Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Brunei Clock Tower


This black and white photo is currently being sold for about US$775 together with two other photographs and two other postcards on ebay. I am not sure whether this is worth that amount of money but you are most welcome to bid on them.

This photograph shows the clock tower and I would presume the photo was taken in the early 1960s. You can still see the old police station and the old police officers barrack in the background. By 1980, the old police station had been demolished, the barracks were demolised earlier.

There was no traffic light yet but there is a light on top of the junction. This served to remind road users that there is a junction.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Old Borneo Map


I was spring cleaning my study yesterday and in one of the envelopes that I nearly threw away was this map of Borneo. I must have ordered this quite a while ago and have never got round to framing this. I don't know how old this map is but judging by the data should be around 100 years old at least.

The boundaries are not marked so that means Rajah Brooke have not arrived yet to take over Sarawak and Sarawak is only marked with a little dot where Kuching is today. Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei is marked 'Roy Borneo' which I take to mean 'Proper Borneo' as most other Anglicised map would show for this period. Proper Borneo is to distinguish it from the Island of Borneo and Brunei was referred to as Proper Borneo in those days.

Borneo is also marked where Bandar Seri Begawan is today with an italic lettering of Bruni to denote its other name, as far as the map is concerned.

What I like most about this map is that the Limbang River is marked as Borneo River. In those days, districts are marked by rivers. Hence, you have the Tutong District as areas of the Tutong River, Belait District as areas of the Belait River etc. The actual Brunei River is far too short to be a river for the purpose of districting and that was why the Limbang River was a better indicator of the Brunei District. Unfortunately because of catography, we named the Limbang River as the Limbang River even though hundreds of years ago, Limbang was the food basket of Brunei. So marking the Limbang River as the Borneo River in this map is correct in that sense.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Smallest Frogs in the World


[photo from National Geographic website]

The scientists found this somewhere on Borneo Island. I can only say, WOW. According to National Geographic:

One of the smallest frogs in the world, the species was spotted inside and around pitcher plants in Malaysian rain forests on the island of Borneo (map), which is divided among Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The new species was announced Wednesday, but the frogs have been hiding in plain view for more than a century.

"I saw some specimens in museum collections that are over a hundred years old," co-discoverer Indraneil Das said in a statement.

"Scientists presumably thought they were juveniles of other species," said Das, a herpetologist at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak in Malaysia. "But it turns out they are adults of this newly discovered microspecies."

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Seeking Forgiveness

[This was my article published last Monday on Brunei Times.]



THE GOLDEN LEGACY
Seeking Forgiveness During Eid Fitr

Ramadan is the Muslims’ month of fasting. It is a time for Muslims to learn to be patient, to be humble and to understand more about spirituality. Ramadan is also an auspicious month. It is during Ramadan that the Al-Mighty first revealed the first verses of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). It is also the month where everyone asks forgiveness for past sins and past misdeeds. The practice of asking for forgiveness from misdeeds continue not just during Ramadan but also during the Eid month of Syawal more commonly known as Hari Raya in Brunei.

A common practice in Brunei and elsewhere in the world is to seek forgiveness from relatives and friends as well as to send Hari Raya greetings. These can be done in person when one meets them but can also be done by sending out Hari Raya greetings in whatever form. In today’s technological world, Hari Raya greetings including seeking forgiveness, ‘Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir Batin’ can be sent out electronically as well via the various modern means – short message services (sms), e-mails, electronic cards, twitter or even via one’s social electronic networks. In today’s modern day society, Hari Raya greeting cards have become digitalised courtesy of advancements in technology.

A recent news article on Brunei Times indicated that social networking websites have taken precedence over conventional mails, short messaging system (SMS), and emails for conveying festive greetings to friends. Many of those interviewed preferred to use such sites as it offers a faster and cheaper alternative. It is hassle free rather than going to the shops to buy greeting cards.

Some argued that most of the cards received are either left lying around or thrown away. Some argued that even when a greeting card is sent out, nobody replies. For the environmentally aware, using electronic cards is more efficient and cut down the costs of buying the cards and posting them. Electronic cards on the internet are also simple, free and can be customized. One can even add animation and music.

Despite that, most still agree that the actual Hari Raya greeting card is the best. Hari Raya cards are more personal and reflect more care, sensitivity and effort. There is also a sentimental value in receiving conventional Hari Raya cards and many would be happy to receive personalised cards. Some employed both - using cards for sending out to those in the work community and the other methods for friends and relatives.

In the 1980s and 1990s when electronic cards have not yet make an impact, many Raya cards were sent out. The Brunei Postal Services Department even offered the services of typing addresses on envelopes as part of its services. Cards can be as big as an A3 size paper depending who it is one wants to send the card to. Cards are colourful and one can spend hours searching right cards with the right messages to send out to their loved ones.

One former minister recalled that he received a huge beautiful card with loving texts sent by one of his expatriate officers. Apparently the expatriate officer, wanting to make an impact with his new minister, decided to send the biggest card he could find. He did not realize that the card was meant to be sent by those who were in love to his or her beloved one.

In the 1970s, some cards were sent scented with perfumes or powders. This is to send the same message from your loved ones or from an anonymous admirer.

The interesting part was that prior to the 1970s, cards were not bought but rather hand-made. Many would make home-made greeting cards in preparation for the Hari Raya festivities because unlike today, Hari Raya greeting cards were not available or sold.

One had to be fairly artistic and imaginative. To create a card, one would need a big drawing paper or board complete with black and colour pencils. The design can be anything whether related to Hari Raya or otherwise. One can even include any other scenic photographs or anything.

Suitable greetings can be included. There were those who remained loyal to their school would indicate the school’s motto and the school’s badge even after they have started work. Those in SMMP (Sekolah Menengah Melayu Pertama or First Malay Secondary School), the precursor to today’s Science College remained very loyal. Their school’s EXCELSIOR motto remained. SOAS College too had its own following.

Most importantly the card would have a self portrait of the creator somewhere in the card. Some remembered that one must be smartly dressed whether wearing a suit or a tie or at least be macho looking complete with sunglasses and dresses well. One or two even had their photographic persona to appear in various scenes posing as if they were there. The most important thing is that one must look cool and be as good looking as possible. These cards also go out to potential suitors.

Once a card is drawn and completed, the finalised version is then sent to a photo studio in town. Studios in Bandar, Kuala Belait and Seria offered these services. The chosen studio would take a snapshot of the card and would print the card on a postcard size paper. The studios would take took around three days to print the cards at a cost of $3.00 per dozen cards.

Dato Rahman Mohiddin recalled that by belonging to the SOAS Photography Club, the members and their friends only had to pay for the cost of the paper which was about 10 cents each. Though they had to do everything else themselves in the dark room including developing the films and printing the prints on paper. It is also imperative that the cards’ borders must be cut using specialized cutters to produce beautiful edges.

Most cards produced in those days did not have straight edges whether produced by the studios or the photography club. Unfortunately not many of these cards survived. Not many were actually produced. One person probably produced at most about 30 cards to be sent out to very close relatives and friends.

To save costs, most Hari Raya cards were produced half postcard size. So each postcard size paper can have two cards printed on it. Half postcard size is the size of today’s credit cards. Sometimes the original wording and design became too small to be read.

At the end of the day, it does not make any difference if Hari Raya greetings are sent out by using cards, text messages or social networking sites. Both traditional and new ways of sending Hari Raya festive greetings serve the same purpose because it is the thought that counts.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kampong Ayer 1970s


For most Bruneians, Kampong Ayer is something which has always been there. We do not realise how time passes by.

This is a postcard of Kampong Ayer produced by a Singapore company and sold here about 40 years ago. Compare this scene with those of today, you can't see much difference. The boats are already fast as you can see.

For those living or who once lived there, can your recognise where this was taken? The only clue is the bakut as there can't be too many of those in the Kampong Ayer. Let me know.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seria 1980s


Sometime last year, I wanted to buy this postcard but I lost it on ebay. I didn't realise there was another buyer equally determined trying to get this postcard. When it came again recently, I was determined to get it. However, it was quite a painless task as I managed to acquire it for a song.

This is Seria or rather this was Seria in the 1980s. This is taken from the angle of the coastal area. The houses on the foreground are no longer there and these has been replaced by the OGDC. The shophouses in the background too have changed. The general layout remain similar and some of the shophouses remained unchanged.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Malay Secondary School


While going through the old Hari Raya cards, I found a couple of cards with reference to SMMP and the school's motto EXCELSIOR.

The card above with the school badge, I found very familiar. I remembered seeing this school badge and the school motto. It took me quite a while when I realised it belong to today's Maktab Sains. I did not go to Maktab Sains, so the badge was not as familiar as I am sure it should be to my brother and sister who went there. So SMMP must be percusor to today's Maktab Sains.

It took quite a while before realising SMMP actually stands for Sekolah Menengah Melayu Pertama (First Malay Secondary School) which in itself was interesting as a school name. It began in Brunei Town in 1966. Form 4 was first introduced in the school in 1967 while Sixth Form classes were introduced in 1969. In that same year the school moved from Brunei Town to Jalan Muara at Maktab Sains present site.

On 23 September 1971, Sekolah Menengah Melayu Pertama was officially renamed as Maktab Melayu Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan (Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Malay College). It was officially inaugurated by Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei.

Bilingual education policy was implemented in 1974 and English medium classes was introduced. Two years later, the concept of providing science education was initiated. The school was then again renamed as Maktab Melayu Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan/Sekolah Sains ( Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Malay College/Science School). Hostel facilities for both boys and girls were provided for high achievers from every corner of the country, irrespective of their socio-economic status.

In 1985, the status of the school was raised to that of a college to acknowledge the inclusion of the Sixth Form. The school was again renamed as Maktab Sains Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan (Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Science College). The College went to Rimba in 1994 while repairs to the buildings were carried out. It was in 2005 when the school went back to Jalan Muara.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Old Brunei Hari Raya Cards

My article today published in The Brunei Times is about old Hari Raya cards used by Bruneians in the 1960s and early 1970s. If you want to read the article, you can buy the paper today. I will publish it in this blog sometime this week.

In the meantime, the old Hari Raya cards in Brunei looked like these:





Sunday, August 22, 2010

SOAS Mosque on Vietnam stamps


I managed to acquire these stamps recently from a Vietnamese stamp dealer. I did not get these when I was in Vietnam but I saw the stamps on ebay and I was quite intrigued. I have a number of stamps issued by other countries which depicted Brunei's scenes but I have never seen this one before.

The stamps were supposedly issued in 1993 and with a face value of 8000 dong which is roughly equal to about 67 cents. Other than seeing what is already on the stamps, I have no other information about it. I would love to hear from others who know more about this issue.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sarawak Museum Journal


One of the visits I had to visit was the Sarawak Museum when I was in Kuching. I have to admit despite my aversion to things Brooke, the Sarawak Museum is a must visit. I did not have the time to go into the museum but only to see if I can buy the Sarawak Museum Journal.

For those who are interested, the Sarawak Museum Old Building was built in 1891 and was extended to its present form in 1911. The building was especially built to permanently house and display local native arts and crafts and collections of local animals as mainly encouraged by the famous naturalist, Alfred Wallace, who was then collecting specimens in the country. The Sarawak Museums comprised of a number of museums. If you have a few days in Kuching and has a penchant for things past, you will not be bored.

Me, I was only interested in the Museum's publication, the Sarawak Museum Journal. The Sarawak Museum Journal has been publishing since 1920s, unlike our own Brunei Museum Journal which started only in 1969. So any articles written about Brunei prior to 1969 was most likely to be found in either the Royal Asiatic Society Malayan Branch (JMBRAS) or in the Sarawak Museum Journal. In fact many of the earlier writings about Brunei and even in the first edition of the journal was the article which I always referred to written by AE Lawrence. In it, he postulated that the first conquests of the newly established Brunei in the 14th century was to conquer Tutong, Belait all the way up to Mukah and Oya when Brunei defeated the Melanau kingdom.

Unfortunately the Museum shop (which was located across the road from the Museum at Tun Abdul Razak Building) had only 30 copies of the entire Sarawak Museum Journal collection. Altogether there should be around 86 copies. The ones they sell are mostly from the 1970s onwards. I bought the whole 30 as these are probably the last ones and if I waited longer, there will be even less. Each copy cost RM$30. They were very heavy. I bought a few books as well plus an old table top cannon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sungkai Buffet



Only Cuboiart can come up with the appropriate cartoon this time of the year. I have not been keeping up with his genius drawing lately and I was happy to see a few new cartoons which he has just drawn and published in the Borneo Bulletin lately.

This one is a killer. Every Ramadan, comes the Sungkai Buffet. I was told at certain places, there are so many people that the food had to be topped up. I much prefer to sungkai at home. There are just so many temptation if I do pop into one of these sungkai buffet. But the other day, my better half, my little one and me did go to the buffet at Holiday Lodge in Jerudong.

That was the third day of fasting. We were quite surprised when we went there, we were asked to choose a main course. The main course was a Western dish and in my case, I chose Sirloin Steak, the other choices included tiger prawns, chicken, fish and one other I cannot remember. This main course comes on top of the usual buffet that you can choose which included Roti Kosong and Roti Telur which is made on site by an Indian chef.

So, that's the one and only experience that I have had so far of the sungkai buffet and I thought that it was actually worthwhile. It cost $19 for an adult and $12 for a child. For your Maghrib, you can have it at the nearby Ameerah's Mosque. What's your sungai buffet experience?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kuching, First Impressions

According to my father, I had been to Kuching once. At least to Kuching Airport. In the 1960s, my mother and I used to go 'balik kampong' every year or so. My mother is from Johor, so balik kampong was back to her hometown in Batu Pahat. I am the eldest son, so I am the one who frequently went back with her. In those days, the only way to go to Singapore (then take the taxi to go to Johor) was to fly via one of those propeller aeroplane to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) before taking the jet flight to Singapore. Sometimes, one had to fly to Kuching instead.

But that trip to me does not count. So the first time, I actually went to Kuching was three weeks ago to attend the haze meeting. The meeting was at the Pullman Hotel which is the newest hotel in Kuching. The lobby was especially huge and being a new hotel does make it look much brighter and bigger than anyone else in Kuching. Plus it is placed on a hill and so can overlook practically everything else in Kuching.

The hotel looks quite spectacular at night.

I knew most of Kuching from the history of the Brookes and not being a fan of the Brooke's, I skipped most of the so called Brooke's historical places. The only thing left I knew of Sarawak was the Ikan Terubok. A quick trip to the market really shows how popular it was. Depending on size, ikan terubok on average is about RM$10 each. There are bigger ones and smaller ones depending on your taste and dollars in your pocket. The other popular thing was the fish eggs. This one is even more expensive. One pair of ikan terubok's fish eggs or roe was about RM$25 or more. What I learnt later on was that Kuching's kek lapis was very popular too. So, most people coming back from Kuching had these two boxes:

I think everyone in Kuching can pack like these!

The kek lapis at Hajah Salhah at Kampong Gerisik was apparently the most popular. When we went there, the whole place was packed. Everyone was just filling in their plastic bags. Each of the kek lapis loaf was RM$10 each. The more complicated ones were $20 and a whole kek lapis about $30 if I am not mistaken.

I had to stop myself from buying the entire collection. Despite being cheap, these cakes are heavy!

The Ikan Terubok stalls:

The fish are salted and easily packed whenever a buyer wants to buy one to export overseas. The fishmongers are all experts are packing when I was there.

The Terubok Telur or Roes:

Each packet contain about five pairs and can cost more than RM$100.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sultan Tengah, the first and only Sarawak Sultan

Someone asked me why have I not blogged for quite a while. The easy answer is it is the fasting month - terawih prayers and all that plus the need to go to sleep early to wake up early for sahur. In addition to that over the last two weeks I was away in Kuching to accompany my minister to attend the 10th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution and then I was in Hanoi to attend the 21st ASEAN Senior Officials Meetings on Environment. It has indeed been quite busy for me.

I had some spare time in Kuching, namely at 7 o'clock in the morning on the day we were flying back to Brunei, to rush to Santubong to visit the Sultan Tengah grave. Santubong is about an hour's drive from Kuching. But the visit was worth it. One of MOD's architect helped design the mausoleum. With the space frame technology, the in thing when it was first built looks a bit dated now.

Sultan Tengah was the first and only Sultan of Sarawak. I actually wrote an article about Sultan Tengah in the Brunei Times which was published way back on 28th December 2008 and is one of the articles in my book, The Golden Legacy Brunei Darussalam Volume 2. The photograph is the Makam of Sultan Tengah in Sarawak. It was visited by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in August 2007 when he officially visited Sarawak.

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ABOUT 200 years before the Brookes became the White Rajah of Sarawak, Sarawak was under the control of the Brunei Sultanate. Not much has been known how Sarawak was governed by the Brunei Sultanate but presumably there was an equivalent of a governor then.

Not many know that around 1598, Sarawak had its first and only Sultan. How did this come about?

When Sultan Muhammad Hassan, Brunei's ninth Sultan who reigned from 1582 to 1598 died, the throne was ascended by his eldest son, Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar.

Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar had a younger sibling named Pengiran Muda Tengah Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah or was better known as Raja Tengah.

According to oral tradition, Pengiran Muda Tengah wanted to become the Sultan of Brunei as well. He argued that his elder brother was born when his father was not yet the Crown Prince whereas he was born when Sultan Muhammad Hassan was anointed as the Crown Prince. This, argued Pengiran Muda Tengah, made him more suited to be the Sultan than his elder brother.

Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar was a wise man. He understood his younger sibling's intention and he tried to accommodate his brother's wishes. One way out for Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar was to appoint Pengiran Muda Tengah as a Sultan somewhere else. And so Pengiran Muda Tengah was appointed as the Sultan of Sarawak, since Sarawak was then owned and governed by Brunei.

According to the Salsilah Raja-Raja Brunei, Pengiran Muda Tengah accepted the appointment and he made preparation to go to Sarawak. When he went to Sarawak, more than 1,000 warriors of Sakai, Kedayan and Pulau Bunut origins accompanied him. A few nobilities went along with him to help him administer the new country. Many of these are the forefathers of some of today's Malay community in Sarawak.

In Sarawak, the new Sultan and his men built a palace and a fort to surround the palace. Sultan Tengah began to appoint his senior officials. Among them was Datu Petinggi Seri Setia, Datu Shahbandar Indera Wangsa, Datu Amar Setia Diraja and Datu Temenggong Laila Wangsa. After everything was done, Sultan Tengah coronated himself as Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah, the first Sultan of Sarawak. According to Sambas History, Sultan Tengah was also known as Sultan Abdul Jalil.

Around 1599, Sultan Tengah visited Pahang which was then part of the Johor Empire to visit Raja Bonda who was Sultan Tengah's aunty who had married Sultan Abdul Ghafur Muhyiddin Shah ibnu Sultan Abdul Kadir Alauddin Shah.

During his stay, Sultan Tengah was asked to a dance but during that dance, the handkerchief of his dance partner nearly hit Sultan Tengah's face. He became so angry that he slapped his partner. That caused Sultan Johor to be so upset that Sultan Tengah was advised to leave Johor as soon as possible.

According to the Sambas History version, Sultan Tengah was forced to leave Johor because he refused Raja Bonda's offer for him to marry Sultan Johor's princess known as Encik Zohra.

On his return to Sarawak, Sultan Tengah's ship ran into a hurricane which caused the ship to lose its main sail. The ship ran aground in Sukadana in today's Kalimantan, Indonesia. Then Sukadana was governed by Penambahan Giri Mustika, Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin who had just converted to Islam helped by Sheikh Shamsuddin from Makkah. Sultan Tengah also studied under Sheikh Shamsuddin during his stay there.

In Sukadana, Sultan Tengah married one of the princesses, Puteri Surya Kesuma, the younger sister to Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin. Sultan Tengah stayed on in Sukadana and asked to be allowed to help spread Islam around the area. It was decided that he should do it around the Sambas River. And so around 1600, Sultan Tengah left Sukadana via the Sambas River with about 40 boats all equipped with weapons.

At the Sambas River, they landed at Kuala Bangun and by then Puteri Surya Kesuma gave birth to a prince named Radin Sulaiman. Two other princes were also born later. The second prince was known as Pengiran Badaruddin who later became Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja and a third prince, Pengiran Abdul Wahab who later became Pengiran Temenggong Jaya Kesuma.

Sultan Tengah eventually arrived at Kota Lama. There, he was welcomed by Ratu Kota Lama, Ratu Sepudak who greeted him with all the royal protocol. Sultan Tengah found that Ratu Sepudak allowed him to spread Islam around the area even though he was not a Muslim. Later on during his stay, Sultan Tengah's eldest son, Radin Sulaiman was married to the daughter of Ratu Sepudak, Puteri Mas Ayu Bongsu. The couple had a son named Radin Bima who later became Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin.

When Ratu Sepudak died, he was replaced by Pengiran Prabu Kenchana who appointed Radin Sulaiman as one of his viziers. It was also said that Ratu Sepudak wanted the throne to be given to Sultan Tengah as he had the experience of running a country but that was opposed by the royal family.

Around 1630, Sultan Tengah went to Matan. In Matan, he married one of the Matan Princesses who later gave birth to Pengiran Mangku Negara. Pengiran Mangku Negara eventually became the Sultan of Matan.

After a few years' stay in Matan, Sultan Tengah went back to Sarawak. On his return to Sarawak, he stopped at a place called Batu Buaya in Santubong. It was there he was killed by one of his followers.

When news of his death reached Sarawak, Datu Petinggi, Datu Shahbandar, Datu Amar and Datu Temenggong came to Santubong to complete the funeral rites according to royal Brunei tradition. It was said that he died in 1641 around 10 years after Radin Sulaiman became Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin I in Sambas. Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin I was replaced by Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin I, then followed by a long lineage of the Sambas Sultanate until the modern times.

Meanwhile, Sultan Tengah was buried in Santubong in today's Kampong Batu Buaya. The grave stone marking the grave was fit for a Sultan. With Sultan Tengah's death, came the end of the Sarawak Sultanate made up of the one and only Sultan. But the titles given to the nobilities of Sarawak carried on until today.

During his visit to Sarawak, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam visited the mausoleum of Sultan Tengah in Santubong in August earlier this year.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Early Brunei Conquests

[Note: I wrote this when I was attending the ASEAN Senior Environmental Officials Meeting in Hanoi last week. I brought one book with me as a reference but luckily there was enough references on the net. It was published in The Brunei Times on 9th August 2010.]

THE GOLDEN LEGACY
The Early Brunei Conquests

A.E. Lawrence writing in the first edition of the Sarawak Museum Journal of 1911 in an article entitled “The First Brunei Conquests on the Sarawak Coast” stated that Awang Alak Betatar enlarged the newly founded Brunei territory by first defeating the Melanau hero Tugau, thus advancing his frontiers from the Tutong River to the Rejang delta.

According to Brunei’s own epic poems, Syair Awang Semaun, this happened during the rule of Brunei’s first ruler, Awang Alak Betatar, who was later renamed as Sultan Muhammad Shah when Brunei battled against the Melanau Government. When Melanau lost, Brunei conquered all its territories stretching from Mukah to Tutong.

This short article will illustrate how Brunei began its first conquests thus enlarging the newly founded Brunei.

At the beginning, both Brunei and Melanau were territories that paid tributes to the Majapahit. According to the ancient document Nagarakretagama, territories that paid tributes to the Majapahit included “Kadangdangan, Landa Samedang dan Tirem tak terlupakan Sedu, Barune(ng), Kalka, Saludung, Solot dan juga Pasir Barito, Sawaku, Tabulang, ikut juga Tajung Kuteri, Malano tetap yang terpenting di Pulau Tanjungpura”. Brunei described as Barune(ng) and Melanau known as Malano were both vassal states of the Majapahit.

However, with the fall of the Majapahit Empire, Brunei suddenly had a chance to expand its fledgling empire. The first target that came into its view finder was the nearby Tutong river territory.

Awang Alak Betatar appointed a Brunei noble known as Pembakal Bangis to lead the delegation and to request that Mawangga, the leader in the Tutong river territory presented himself at the capital. Mawangga replied that he and his people could not do so as they were conquered slaves. Tutong was under the control of the great Melanau Leader named Basiung and his in-law Tugaw living at Igan.

Mawangga directed Awang Alak Betatar’s men to go to Igan. Mawangga informed Bangis that If the great Melanau leader will submit to the Brunei King’s authority, the Tutong territory will do likewise.

In Igan, the leader of the Brunei forces told Basiung that Awang Alak Betatar wanted him and his men to come to Brunei to submit to his authority at Junjungan. The Igan leader unamused. He was used to people coming to see him and not the other way round. Basiung in fact told Bangis that Awang Alak Betatar should come to see him and if he is slow in coming, Igan will attack Brunei.

Undeterred, Bangis gave Basiung nine days to make up his mind but Basiung was still confident. He told Bangis that if Awang Alak Betatar came over as soon as possible and bring gifts, he would make sure that Awang Alak Betatar would not be harmed.

Awang Alak Betatar was very offended and his ministers advised him that Brunei should attack Igan to put this Basiung in his place. Awang Semaun, Awang Jeramabak and Pateh Damang Sari all agreed to attack.

The Igan Valley of Sarawak, became the first arena of battle between Brunei and other forces. The Igan Valley contained a short river named Igan which is located in the traditional territories of the Melanau-speaking people.

There were two versions of the battle. The first version is more of a fairy tale. The battle was said to be between the three Brunei heroes against not another three Melanau warriors but against a jihin (genie) named Bilanapura. The fight lasted nine months. It was Jerambak who was finally able to kill the genie by employing a magic fish skin which he obtained from an ogre.

The second version was much gruesome. This other version described how the Brunei forces left Brunei and met their foes Basiung and his forces from Igan. Basiung had help from his allies from Smbas, Matu, Sadung and Sarikei.

Basiung had assembled more than 9,000 soldiers at Igan. However the 9,000 soldiers were no match for the soldiers from Brunei. They attacked in their hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands. Thousands died and the remaining Igan soldiers fleed. By the time the battle ended, Basiung and Tugaw realized that they had lost. The Brunei soldiers had the Dayaks on their sides. Houses were burnt, potteries were smashed and there were lots of war treasures captured by the Brunei forces. Awang Jerambak called on Igan to acknowledge the overlordship of Awang Alak Betatar as the new power.

The Brunei forces went on to plunder and conquer the rest of the historically Melanau areas of Oya, Matu and Mukah. They also defeated the allies of Igan including Sarikei, Rajang, Sadung, Sarawak, Tanjung Datu and Lingga. They went all the way to Sambas thus conquering Sambas, Pontianak and Sanggau thus conquering the South and South Western Part of the Borneo Island.

The Brunei Forces also defeated and conquered territories on the east coast of Borneo such as Banjar (today Banjarmasin) as well as territories over the north of Borneo Island.

The Brunei conquests over the north of Borneo took a much longer time. This is not because the forces there were much stronger but unlike Melanau which was a dominant military centre, the territories in old Sabah were scattered. Brunei forces had to attack more than 20 times on about 15 different territories. Their foes included the Bajaus, Ilanuns, Bugis, Suluks and Dusuns.

The territories that were conquered or acknowledged Brunei’s authority included Kuala Panyu, Membakut, Bungawan, Kimanis, Binunih, Papar, Putatan, Manggatal, Tuaran, Sulaman, Ranau, Tampasuk, Lingkabu, Kinabatangan, Tungku, Silam, Bulungan, Kuran, Sandungan, Mutu, Banjar. In addition, the Brunei forces also captured or had territories that acknowledged Brunei which included Suluk, Manila, Simbatu, Papan, Rantungan, Lantay and Oti in Sulawesi.

Though the Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei (Manuscript 9B) stated that when Sultan Muhammad became the first Sultan of Brunei, Yang Di-Pertuan Johor gave the new Sultan, several items including the five territories which are ‘negeri Kalaka’, negeri Saribas, negeri Semarahan, negeri Serawak and negeri Mukah.’

Dzulfawati Haji Hassan in her paper entitled ‘Hubungan Melanau-Brunei’ published as part of the 10th Anniversary of Universiti Brunei Darussalam in 1996 theorized that the difference between the battle accounts of the Brunei-Melanau forces and the gift accounts from the Sultan of Johor was that despite the conquests and the invasion, the Melanau people refused to acknowledge Brunei rule and rebelled against Brunei. These territories aligned themselves to the Sultanate of Johor. However with the marriage of Sultan Muhammad Shah and the Johor Princess, those states were returned back to Brunei.

By 1890, with the forcible annexation of the Limbang river by the Brookes of Sarawak being the last loss of Brunei’s territories, most of these conquests have gone with only the original rivers of Brunei, the rivers of Tutong, Belait and Temburong that remained as the modern Brunei of today.

Inspirational Quotes

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