Johor in Asia


Johor (Johore is the local official, but incorrect spelling), was an independent Malayan state at the southern end of the peninsula, stretching from 2° 40′ S. to Cape Romania (Ramūnya), the most southerly point on the mainland of Asia, and including all the small islands adjacent to the coast which lie to the south of parallel 2° 40′ S. It was bounded N. by the protected native state of Pahang, N.W. by the Negri Sembilan and the territory of Malacca, S. by the strait which divides Singapore island from the mainland, E. by the China Sea, and W. by the Straits of Malacca. The province of Mūar was placed under the administration of Johor by the British government as a temporary measure in 1877, and was still a portion of the sultan’s dominions in 1910. (…) We are thus presented with the curious spectacle of a country under Malay rule in which the Chinese outnumber the people of the land by more than four to one. (…) (1)


It is claimed that the Mahommedan empire of Johor was founded by the sultan of Malacca after his expulsion from his kingdom by the Portuguese in 1511. It is certain that Johor took an active part, only second to that of Achin, in the protracted war between the Portuguese and the Dutch for the possession of Malacca. Later we find Johor ruled by an officer of the sultan of Riouw (Rīau), bearing the title of Tumĕnggong, and owing feudal allegiance to his master in common with the Bĕndahāra of Pahang. In 1812, however, this officer seems to have thrown off the control of Riouw, and to have assumed the title of sultan, for one of his descendants, Sultan Husain, ceded the island of Singapore to the East India Company in 1819. In 1855 the then sultan, Ali, was deposed, and his principal chief, the Tumĕnggong, was given the supreme rule by the British. His son Tumĕnggong Abubakar proved to be a man of exceptional intelligence. He made numerous visits to Europe, took considerable interest in the government and development of his country, and was given by Queen Victoria the title of maharaja in 1879. On one of his visits to England he was made the defendant in a suit for breach of promise of marriage, but the plaintiff was non-suited, since it was decided that no action lay against a foreign sovereign in the English law courts. In 1885 he entered into a new agreement with the British government, and was allowed to assume the title of sultan of the state and territory of Johor. He was succeeded in 1895 by his son Sultan Ibrahīm.

The government of Johor has been comparatively so free from abuses under its native rulers that it has never been found necessary to place it under the residential system in force in the other native states of the peninsula which are under British control, and on several occasions Abubakar used his influence with good effect on the side of law and order. The close proximity of Johor to Singapore has constantly subjected the rulers of the former state to the influence of European public opinion. None the less, the Malay is by nature but ill fitted for the drudgery which is necessary if proper attention is to be paid to the dull details whereby government is rendered good and efficient. Abubakar’s principal adviser, the Dāto ’Mĕntri, was a worthy servant of his able master. Subsequently, however, the reins of government came chiefly into the hands of a set of young men who lacked either experience or the serious devotion to dull duties which is the distinguishing mark of the English civil service. Mūar, in imitation of the British system, is ruled by a rāja of the house of Johor, who bears the title of resident. (2)


Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (11th Edition)
  2. Id.

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