48.

45. From Inche Kamaluddin bin Mohammad, Ishak's associate, in an interview.

46. The youth Movements in Java and Sumatra etc., formed in 1914, which fused in 1929 to form the “Indonesia Muda”. This movement, however, was mainly on ‘individual or self-reliance’ rather than on organized or party basis — Ki-Hadjar Dewantara.: dari Kebangkitan Nasional sampai Proklamasi (Jakarta 1952) p. 69.

47. Ibrahim, Yaacob. Nusa dan Bangsa Melayu. p. 59.

48. Ibrahim, Yaacob. Sekitar Malaya Merdeka. p. 26. (150 seemed to be too big a figure for all the leaders of K.M.M. This figure might include those who were dangerous but not necessarily members of K.M.M.).

49. Ibrahim, Yaacob. Sekitar Malaya Merdeka. p. 26.

50. Ibrahim, Yaacob. P. 29.

51. Ibrahim, Yaacob. p. 32.

52. Free Press, Singapore. 22 March 1938.

53. Ishak bin Haji, Mohammed. Bersatu Sekarang. (Johore Bahru 1956) p. 61.

54. Dato Husain was the late father of Dato Razak the present Deputy Prime Minister and was one of the four Major Chiefs of Pahang. He held the Vice-Presidency of the Pahang Malay Association.

Tengku Abdul Kadir was Vice-President of the Singapore Malay Union, and was a descendant of former Sultan Husain of Johore.

55. See Kahin, G.M.T., Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia p. 47, for comments on this.

56. Pauker, C. J. (Quoting Niel, R. V. in his Ph.D. Thesis on Development of the Indonesian Elite in the early Twentieth Century, Cornell Univ. 02. 1954, p. 322) Far Eastern Survey, Sept. 1958, D. 129.

57. Majelis. 23 November 1938.

58. ‘Raja Muda’ is the Malay title for the Heir Apparent to the Throne. ‘Titah’ is the Royal Command.

59. British Malaya Journal. June 1930.

60. Free Press. 27 June 1930.

61. Free Press. 22 March 1938.

62. Free Press. Editorial, 24 March 1958.

63. Dato Onn said that the Malay Nationalist Party in 1946 (representing the peak of the activities of Malay leftist movement) had only about 6,000 members among more than two and a half million Malays. He added that the membership was confined largely to the unemployed and disgruntled youths, (in an interview).

64. Van Der Kroef, J. M., The Role of Islam in Indonesian Nationalism and Politics, p. 33.

65. Actually there was no change in Islamic political doctrine. Islam enjoined the deposition of unwise and corrupt rulers and the event in Turkey was merely a vigorous application of what had been hitherto only an idealistic political belief. But to the Malays it clashed with both their religious and traditional concept of politics.

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Journal of Southeast Asian History
  • ISSN: 0217-7811
  • EISSN: 2398-7375
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