- Recollections of My Time in Malaya (1945–1956) Part 3*
I have published (in Man and in JMBRAS 22(2)) accounts of my involvement in the elections of Undangs of Jelebu and Sungei Ujong and in The Overseas Pensioner No. 94 (reprinted in Le Breton’s I Remember It Well)) of my problems with the seal of the Undang of Johol when the Federation of Malaya treaties were signed and sealed in January 1948. I had also obtained (and copied) a Malay history of Sungei Ujong from the sister of the late Dato’ Klana, who found it among his papers. My monograph on Sungei Ujong was accepted for publication in JMBRAS 22(2) in 1949. I did not have the opportunities that would have come to me as a District Officer (repeated requests for transfer to a district post produced no result) of becoming a good Malay speaker though I was able to pass the government exams in Malay etc. up to the optional Grade 3 level. In working for these exams I followed the general MCS practice of employing a Malay munshi. In Seremban I was very fortunate to find a Malay teacher (later Assistant Inspector of Schools) from Rembau who taught me a lot about Malay custom and behaviour. But these efforts brought down on my head the disapproval of William Linehan, who was at the time advising the Malayan Union government on Malay questions arising in the negotiations for the Federation of Malaya treaties.
In JMBRAS 22(2), p. 36 I printed the text of a short agreement in Malay between the Dato’ Klana and the Dato’ Bandar of Sungei Ujong in 1874 at a time when the Bandar had stronger claims to equality of status with the Klana than other holders of the office have achieved or been conceded. The agreement had not been included in Maxwell and Gibson’s Malay Treaties, though whether those eminent authorities did not know of it or decided to ignore it is not disclosed. There is no doubt about such an agreement having been made in 1874 since it is witnessed by no less an authority than W. A. Pickering who was in Sungei Ujong to broker a deal between the Dato’ Klana and the Dato’ Bandar who were then at odds, and the Dato’ Bandar of my time in Negri Sembilan had a copy of it. There was, however, doubt about how it should be interpreted. It requires the Klana to muafakat bersama2 dengan Dato’ Shahbandar on his public (this is implied) acts. The leading dictionaries, including those of Wilkinson and Winstedt, give ‘agree’ as the primary meaning of muafakat. However, taken in that sense, the 1874 agreement, if binding on later holders of the office of Dato’ Klana, would require the Dato’ Klana to secure the agreement of the Dato’ Bandar to signing a treaty, such as the one under negotiation in 1947. The Dato’ Bandar of that time claimed that it was necessary, for an [End Page 47] agreement to be binding on Sungei Ujong, that he should be a joint signatory. The late nineteenth-century precedents on this last point did not really support his claim since during that period the Dato’ Klana was incapable or a minor and the Dato’ Bandar had signed state agreements as regent, not in right of his own office.
Anyway, it did not suit Linehan, as adviser on constitutional affairs, to introduce the Dato’ Bandar as a person who must give consent to the Federation of Malaya treaty. Linehan came down to Seremban and rebuked me for meddling—I think I had mentioned the 1874 agreement in some official communication before it appeared in JMBRAS 2(2) in 1949—with matters that my limited grasp of Malay did not enable me to understand. Linehan argued that muafakat in this context merely meant ‘consult’ without exploring possibility of consultation not yielding agreement. The Dato’ Bandar of 1947, who was the son-in-law of Dato’ Klana Ma’amor, merely wanted formal recognition of his right to be involved. The weakness of his position was that he had been a prominent supporter of the Japanese and...