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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Disfigured Crescent by Zainol Abideen






In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.
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Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Ta'ala Wabarakatuh.

Dear brothers and sisters,

When I visited Melaka recently, just like any other tourist to the historical city, I took many photographs and videos of the sights and scenes there plus visuals of almost 6 century old relics and structures that have withstood the test of time there.

I also came across this memorial obelisk that has the Christian Cross, Gurkha Kukri and the Islamic Crescent on it which I believe was built after the Battle of Sg Ujong in 1875-1876 during the British Colonial occupation of Malaya back then.
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I took some snaps of the obelisk and when I went closer to examine the copper fittings which was in the shape of the cross on one side and the crescent on the next face of the obelisk, I noticed several deep slash cuts on the crescent.
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To me as someone who is quite interested in historical artifacts and relics, this series of deep cuts could only be inflicted by a broad sword or other strong sturdy sharp edged cutting tool or weapon.
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Now, who could have been the culprit?

Could it have been the work of the disgruntled British soldiers for the obelisk was erected during their rule? We are talking about the period around 1875-1876 onwards.
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Who is responsible for disfiguring the iconic symbol of Islam there in the cradle of the once illustrious Sultanate of Melaka, the birthplace of the Malaccan Malay Empire which once ruled over a major part of South East Asia?

The Melaka Memorial Obelisk was raised by the British Colonials in memoriam of their soldiers who died in fighting the Sungei Ujong Malay warriors.
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The Christian Cross is left untouched. Symbol of the Malays tolerant nature back then?
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The Gurkha's Sacred Symbol of the Kukri, their traditional weapon of war?

This is what the engravings on the obelisk read :

Malacca Memorial Obelisk

"Erected by their comrades in memory of those who lost their lives
on active service against the Malays in Sugie Ujong 1875-6"

1st Batt H.M.s 10th Foot
Sergeant F. OWEN
Private J. BALL
Private J. NEWMAN
Private H. SMITH

1st Goorka Light Infantry
Naik Bucktring RAV
Sepoy Duljeet POON

Arab Contingent
Corporal Ali SAN
Private Mahomet AWAL
Private Mahomet NIZAM
Private Ferozef MAHROUT
Private Ali MUSJIE
Private Mariano VOLADY.

Those who come pose by it would not be aware of the evidence of past hatred that it displays. I do not blame them.
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Not many people nowadays bother to reflect or study the history of our nation. As far as they are concerned, it is all a matter of 'what is in it for me?'

They don't usually give a hoot as to whatever had taken place in the past and most are only concerned about their livelihood today and in the future?

They do not have time to ponder upon whatever has transpired before and thus lose their connection to the past?

Let's take a moment to reflect on what led to the battle that had taken place in Sungei Ujong (now known as Seremban, Negeri Sembilan ) in the year 1875?

It all started when the feuding territorial chiefs of the Malays in Sungei Ujong (Seremban) started to wage battle between themselves over the collection of taxes from the tin mining operations there and the eventual desperate move of the Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong, Datuk Laksamana Syed Abdul Rahman and the Datuk Muda of Linggi's to seek British help in overcoming their adversaries.

Their collaboration with the British Colonialists thus raised the ire and incurred the wrath of the people of Sg Ujong.

The struggle against the British colonialists in Negeri Sembilan was headed by Tunku Laksamana Antah ibni Almarhum Raja Radin or Yamtuan Antah as he was known, the 8th Ruler of Seri Menanti and the Datuk Syahbandar of Sungei Ujong, Abdullah Tunggal.

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Photo of His Royal Highness Tunku Laksamana Antah ibni Almarhum Raja Radin or Yamtuan Antah

The Datuk Syahbandar of Sungei Ujong, Abdullah Tunggal refused to jointly sign a treaty with the British together with his nemesis Datuk Kelana Syed Abdul Rahman. They had been at odds over whose right it was to collect taxes imposed on the tin miners from the Straits Settlements doing business in Sungei Ujong?

The collaboration of Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong, Datuk Laksamana Syed Abdul Rahman who signed a treaty in March, 1872 with an Englishman, Henry Velge to open a tin mine in Sungei Ujong @ Seremban started the whole episode of the British establishing themselves in Negeri Sembilan.

Thus began the start of British occupation in the State of Negeri Sembilan.

The sentiments of the Malays was further inflamed in April, 1874 when the Datuk Kelana Syed Abdul Rahman of Sungei Ujong (Seremban) and the Datuk Muda of Linggi went to sign a treaty with the British Colonialists Governor of the Straits Settlements, Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Clarke (photo) in Singapore, agreeing to have Sungei Ujong to be made a British 'protectorate'.
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The Malays of Sungei Ujong were enraged for such a move could only mean the loss of their independence, authority and power over their homelands.

Things started to really boil when in August, 1874, the Datuk Kelana of Sungei Ujong sent a letter to Sir Andrew Clarke asking for a British Resident to be sent to assist him in ruling over the Sungei Ujong territory.
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The Union Jack of the British was then raised and flown at the flagstaff near the residence of the Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong at Ampangan in September, 1874 followed by a 21 gun salute pronouncing the British sovereignty over Sungei Ujong.

To fortify his position in Sungei Ujong, the Datuk Kelana assisted by 150 fully armed British soldiers then attacked the Datuk Syah Bandar Abdullah Tunggal and put to torch Rahang, another enemy of his in November, 1874. The Datuk Syah Bandar Abdullah Tunggal then surrendered to him eventually.

With that victory in early 1875, the first British Resident at Sungei Ujong, Patrick J Murray was then appointed to assist the Datuk Kelana in ruling over Sungei Ujong. The other chieftains in Negeri Sembilan were not pleased with such an outcome.

They disapproved of the Datuk Kelana's bringing in foreign powers such as the British to colonize their Malay lands.

The following days saw Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong no longer being bothered about the views of the other chieftains of Negeri Sembilan incurring their wrath and displeasure. The chieftains after conferring amongst themselves then proclaimed the Yamtuan Antah as the Yamtuan @ Paramount Chief of Seri Menanti whose territories included Terachi, Ulu Muar, Gunung Pasir and Jempol.

Datuk Kelana's action in allowing the British to set up base in Sungei Ujong soured his ties with the other chieftains including the Yamtuan Antah. The Yamtuan Antah then no longer acknowledged Datuk Kelana Syed Abdul Rahman as the ruler over Sungei Ujong.

In the mid of 1875, using British protection as his power base, the Datuk Kelana proclaimed Terachi which was cut off by Bukit Putus to be part of his territories of Sungei Ujong sparking off a confrontation with the Yamtuan Antah of Seri Menanti.

Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong and the British then appointed one of their men to be the ruler of Terachi and announced that territory to be their own in November, 1875!

The enraged Yamtuan Antah of Seri Menanti then sacked the Datuk Pemerintah Terachi appointed by Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong and the British Resident.

The British Resident, PJ Murray who was on the side of Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong regarded the actions of Yamtuan Antah as interfering in the jurisdiction of territories ruled by Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong and a breaching of the laws.

On the 27th of November, 1875, the British Resident of Sungei Ujong, Commander PJ Murray set off to Terachi with 20 British soldiers led by Lieutenant Hinxman, 30 policemen, a medical doctor and an Australian translator by the name of Dominic Daly but found no disturbances there upon their arrival.

PJ Murray returned to Sungei Ujong the following day leaving Daly behind in Terachi to carry out surveying works and measure the distance between Kampong Terachi and Kuala Pilah. At one of the riverbanks, Daly came across a large group of 200 over Malay villagers who demanded the foreigner and his men to return at once to Sungei Ujong.

The frightened Daly immediately dispatched his aides seeking help from Murray at Sungei Ujong. The British Resident then sent his armed forces to Terachi led by Lieutenant Hinxman. This news of the British soldiers entering Terachi reached the ears of Yamtuan Antah.

The intrusion of the British armed forces amounted to challenging the sovereignty of Seri Menanti and Yamtuan Antah immediately marshalled 4000 of his men to be ready for war!

The action by Yamtuan Antah in gathering his men to confront and chase out the British forces was immediately supported by the other Negeri Sembilan chieftains who gathered their troops to join Yamtuan Antah's fighters. Amongst them were Datuk Siamang Gagap, Tengku Besar Tampin, the people of Rembau, Jelebu and Johol.

Yamtuan Antah's army then hiked up and crossed Bukit Putus entering Paroi. There, Yamtuan Antah dispatched a warning letter to British Resident Patrick J Murray ordering him not to interfere with the sovereignty of Seri Menanti and not to intrude into Terachi territory.

Murray who became alarmed and scared of the uprising of the Malays led by Yamtuan Antah immediately sought for armed assistance from the Straits Settlements.

The position of the British at Sungei Ujong was very much at peril for they feared of the Malays attack. Lieutenant Hinxman and his soldiers who were at Rasah immediately dug trenches and fortified their positions all around their army encampments.

In December 1875, Yamtuan Antah's forces consisting of 200 men succeeded in capturing Paroi and they built up their fort there.

In Sungei Ujong, British forces from Melaka numbering 20 soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Peyton arrived to quell the uprising of the Malays.

With the reinforcements consisting of the small detachment of 20 men from the 1st Battalion, His Majesty’s Foot Regiment based in Melaka who had arrived on the 4th of December, 1875, adding to the strength of his troops, Lieutenant Hinxman then led a war battalion comprising of 30 soldiers, 30 policemen and 6 Arab soldiers from Rasah to attack the Yamtuan Antah's forces now entrenched at Paroi.

Nevertheless as soon as they reached Paroi, the British troops were attacked by the Malays who were using rifles!

The Malay forces were bigger in numbers and their ferocious attack almost overwhelmed Hinxman's troops to the point that they were about to be defeated and captured.

Realizing their futile situation, the remaining British troops retreated and made their way back to Rasah.

Yamtuan Antah's forces succeeded in retaining their grounds and made their defense along the Linggi River.

On the 5th of December, the embattled British forces were at their wits end after failing to recapture Paroi from the Yamtuan Antah's forces.

They drew up fresh battle-plans and renewed their assault against the Malays at Paroi using cannons belonging to Datuk Kelana Sungei Ujong. The onslaught upon the Malays resisting the advances of the British troops was quite heavy and furious fighting took place there on that 5th of December, 1875.

The earth of Paroi shook and trembled upon being pounded relentlessly by the British cannon fire.

After a full hour of exchanging gun and cannon fire, the British troops finally managed to traverse and cross the swamps fore fronting the forts of Yamtuan Antah and suffered casualties on their part as well.

The names of those who fell in the battle are immortalized in the memorial obelisk now standing at Dataran Pahlawan, Melaka.

After being bombarded by such continuous cannon fire, the Malays who were defending their forts at Paroi had no choice but to call for retreat.

Lieutenants Hinxman and Peyton made up their minds to continue with their assault and destroy the fortified defenses of Yamtuan Antah.

The British suffered 37 casualties including some of the Arab soldiers and numerous wounded on both warring parties.

After their relentless bombardment of Yamtuan Antah's forces who eventually retreated, the British finally managed to recapture Paroi.

The military reinforcements asked for by the British Resident Patrick J Murray arrived at Sungei Ujong on the 8th of December, 1875. Led by the Lieutenant Governor of Penang, Major General Archibald Edward Harbord Anson, 350 British soldiers came to strengthen the British position from Melaka.

Another detachment of the British troops in the form of 250 battle hardened British Gurkha soldiers arrived together with 32 officers. The gunnery troops from the HMS Thistle also arrived at Sungei Ujong on the 10th of December, 1875!

Emboldened with such added military strength, the Commanding Chief Officer of the Sungei Ujong British forces, Lieutenant Colonel Clay then planned to launch an all out assault against the remaining forces of Yamtuan Antah, at Bukit Putus which was still under the control of the Negri Malays, from all angles.

On the 19th of December, the British forces headed by Patrick J Murray left Sungei Ujong heading for Bukit Putus via Langkap. Lieutenant Colonel Clay led another force consisting of 280 soldiers.

A final battle then took place between the British forces and Yamtuan Antah's remaining Malay forces at Bukit Putus where eventually, the British prevailed and recaptured the strategic territory from the control of the Negeri Sembilan Malays.

The victorious British troops then made their way towards Seri Menanti.

Sensing the presence of his enemies, Yamtuan Antah and his royal family had to retreat from Seri Menanti and sought asylum in Johor.

Yamtuan Antah sought an audience with the Sultan of Johor, Maharaja Abu Bakar to seek His Majesty's advice and counsel.

The Maharaja advised Yamtuan Antah to make peace with the British.

With the help of the Sultan of Johor, in May, 1876, Yamtuan Antah had a meeting with the Governor of Singapore, Sir William Jervois. (photo below)
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Yamtuan Antah together with four chieftains from the Districts of Seri Menanti, Johol and Inas met the British Governor in Singapore again in November, 1876.

Following the meetings, the British Colonials decided that it would be very much in their favor to make peace with the local population and enhance their image.

The British then agreed to install Yamtuan Antah as the Yamtuan Besar of Seri Menanti and other districts in Negeri Sembilan to be under the local chieftains but for Sungei Ujong to remain as a protectorate of the British.

After spending two years in retreat at Johor, Yamtuan Antah returned to his homestate in Seri Menanti. His Majesty lived there for another 11 years before passing away in 1888.

Thus ended the life of a ruler who so loved his ancestral land and went to the stage of waging war against the British Colonials to expel them from occupying and lording it over the local populace.

Yamtuan Antah's fighting spirit and courage will forever be remembered and cherished by the people of Seri Menanti and the State of Negeri Sembilan.

The cuts upon the Crescent embedded in the Sungei Ujong War Memorial serves as a permanent reminder to those of us who are citizens of this land to be well aware of the dangers of falling again into occupation and be enslaved once more by the foreign powers who are always waiting to invade whomsoever become weak, divided and complacent, not knowing to appreciate what they have until its taken away from them!

The Disfigured Crescent remains as a silent witness to the atrocities of the marauding imperialist forces out there.

Will Malaysians especially those of us who are Muslims take note of this?

Wallahu 'alam bissawab!

References :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
http://www.badanwarisan.org.my/buletins/july_sept05.pdf
http://www.ide.go.jp/English/Publish/Periodicals/De/pdf/71_03_01.pdf
http://tinyurl.com/26me3qn
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bird/chersonese/chersonese-2.html
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