Sultans of Brunei Series II - Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II

[For my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times, I am currently writing about the Sultans of Brunei. This is what I wrote about Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II, Brunei's 26th Sultan two weeks ago on BT.]

HIS Royal Highness Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II was the third son of Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam. When his father Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam died in 1906, he became the Sultan as his two elder brothers had passed away a few years earlier.

In 1889, Sultan Hashim first appointed his eldest son Pengiran Muda Besar Omar Ali Saifuddin as the Acting Sultan. This was to give him the experience needed when he took over the throne.

Sultan Hashim's second son, Pengiran Muda Tengah, decided to leave Brunei and stayed at first in Sabah and later at Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines.

In 1903, there was a smallpox outbreak in Brunei. At that time, Brunei did not have any modern medical facility and any medical requirements had to be brought in from Labuan. Unfortunately during that smallpox outbreak, Pengiran Muda Besar Omar Ali Saifuddin died together with a number of other Bruneians.

Sultan Hashim commanded for Pengiran Muda Tengah to return to Brunei. But in 1905, there was another outbreak, this time, an outbreak of cholera and Pengiran Muda Tengah also died during that outbreak.

So, when Sultan Hashim died in 1906, it was Pengiran Muda Bongsu Jamalul Alam, the third surviving heir that was appointed as the Sultan.

However, Pengiran Muda Bongsu Jamalul Alam was only 17 years old at the time, so the responsibility of the Sultan was in the hands of the "Majlis Pemangku Raja", that was the Council of the Regency.

It was not until 1918 that His Royal Highness Sultan Jamalul Alam was coronated as the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam's reign coincided with the beginning of the Residential System. The Residential System was introduced in Brunei as result of a Supplementary Protectorate Agreement signed on 31 December 1905 and January 3rd, 1906, between Sultan Hashim and the British, represented by John Anderson.

Under the system, a British Resident was appointed to advise the Sultan on all matters regarding the administration of the country except those touching on Islam. The first Resident Malcolm Stewart Hannibal McArthur took office in May 1906.

In the beginning, Brunei was administratively linked to Labuan and also had strong administrative links to the Straits Settlement Government and Federated Malay States. Many of the state's affairs were linked such as the use of a common currency between the various states. It was not until 1967 that Brunei had its own currency.

Throughout his reign, the Sultan did not have much say in the government as the British Resident took all the executive decisions. The Sultan however kept his position on the State Council which met to approve and amend laws and policies.

With the introduction of the Residential System in Brunei in 1906, all the executive power, except in the matters of religion was transferred completely from the Sultan to the Resident. In the face of a totally modern and western form of government, the State Council could not do much. The Resident removed all the executive decisions from the Council by establishing new offices such as the Land and Custom Offices run very differently from the traditional "kuripan" and "tulin" systems.

The Resident brought in new civil servants from outside Brunei thus ignoring local objections. As the Residential System progressed, the Resident assumed more executive power, making important decisions.

The System also disrupted the traditional responsibilities and rights of Wazirs and forced them to give up their land rights and privileges. The System also did not help to work for Brunei's interests as stated in the Protectorate Agreement such as to help Brunei in recovering Limbang from the Brookes regime.

Despite the setbacks, there were also a number of positive advantages which the Residential System brought about. One of them was in the area of administration where among others taxation and revenue collection were centralised. The new government established modern important departments such as the Customs and Excise, Postal Services, Agriculture, Public Work, Medical and Education.

In the area of social welfare, the sanitary board was set up responsible for the cleanliness of the towns and streets as well as the improving of communications and transportation such as the building of roads.

In Economics, the British Resident encouraged rubber and fruit plantations. A land policy was also introduced whereby land was properly transferred with the issuing of land grand titles and title. Politically too, the dynastic line of Sultan Hashim was guaranteed and the line of succession survived until today.

The Residential System also prevented the Brookes or the Dutch from gaining territorial control over Brunei and it also made the Resident responsible for Brunei's foreign affairs.

During his reign, His Royal Highness Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II took a great deal of interest in the progress of the country, encouraging advances in agriculture, medicine and education.

His Royal Highness also encouraged the teaching and learning of Islam which was often carried out in the surau or small mosque. As a sign of his commitment to Islam, Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II built a mosque despite the country's lack of revenue.

The mosque was built on a piece of land near the present Kampung Sultan Lama. The local community used the mosque until it was destroyed in wartime bombing during the reign of his son, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin.

It was also during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II that Islamic Law was officially introduced. This was known as Muhammadan Law. It was introduced in 1912, replacing the Brunei Canons. Then in 1913, the Marriage and Divorce Act was introduced.

Friendship and cooperation with the British Government earned His Royal Highness recognition. In 1914, Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II was honoured with the award of Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) and in 1920, he received a higher distinction Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG).

Unfortunately, Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II's reign was a short one. An outbreak of malaria claimed his life as well as three members of his family. His Royal Highness died in September 1924, at the age of 35. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Pengiran Muda Ahmad Tajuddin.

EF Pretty, the British Resident announced with the most profound regret in the Brunei Annual Report of 1924, the death of His Royal Highness the Sultan.

The report also indicated that the cause of death was Malaria as certified by Dr Cleverton aggravated by grief at the death of his wife and two children. Pretty also noted that Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II was "a most loyal friend of the British Empire" and by his premature demise, Brunei has lost a dignified and enlightened Ruler.


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