Pulau Cermin - Brunei's Historic Island

Since I was already on the water visiting the Jong Batu at one end of the Brunei River, I thought I might as well go to the other end and visit the other historical site of Brunei, Pulau Cermin.

Pulau Cermin as many Brunei historians know it is the site of the temporary palace of Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin, the 13th Sultan of Brunei and is the site of the only civil war in Brunei History. Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin took the throne after assasinating Sultan Muhammad Ali. It was quite a bloody time in Brunei history and I remembered one classic book written by Yura Halim entitled "Mahkota Berdarah" regarding the episode.

Pulau Cermin - view from the River

In a nutshell, Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin was the Bendahara when his son was killed by the son of Sultan Muhammad Ali. He requested that his son's death be avenged but Sultan Muhammad Ali denied him. So Bendahara Abdul Mubin went amok killing a few people at the palace and with his followers took the Sultan and killed him (November 1661). As Sultan, Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin tried to foster peace between him and the followers of Sultan Muhammad Ali by installing the latter's grandson as the Bendahara. But Bendahara Muhyiddin with other followers created disturbances at the capital forcing Sultan Abdul Mubin to flee to Pulau Chermin. Bendahara Muhyiddin in the meantime was installed as the new Sultan in the capital.

Pulau Cermin - view from the sea

A battle ensued between the two Sultans and at first Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin retreated to Kinarut in Sabah. But when Sultan Muhyiddin lost a battle in Kinarut, the two went back to Brunei with Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin going back to Pulau Cermin. Sultan Muhyiddin called for the assistance of Sultan Suluk to help defeat Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin promising Sabah to be given to Sultan Suluk. (This created the issue of the claims by the Philippines on Sabah from Malaysia from time to time.) Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin knew that he was going to be killed, shot the crown and other royal regalia from Pulau Chermin across the sea. Though some say that these were all still buried somewhere on the island.

Tanjung Kindana

Pulau Cermin is now protected by the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act and is now inaccessible to visitors unless they have permission to visit the island. The island itself is fairly unremarkable but what makes it a very strong fortress is that it is in the middle of the entry into the Brunei river. Control the island means you control access to the food supply coming in from the sea. In those days, Bruneians were also fishermen and they could not go out to fish during the civil war. Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin was defeated partly by being bombarded and the nearest point was Tanjung Kindana which was several miles away across the bay. For the bombardment to be effective, the cannons must have been pretty powerful and accurate.

Again another interesting place for our tourism.

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