Monday, May 12, 2008

RPK: Sedition and the first 'Royal ISA detainee'

Who is the first Royal ISA detainee? Read from Malaysia Today by Raja Petra

In honour of Umno’s 62nd Anniversary today, allow me to educate you a bit on some of our forgotten history and the unsung heroes of the fight for Malaya’s independence from Britain. Ironically, the Sedition Act was a British instrument to stifle this struggle for Merdeka and to silence critics to British rule.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

“I recall the statement made by the First Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Rahman, when requested by a foreign emissary to sack me from the office of the Prime Minister of Malaya,” said the First Prime Minister and Bapa Merdeka, Tunku Abdul Rahman, on 23 January 1978.

“’Oh, I cannot, for he is appointed by the people and not by me,” replied His Majesty, “On the other hand, he can sack me.’”

“If this system were to change and the Rulers were given the sovereign right and prerogative to rule by the DIVINE RIGHT of kings,” added the Tunku, “then I fear it would be only a question of time before the whole institution was scrapped.”

During the Constitutional Crisis about a decade later, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Ghaffar Baba, said that it is not unlawful to criticise the Rulers. That does not tantamount to sedition. You may not, however, propose that the Monarchy be abolished and for Malaysia to be turned into a Republic, as that would constitute a crime under the Sedition Act.

There was a time, though, when criticising a Ruler was definitely a crime. That was of course 500 years or so ago in England. But that was the time when Kings were considered ‘personally’ appointed by God and to criticise the Monarch is the same as criticising God. And if you criticise God then you will be burnt alive at the stake.

In 1946, the Malays rose up to oppose the British-mooted Malayan Union. With that saw the birth of Umno. As the Umno leaders criss-crossed the length and breadth of Malaya to rally for support, the British decided to introduce the centuries-old Sedition Act that would make it a crime to oppose or criticise the British Colonial Government.

Royalty was not immune from the wrath of the British. In 1938, ten years before the introduction of the Sedition Act 1948, Tengku Musa Ghiathuddin was bypassed in favour of Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah, the Sixth Sultan of Selangor, on the insistence of the British. Tengku Musa was opposed to British intervention in Selangor and his struggle for ‘Merdeka’, many years before Umno was formed, saw His Highness ‘evicted’ from the Selangor throne.

When the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1942, my grandfather, Raja Sir Tun Uda, smuggled Sultan Hisamuddin to safety and hid His Highness in the jungle. My grandfather, who was both cousin and brother-in-law to His Highness, then came out from the jungle to negotiate for safe passage for the Sultan. After extracting a guarantee from the Japanese that the Sultan would not be harmed, my grandfather brought His Highness out of hiding.

The Japanese, however, would not allow Sultan Hisamuddin, who they regarded as a British lackey and not the rightful heir to the throne, to take back the throne. Instead, the Japanese installed Sultan Musa Ghiathuddin Riayat Shah as the new (Seventh) Sultan according to proper protocol and tradition (which means Sultan Musa would now be the legal and rightful Sultan of Selangor).

My grandfather was then arrested and brought to the Japanese headquarters (what today is known as Carcosa Sri Negara) where he was to be executed by pancung kepala. Sultan Musa rushed to the Japanese headquarters to ‘witness’ the execution and just as the Japanese soldier raised the Samurai sword and before it could separate my grandfather’s head from his shoulders, Sultan Musa dropped to his knees and begged that they spare my grandfather’s life.

The Japanese were taken aback. A Ruler is ‘God’ in the Japanese tradition and for ‘God’ to go down on his knees and beg was a sort of ‘culture shock’, to put it mildly. My grandfather’s life was invariably spared and he spent the war years assisting the Sultan in ensuring that the people of Selangor at least had enough food to eat. Sultan Musa, of course, had to ‘collaborate’ with the Japanese and ‘abuse’ his ‘God’ status in ensuring that the people of Selangor were spared the ravages of war.

When the British came back in 1945, they sacked Sultan Musa and reinstalled Sultan Hisamuddin onto the throne of Selangor. For ‘collaborating’ with the Japanese, Sultan Musa was sent into exile to the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. That was in the days before the introduction of the Internal Security Act and the Kamunting Detention Center. In that sense, my grandfather, Sultan Musa, was the first ‘Royal ISA detainee’ back in 1945 (so I was NOT the first Royal ISA detainee).

Ten years later, Sultan Musa was brought back to Kelang so that he could die at home. His Highness died soon after that and now lies buried in the Royal Mausoleum in Kelang alongside my father, grandmother, grandfather and scores of grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins. Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah died in 1960 and was succeeded by Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah, the late Agong.

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