DULI YANG MAHA MULIA
PADUKA SERI SULTAN PERAK DARUL RIDZUAN
SULTAN NAZRIN MUIZZUDDIN SHAH
MAJLIS PELANCARAN BUKU
‘THE MALAYS: PATHFINDERS AND TRAILBLAZERS’
TARIKH: 11 JUN 2022 (SABTU), JAM 10.00 PAGI
TEMPAT: DEWAN TUN HUSSEIN ONN, WORLD TRADE, KUALA LUMPUR.
Saudara Tua Beta, Orang Kaya Kaya Seri Agar DiRaja
Dato’ Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Ramli bin Ngah Talib
Penerbit dan hadirin sekalian.
Alhamdulillah dengan rahmat Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala, Beta diizinkan berangkat untuk menyempurnakan pelancaran buku, “The Malays: Pathfinders and Trailblazers” terbitan Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia. Buku ini dikarang oleh Dato’ Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Ramli bin Ngah Talib, anak kelahiran Pasir Salak, sebuah perkampungan yang sangat bersejarah; yang dalam batang tubuhnya mengalir darah Ngah Kamdin, penyandang gelaran Dato’ Sagor yang dijatuhkan hukuman gantung sampai mati, disabitkan terlibat dalam peristiwa pembunuhan Residen Pertama Inggeris JWW Birch.
2. Jika pada tahun 1875, Dato’ Sagor Ngah Kamdin bersama Dato’ Maharajalela Zainal Abidin bin Uda, lebih dikenali dengan nama timangan Pandak Lam, telah dengan beraninya tampil ke hadapan menyanggah arahan Residen Inggeris secara bersenjata, kini pada tahun 2022, Orang Kaya Kaya Seri Agar DiRaja, Ramli bin Ngah Talib, tampil ke hadapan menyanggah secara intelek dan secara ilmiah tulisan dan huraian yang beliau sifatkan tidak memberikan keadilan serta gambaran tepat mengenai bangsa Melayu, sebagai usaha mahu membasuh arang yang diconteng di muka bangsa Melayu.
3. Beta menghargai usaha terpuji ini, setelah bersara daripada jawatan politik, setelah mengakhiri tempoh memikul amanah dan mengambil tanggungjawab sebagai Menteri Besar kelapan negeri Perak selama 17 tahun, tempoh perkhidmatan sehingga kini, merupakan tempoh paling lama bagi seseorang memenuhi tugas Menteri Besar Perak, Dato’ Seri DiRaja Ramli bin Ngah Talib menghalakan minda dan tenaga menghasilkan tulisan untuk menyuntik harga diri dan menyalakan semangat kebanggaan bangsanya.
4. I heartily welcome the publication of such a richly-detailed book on this important topic. It provides a wealth of information, some new, some already well-known, about our common heritage as Malaysians. We are all residents of this same archipelago, and so this history is shared by Malays and non-Malays alike. Quite apart from the in-depth knowledge they impart, books such as this also remind us just how important it is to revisit and learn from history. A deeper understanding of where we have come from will help us to inhabit the present with greater insight and awareness.
5. Revisiting the past in this way is particularly important for Malaysia, given its history of being ruled by others. As we know, history is written by the victors. The perspectives of other participants are sometimes lost as a result. In our case, understanding of our history has been indelibly shaped by the colonial period. It was British administrators, academics, and adventurers who took the lead in the preservation and translation of our key documents. It was they who took charge of re-telling our traditions and myths. Of course, Malaysian historians have also been engaged in researching, analyzing and recording this history. Fortunately, important manuscripts and other materials from earlier periods have survived. But the more recent written records are dominated by names such as Raffles, Leydon, R.O. Winstedt, Isabella Bird, and Henri Fauconnier.
6. These European names are the ones we see repeated in this book and elsewhere. And their analysis of our Malay history was inevitably filtered through their own subjective viewpoints. Our pre-colonial history was interpreted, or mis-interpreted, to serve the political interests of the colonial project. As occurred throughout the period of European colonization – in Africa, in the Americas, in Australia, and here in Asia – a core element of this strategy was to downplay the level of civilization of the colonized peoples. This made it easier to make the case for their colonization by force by the supposedly superior European powers. In our case, as the author points out, this gave rise to the myth of the ‘lazy and docile native’, and other equally denigrating views.
7. Books such as this provide a vital link back to our own proud pre-colonial heritage. They may still present a subjective viewpoint, as all books do. But it is a local one, not that of an outsider with their own interests and prejudices. Even when the book relates stories or events that we are already familiar with, it tells them without the distorting glare of the colonial lens. The book thus helps us to re-interpret our own history, challenging preconceptions, and bringing out elements that have been underplayed or forgotten. It adds layers of nuance and colour to the existing narratives.
8. As the book’s title proclaims, Malays have historically been both Pathfinders and Trailblazers. These two characteristics encapsulate some of the key elements of our heritage that we would do well to revisit and reconsider. They help us to understand the immense and under-valued contribution that Malays have made to world history. They conjure up our heritage of innovation and invention. And they point to the wide and varied international interactions, both commercial and cultural, that Malays have long engaged in. As the book highlights, these interactions started from the earliest times and continued throughout the pre-colonial period until modern times.
9. A key theme of this book, which comes through again and again, is just how outward-looking the Malay people have always been. Evidence for this trait can be found in some of the earliest records of our history. Artifacts still being unearthed in the Bujang Valley in Kedah suggest that trade and other forms of contact with contemporary early civilizations were already taking place in the millennium before our current era. The extent of the travel being undertaken at this time was impressive. Long distance trade with China, East Africa and Madagascar is recorded as early as 300 BCE.
10. The Malays were in fact one of the first cultures to develop ocean-worthy vessels, taking full advantage of the trade winds or monsoons – a blessing of our geography – to develop ships capable of covering long distances. But Malay innovation went one step further, as the book informs us. Malay sailors are also credited with inventing the so-called balance-lug sail, which enables boats to sail against the wind as well as into it. By reducing dependency on the monsoons, this greatly expanded trading routes. These innovations transformed the ability of the peoples of the world to interact with each other. Although relatively little-known, they are one of the important ways in which the Malays have shaped the modern world.
11. In fact, the Malay jong that used these sails seems to have been the proto-type for both the Arab dhow and the Chinese junk, rather than the other way round. This is but one example – highlighted through the retelling of our history in this book – of how historical facts can become modified through the way they are remembered. The names of both these other vessels remain well-known to this day, and are closely associated with the histories of those peoples. The Malay jong, in contrast, enjoys far less recognition.
12. Other cultures, such as the Arabs or the Ancient Greeks, are also far more likely than the Malays to be identified in the popular imagination as master sailors and conquerors of the oceans of old. This is despite the fact that it was the Malays who pioneered these navigation technologies. The book thus provides an important service by filling in some of these historical gaps.
13. Another interesting example of the way historical facts can be distorted relates to the story of Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world in the early 16th century. The 700th anniversary of this journey is being commemorated this year. One important individual on this trip was Enrique or Henry of Melaka, who served as a translator, including in the Philippines where Magellan met his death. While this cut short Magellan’s own journey, Henry survived and is thought to have continued on and completed the circumnavigation. This fact is now being recognized, and the historical record revised, to reflect that it was probably an Asian, and a Malay at that, who was the first to circumnavigate the globe. Henry’s role as a translator also underscores the importance of the Malay language, a key lingua franca at the time, and to date the fourth most widely spoken language globally, as this book also reminds us.
14. An important aspect of Malay history which remains relatively little known, and which this book informs us about in rich detail, is the kingdom of Srivijaya. Historical records and other evidence about Srivijaya are sparse, partly due to its location on a floodplain – in Palembang in modern day Sumatra. What we do know is that it was a thriving centre of Buddhist practice and study, visited by the Chinese monk, I-Ching in the late 7th century. This is in addition to its role as a trading hub. As perhaps the first ‘entrepot’, Srivijaya can be seen as a model for future and much better-known trading centres of the medieval era such as Venice and Melaka, or Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai in later centuries.
15. As well as its influence and dependencies throughout the region, from Java to Kedah, this empire had links to India, Persia, the Middle East, Africa and China. Traders from all these far-flung places met and inter-mingled in Palembang. Some established small settlements there, where they conducted their business while waiting for the winds to change to make their return journeys. This arrangement contained the seeds of the later Kapitan system, perfected in Melaka, and then replicated in subsequent entrepots, including Shanghai and Singapore. Srivijaya was also a meeting point for the exchange of ideas and philosophies. According to I-Ching’s account, Palembang had a vast library of Buddhist texts. Both these roles played by Srivijaya – as a centre of knowledge and of trade – reflect again the intrinsically outward-looking nature of the Malay people throughout history.
16. Under the Kapitan system of 15th century Melaka, traders were allocated areas of the city for their communities, which they managed and administered themselves. So different quarters of the city were occupied by Bengalis, Gujaratis, Arabs and Javanese, as well as by the Malays themselves. The number of countries from which goods were traded in Melaka is even longer. According to colonial sources quoted by the author, merchandise could be found from China, the Philippines, the Moluccas, Sumatra, Makassar, Timor, Java, Cambodia, Vietnam, Siam, Burma, India, Persia, Arabia, Egypt. Cargoes included sugar, silk, porcelain, damask, satin, musk, rhubarb, iron, saltpeter, silver, pearls, copper, and others. Melaka was a flourishing entrepot indeed, and unequalled at its height as a global trading centre.
17. The success of Melaka has been attributed to the enlightened policies of its Malay rulers. As well as the effective Kapitan system of governing the various different populations, free trade was encouraged by the Sultans, while strong maritime and commercial laws ensured stability. Geography obviously helped as well. But ultimately it was the openness of the local Malays – their willingness to welcome traders from all corners of the world, and even allow them to live according to their own customs – that enabled Melaka to become such a beacon of tolerance and prosperity during this period.
18. In its rich historical details such as those on the Melaka sultanate, this book compellingly reminds us that our heritage is one of openness to foreign cultures and influences. We have always been open to adopting and adapting these, and in some instances have even improved on them. Illustrations of this tendency can be found in our textiles, as well as other forms of art and culture. The songket is a good example of how we have taken a fabric from overseas, borrowed elements from it, adapted it with local techniques and styles, and made it a rich and beautiful item of our own.
19. In the author’s own words, one of the aims of this book is to instill in Malays a greater sense of pride in their own ‘epoch-making’ history. It can also serve to re-balance our understanding of our own history. The book achieves these goals admirably, and I want to commend the author on this substantial and important work. It is certainly voluminous, but such length is necessary to cover in detail all the achievements and developments in the long and storied history of the Malay people. By reading it, we cannot fail to become far better informed about our own shared culture and history as inhabitants of this archipelago.
20. The book also demonstrates just how important it is to remain open in this way, both internally and externally, as this is how cultures thrive and grow. Stories such as those recounted in this volume show us how inter-connected we are, and always have been, with others both near and far. Our history teaches us that it is through such interconnectness that we have been able to flourish. The greatest achievements of our past, in Srivijaya, in Melaka, and those of our present, in modern-day Malaysia, have come about through our joint efforts. This is how we must continue and how we will go forward into a shared and thriving future together.
21. Globally, we are currently facing three severe and overlapping crises—the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and a growing food crisis. These combined challenges are forcing countries to rethink globalization. The pandemic greatly reduced contact between nations, companies, and people. Global supply chains are faltering, global economic growth is contracting, and energy and food prices are soaring. But as this book informs us, for many centuries, the lands of the Malay archipelago have been open to flows of trade, capital, labour, and ideas. And it is this very openness to foreign influences that has shaped who we are, and helped to make us successful. Malaysia today, therefore, must aim to maintain the values that have brought post-independence prosperity to all its communities, despite the challenges that we face. We must champion and remain an exemplar of multiculturalism.
22. Buku ini menghamparkan santapan minda mengenai perkara-perkara yang dapat membantu orang-orang Melayu melawati sejarah bangsanya. Jika minda dan jiwa Melayu selama ini terpengaruh dalam perangkap dan orbit pemikiran yang menjadikannya berjiwa rendah, salahnya terletak kepada bangsa kita sendiri, yang memamah bulat-bulat juadah yang dihidangkan oleh orang lain. Keadaan tersebut berlaku berpunca daripada sikap bangsa yang tidak memberikan perhatian berat untuk merekodkan, apatah lagi menulis sejarah daripada lensa dan berdasarkan tafsiran bangsanya sendiri. Begitu banyak khazanah pengetahuan bangsa tertimbus dalam bentuk tacit knowledge atau pengetahuan tersirat. Pengetahuan yang tidak direkodkan akan lupus bersama pemilik pengetahuan tersebut, apabila dia meninggalkan dunia ini. Penulisan yang dikodifikasikan atau dijadikan codified knowledge, apatah lagi jika diterbitkan, akan tersebar lebih luas dan dapat dijadikan bahan sejarah berharga dan bahan rujukan yang memberikan manfaat pada generasi terkemudian.
23. Dalam para tertentu pengenalan buku ini, pengarang menyelitkan suara hati, kebimbangan terhadap bala yang dikhuatiri sedang melanda bangsanya. Penulis bimbang melihat bangsanya sedang berada di persimpangan. Bangsa Melayu yang tidak lagi menghargai laluan yang lurus tetapi bagaikan merestui perbuatan menyimpang yang mencetuskan keadaan bangsa Melayu menghadapi pelbagai persimpangan melalui pelbagai dakwaan yang melibatkan perlakuan jenayah, pecah amanah, sifat tidak jujur, tamak dan haloba, ketidakikhlasan, serta lagak sombong dan bermegah. Keadaan ini pada hemat pengarang telah merobohkan teras kekuatan bangsa sehingga bangsa Melayu semakin tidak dihormati dan semakin tidak dipercayai.
24. Sejak Beta dimasyhurkan sebagai Raja Muda Perak pada 15 April 1987, kemudiannya diamanahkan sebagai Pemangku Raja Perak, Dato’ Seri DiRaja Ramli bin Ngah Talib ialah Menteri Besar di negeri Perak. Sepanjang pengalaman hubungan Beta dengan beliau, banyak nasihat yang disembahkan oleh beliau, untuk memandu Beta memperkenankan perkara-perkara berkaitan tadbir urus negeri. Sehingga ke hari ini atas nama Orang Kaya Kaya Seri Agar DiRaja yang juga ahli Dewan Negara Perak beliau terus berperanan menyembahkan nasihat untuk memastikan kemuliaan dan kedaulatan takhta kekal terpelihara. Manfaat memperoleh nasihat berdasarkan pengalaman, pemikiran dan tafsiran beliau, kini akan memberikan manfaat kepada audiens yang lebih luas melalui penerbitan yang dihasilkan ini.
Dengan lafaz Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim, Beta melancarkan, “The Malays: Pathfinders and Trailblazers”.