This is a short history lesson… facts with a pinch of fiction thrown in...because a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down..tralala..tralala...
“Who was Dato Shah Bandar Foo Mah Kang?” My nephew, Justin Wong, wants to know. He found the man’s grave somewhere in Kuala Penyu and wondered what position this fellow had held that he deserved a grand grave and had a hall named after him.
|Picture courtesy of Justin Wong (Click to enlarge)|
Long past long ago, before our great-great grandfathers were born, before the White Men knew there was this paradise called Sabah, the
were lord and master of our land. According to this man named Bruneis already established relations with the Middle Kingdom in 518 AD and by the ninth century trade between the two countries had increased. Ranjit Singh, Brunei
Probably long before the other parts of northern Borneo were peopled,
was already a thriving and civilized city run and administered by a government. I imagine that the population multiplied and spread along the coasts southwest to Sarawak and northwards to Brunei Sabah. There was a need, therefore, to administer the territories—the outstations—outside proper. Brunei
(Remember, Sarawak—or whatever its ancient name was—had been under Brunei before the Sultan gave away the land to James Brooke as a thank you gift/reward for curbing piracy. Why such a big chunk of territory was given away, leaving a tiny crumb to remain
, nobody has told me… yet. The western part of Sabah was also Brunei land.) Brunei
Fast forward to more modern times!
In the 16th and early 17th centuries,
devised a system whereby its territories were divided into jajahan (dependencies) for administrative purposes. Brunei
From the 1870s to 1880s
’s principal jajahan were: Brunei
Padas-Klias (Kuala Penyu is here)
Note: Each jajahan (dependency) was actually the valley/plain through which the river and its tributaries flowed—from the source to the mouth. That’s why the jajahan was also simply called sungai.
Okay, who were the rulers of these dependencies/jajahans/sungais?
The rulers and administrators of
consisted of: Brunei
I. The Sultan or Yang di-Pertuan. He was the supreme authority in the State.
II. Directly under the Sultan were 4 Ministers of State or Wazir. They were usually chosen from members of the royal family or nobility (Pengiran).
1. Pengiran Bendahara (Chief Minister)
2. Pengiran Temenggunng (Minister in-charge-of justice and defence)
3. Pengiran di-Gadong (Minister of finance)
4. Pengiran Pemanca (Minister in-charge-of diplomatic affairs)
The highest post is that of Pengiran Syahbandar (Officer in-charge-of commerce)
V. Community leaders/tribal leaders/village headman (chosen by communities but given official recognition by government)
Now let’s skip back to this territory called jajahan aka sungai.
A jajahan was divided into two main categories;
A) OFFICIAL APPANAGES
i) sungai kerajaan belonged to the ruler (Sultan) or the Crown
ii) sungai kuripan belonged to the Wazir--- there were four, remember?
B) PERSONAL or hereditary domains (or sungai tulin or pesaka)
These were private lands and could be held by the Sultan, Wazir or Pengiran (nobility)
The owner/overlord (a) governed his tulin privately and collected revenues/taxes. He owned both land AND the residents (known as hamba!). The more households in the tulin, the more taxes—which were based on the number of households—could be collected. The
overlords were very smart. They kept track of their hamba so even if the hamba had moved, say from Papar to Putatan, the hamba still paid his poll-tax to Papar! Brunei
The owner/overlord also (b) administered the tulin and paid taxes to the Sultan (Crown).
Note: Unlike official appanages, tulins were inheritable and could be bought and sold by local people. Foreign buyers needed consent from the Sultan. (I thought that was very smart.)
Now, although the tulins were personal territories of the Sultan, Wazirs or pengirans, these owners lived in the capital (negeri). Maybe living in the outback was no fun… it would be like orang KL transplanted in Tongkod or Ambong or my kampung. So the overlords appointed local people as proxies! Very clever… eat your cake and have it, too. The owners of the tulins ‘remote-controlled’ the local proxies to administer in their absence.
Did the proxies get mad and asked ‘why me?' Why would they when they enjoyed certain perks, were recognized by the government and were conferred titles of Datuk or, the less grand, Orang Kaya? Example: Datuk Amir Bahar of Papar; Datuk Setia of Putatan who was setia to his overlord, Pengiran Muda Tajudin.
Not all overlords practised ‘remote-control’ from Brunei/the capital/negeri. The Mengkabong overlord, Pengiran Abdul Rauf administered his jajahan himself. He also had officers under him: Datuk Bandar, Datuk Temenggung, Datuk Pemanca, Orang Kaya Laksmana.
|Grave of Dato Shah Bandar Foo Mah Kang. (Courtesy of Justin Wong)|
So who was Dato Shah Bandar Foo Mah Kang (1808 – 1876) of Kuala Penyu?
He was probably a local resident who was chosen by the community or appointed by the overlord of the tulin Padas-Klias (who happened to be Sultan Abdul Mumin in the 1870s) to be in-charge-of commerce… the equivalent of present-day Minister of Trade and Commerce? Town Mayor?
Such a long answer to a short question!
p.s. Please leave comments if there's more to add about jajahan and Brunei rulers and especially if I've said something incorrect. Thank you!