The Sultan of Selangor Gave Out Citizenship to the Chinese and Indians

Many from the younger generation - especially those of Chinese descent - do not care about Malaysia's monarchy and freely hurl insults.

I would say that my younger self would have been drawn towards such confrontations because I never did learn why our Sultans mattered - at least not from school textbooks.

But I was taught about the importance of our Sultans by a friend. And it is only fitting that I tell this tale of that friend.

His name is Syed Jalal Abdullah. He was an elderly man that was not keen to meet outsiders when I got to know him, extremely foul mouthed and definitely not an easy person to get along with.

But he knew his shit and seeing that I was eager to learn to help the public, he decided to teach me what he knew. Like a true mentor and teacher, he welcomed me to his home and taught me a lot about development laws (he dabbled in development projects at one point in his career).

We would spend hours together at times and he would get his wife (I only ever called her Makcik) to cook meals for me sometimes. Those were good times.

Aside from teaching me about development laws, he also taught me a whole lot about Petaling Jaya's history which he was a part of, as he too worked for a British company in his youth.

To help me understand the stories, Syed Jalal shared with me many old maps of PJ, letters and documents from the British government of old.

It was his stories that led me at one point to advocate why PJ leasehold land titles should actually be freehold.

Freehold or Leasehold: What's the Truth about Petaling Jaya land? -

I'm not here to advocate why PJ's leasehold titles should be freehold but to help you understand why PJ's land titles are such a mess, which in turn will help you understand the role the Sultan of Selangor had at the time in protecting our rights.

The Petaling Jaya township was conceived around 1952 and the first houses built and ready for occupation in 1953, but it did not start off on a proper note.

It was a period after World War 2 and while Japan may have lost the war, the British Empire itself was hurt badly. The war was costly and the government did not have the finances to oversee such a large empire anymore.

Syed told me that one of the ways to address the shortage of finances was to set up new townships like Petaling Jaya and get people to buy into the township.

The prospect of owning affordable homes was advertised and the money to fuel the house ownership was in part financed by the Chettiahs who were famous as money lenders then.

The British High Commissioner of Malaya Sir Gerald Templer, was the one who came up with the idea of setting up Petaling Jaya.

Note: I have another account from a former police chief who served under the British who attested to this fact.

Templer famously remarked that, "The answer [to the uprising] lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the people."

He demanded that newly built villages, where ethnic Chinese were resettled away from the jungles and beyond the reach (and influence) of the guerrillas, should be made to look more inviting.

Psychological Warfare of the Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960 By SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.) -

But the initiative to set up Petaling Jaya was done from a military perspective and all they were interested in was getting the money they needed to keep things running.

Proper accounting and adherance to the law was probably the last thing on Gerald Templer's mind.

Sure enough, all that money was not properly accounted for and there is a letter from Malaya's Auditor General to attest to this fact. The Auditor General also questioned why the houses did not come with proper lot numbers as required under the Land Code Cap 138.

Now, that was the background story so that what follows makes sense and helps you appreciate what the Sultan of Selangor did next.

The then Sultan of Selangor came to know of the mess the Brits started and exercised some of his powers as the monarch to get Petaling Jaya to be legally declared as a township under the 1955 Petaling Jaya Authority Ordinance.

An ordinance isn't part of the normal law but a decree from someone with authority, and that someone - as seen in the government gazette - was the Ruler in Council (our Sultan of Selangor).

That move was what allowed Petaling Jaya to be recognised as a township proper and also got the British administrators to take steps to address the problem they created.

Officers from the Malaya Town Planning Department, the District Office of the Mukim of Kuala Lumpur and the Petaling Jaya Town Board had to hold an official meeting (which was minuted and I have those minutes) to declare that the government needed to properly map out and assign proper lot numbers to the properties that were built and sold to private individuals, which would in turn protect the ownership rights of buyers who bought into the township.

All this happened prior to the Merdeka declaration in 1957, which is a point to ponder for many naysayers that the Sultans of Malaya had no power under the British. The Sultans did have some form of power (though limited), and the documents attached here shows it.

Indeed, the first document that you see attached is the declaration of Petaling Jaya as a township.

The second attached document is the meeting minutes that instructed for the Petaling Jaya Ordinance.

Sidetrack a bit: Tahukah anda, walaupun British dikatakan 'memerintah' Negeri Tanah Melayu, cara pentadbiran kerajaan masa tu masih mengunakan sistem Menteri Besar dan Exco?

Dan tahukah anda bahawa MB dan Exco menjalankan tugas mereka dengan mengadakan mesyuarat Exco dan keputusan mesyuarat itu menjadi nasihat kepada Sultan untuk dipersetujui?

Saya telah lampirkan ekstrak minit mesyuarat Exco Negeri Selangor yang diadakan pada 12 Mac 1955. This is the meeting where the declaration of Petaling Jaya as a township was discussed.

Selepas keputusan dan nasihat mesyuarat dinyatakan, ditulis secara terang-terang, "His Highness the Sultan concurs and orders accordingly."

Sultan Selangor yang mengarahkannya.

Anyway, it did not make sense to get the non-Malays to buy into the property and also not make them citizens because the declaration of Merdeka was coming up.

And this is where the Sultan of Selangor exercised another of his executive powers, according to Syed Jalal.

See, as the countdown towards Malaya's independence came in 1957, the non-Malays were offered a choice of returning to their country of origin or to stay in Malaya, which would require them to be made a citizen of the Federation.

Dah beli rumah, takkan nak balik China atau India kan?

The Sultan of Selangor had the power to grant citizenship to anyone who would swear fealty to him as the ruler of Selangor.

The forms to swear fealty were sent out and many Chinese and Indians who had no papers of citizenship were given one once they swore fealty to our Sultan.

Now, that was the verbal story that was told to me. I can verify those parts that involved the British because they were meticulous in their documentation and I can tell you Syed Jalal collected a tonne of those - most of which are now in my possession.

The part about the Chinese and Indians swearing fealty, I can't verify that - but it is stated that a person who is born before Merdeka can only be a citizen of Malaysia if they were already a citizen of Malaysia by virtue of any of the provisions of the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948.

That meant that the Chinese and Indians had 9 years to get their citizenship, and if you were to go by all the official methods stated, you would need to be able to speak Malay to qualify for citizenship, and we all know that there are still many Chinese today who can't speak Malay.

So, how else could a person who cannot speak Malay be granted citizenship but through swearing fealty to the Sultan?

Now, I choose to believe that was the truth because Syed Jalal lived through that period and I have no reason to doubt his word.

I hope this little tale will explain why I defend our monarchs and why I don't think it is proper to say that they are a waste of our taxpayers money or to insult them.

Daulat Tuanku.

Note: Syed Jalal passed away in February 2017.


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