Sultans of Brunei Series - Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II

ON THE 26 of April 1804, Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin abdicated from the throne to his second son, Pengiran Muda Tengah Muhammad Jamalul Alam who became the first Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam. His eldest son, Pengiran Muda Besar Saiful Rijal had passed away much earlier.

However Sultan Muhammd Jamalul Alam I died just seven months after he ascended the throne, on 10 November 1804. Pengiran Muda Omar Ali Saifuddin was the son of Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam I and Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Puteri Nur Alam. When his father died in 1804, he was still a minor when he became Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II.

Therefore his grandfather Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin ascended the throne for the second time. Due to his advanced age, Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin wanted his son Pengiran Anak Muhammad Yusof to be the Acting Sultan but his son refused stating that the throne was rightfully owned by Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II even though he was not yet coronated.

Sultan Muhammd Tajudin then offered it to his own younger brother, Pengiran Di-Gadong Ayah Pengiran Muda Tengah Muhammad Kanzul Alam ibnu Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin I who acted as regent. Meanwhile, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Puteri Nur Alam and Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Awang Munap were appointed as Advisors to Sultan Omar Ali Saifudddin II.

Therefore his grandfather Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin ascended the throne for the second time. Due to his advanced age, Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin wanted his son Pengiran Anak Muhammad Yusof to be the Acting Sultan but his son refused stating that the throne was rightfully owned by Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II even though he was not yet coronated.

Sultan Muhammd Tajudin then offered it to his own younger brother, Pengiran Di-Gadong Ayah Pengiran Muda Tengah Muhammad Kanzul Alam ibnu Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin I who acted as regent. Meanwhile, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Puteri Nur Alam and Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Awang Munap were appointed as Advisors to Sultan Omar Ali Saifudddin II.

When Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin died in 1807, the regent Pengiran Di-Gadong Ayah Pengiran Muda Tengah Muhammad Kanzul Alam appointed himself as the Sultan and became the twenty first Sultan of Brunei. He was known as Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam. During his reign, it was noted in the "Salsilah Raja-Raja Berunai" that no music (naubat) was heard. In 1826, Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam also appointed his own son, Pengiran Anak Muhammad Alam as heir to the throne of Brunei. However both the symbols of a Sultan, the Keris Si Naga and the Crown were still held by Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II.

Sultan Muhammad Alam I became Brunei's twenty second Sultan. During his reign, Brunei suffered very badly. Long periods of drought made food unavailable in Brunei. The country and the people suffered. His rule was so harsh that many citizens ran away following Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II to Pulau Keingaran. In 1828, Raja Isteri Nur Alam as the advisor to Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II sentenced the Sultan to death.

When Sultan Muhammad Alam heard that he had been sentenced to death by the Raja Isteri, he voluntarily put the rope around his neck as he was garrotted to death. He died in 1828. In the "Salsilah Raja-Raja Berunai", Sultan Muhammad Alam I was known by the title of Raja Api (King of Fire).

It was in 1828 that Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II returned from Pulau Keingaran to take over the throne from Sultan Muhammad Alam I. He was supported by most nobles as he was the rightful heir according to Brunei's royal traditions. The Kris Si Naga in the possession of his mother strengthened his claim. In 1828, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II finally became the twenty third Sultan of Brunei.

During the reign of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II, the British and the Dutch were very active in Southeast Asia. The two signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty in 1824 dividing their respective areas of influence in the Malay archipelago with Britain possessing territories lying north of Straits of Malacca and the Dutch to the south including southern Borneo even though that was not explicitly stated in the Treaty.

In 1842, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II appointed James Brooke who succeeded in crushing the disturbances as the Sultan Representative (Governor) in Sarawak. In return Brooke promised to pay the Sultan an annual tribute of $2,500, to preserve the customs and religion of the people in Sarawak and not to separate Sarawak from Brunei without the Sultan's consent. It was a big political mistake to appoint Brooke but he had the backing of the British Navy.

In 1845, Pengiran Muda Hashim returned to Brunei and had lost his high status in Brunei due to a palace coup. But Brooke and the British Navy forcibly reinstalled Pengiran Muda Hashim as the Bendahara. The foreign intervention caused a great deal of unhappiness and Pengiran Muda Hashim and his family were murdered in 1846.

Brooke viewed the massacre as a personal insult and challenge to the prestige of Britain. He asked Rear Admiral Thomas Cochrane to punish Brunei. In 1846, Brunei Town was attacked and captured by the British and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II had to flee to Damuan. Subsequently he was forced to sign a treaty to end the British occupation of Brunei Town. In that treaty, James Brooke was recognised as the Rajah of Sarawak and given the right to rule Sarawak without interference including naming his own successor.

Hearing of the events in Brunei and under pressure by commercial groups, the British government decided to occupy Labuan in order to have a permanent harbour and safe shelter for British vessels. Due to British pressure, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II ceded Labuan to the British under the Treaty of Labuan signed on 18 December 1846. James Brooke was subsequently knighted and appointed as the first British Governor of Labuan in 1847. The loss of Labuan was a big blow to Brunei as it was its gateway to the outside world.

On 27 May 1847, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II signed a Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with Britain. Its purpose was to ensure that Brunei was under British control and influence in order to benefit British trade, commerce and territorial expansion.

After the British attack on Brunei and the loss of Labuan, Brunei began to seek friendship with another western power to counter the British influence. Thus when Joseph Balestier proposed a US-Brunei Treaty of Friendship and Commerce in 1850, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II accepted.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II died in 1852. He was succeeded by Sultan Abdul Momin as the twenty fourth Sultan of Brunei.

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