The Puzzles of the Peninsula - Sungei Ujong - A Malay Confederation - Syed Abdulrahman - The Revenue of Sungei Ujong - Scenery and Productions - The New Datu Klana - A "Dual Control"

I had never heard of this little State until I reached Singapore, and probably many people are as ignorant as I was. The whole peninsula, from Johore in the south to Kedah in the north, is a puzzle, what with British colonies, Singapore, Malacca, and Province Wellesley, and "Protected States," Sungei Ujong, Selangor, and Perak, north, south, and east of which lie a region of unprotected Malay States, with their independent rulers, such as Kedah, Patani, Tringganu, Kelantan, Pahang, Johore, etc.* In several of these States, more or less anarchy prevails, owing to the ambitions and jealousies of the Rajahs and their followers, and a similar state of things in the three protected States formerly gave great annoyance to the Straits-Settlements Government, and was regarded as a hindrance to the dominant interests of British trade in the Straits.

[*A number of small States are united into a sort of confederation known as the Negri Sembilan, or Nine States. Their relative positions and internal management, as well as their boundaries, remain unknown, as from dread of British annexation they have refused to allow Europeans to pass through their territory.]

In 1874, Sir A. Clark, the then Governor, acting in British interests, placed British residents in Perak, Selangor, and the small State of Sungei Ujong. These residents were to advise the rulers in matters of revenue and general administration, but, it may be believed, that as time has passed, they have become more or less the actual rulers of the States which they profess to advise merely. They are the accredited agents of England, reporting annually to the Straits Government, which, in its turn, reports to the Colonial Office, and the amount of pressure which they can bring to bear is overwhelming.

It is not easy to give the extent and boundaries of Sungei Ujong, the "boundary question" being scarcely settled, and the territory to the eastward being only partially explored. It is mainly an inland State, access to its very limited seaboard being by the Linggi river. The "protected" State of Selangor bounds it on the north, and joining on to it and to each other on the east, are the small "independent" States of Rumbow, Johol, Moar, Sri Menanti, Jelabu, Jompol, and Jelai. The Linggi river, which in its lower part forms the boundary between Selangor and Malacca, forks in its upper part, the right branch becoming for some distance the boundary between Sungei Ujong and Rumbow. It is doubtful whether the area of the State exceeds seven hundred square miles.

The Malays of Sungei Ujong and several of the adjacent States are supposed to be tolerably directly descended from those of the parent empire Menangkabau in Sumatra, who conquered and have to a great extent displaced the tribes known as Jakuns, Orang Bukit, Rayet Utan, Samangs, Besisik, Rayet Laut, etc., the remnants of which live mainly in the jungles of the interior, are everywhere apart from the Malays, and are of a much lower grade in the scale of civilization. The story current among the best informed Malays of this region is that a Sumatran chief with a large retinue crossed to Malacca in the twelfth century, and went into the interior, which he found inhabited only by the Jakuns, or "tree people." There his followers married Jakun women, and their descendants spread over Sungei Ujong, Rumbow, and other parts, the Rayet Laut, or "sea-people," the supposed Ichthyophagi of the ancients, and the Rayet Utan, or "forest-people," betaking themselves to the woods and the sea-board hills.

This mixed race rapidly increasing, divided into nine petty States, under chiefs who rendered feudal service to the Sultans of Malacca before its conquest by the Portuguese, and afterward to the Sultan of Johore, at whose court they presented themselves once a year. This confederation, called the Negri Sembilan, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made various commercial treaties with the Dutch, but its domestic affairs were in a state of chronic feud, and four of the States, late in the eighteenth century, becoming disgusted with the arbitrary proceedings of a ruler who, aided by Dutch influence, had gained the ascendency over the whole nine, sent to Sumatra, the original source of government, for a prince of the blood-royal of Menangkabau, and after a prolonged conflict this prince became sovereign of the little States of Sungei Ujong, Rumbow, Johol, and Sri Menanti, the chiefs of these States constituting his Council of State. This dynasty came to an end in 1832, and intrigues and discord prevailed for many years, till the Datu Klana of Sungei Ujong, troubled by a hostile neighbor in Rumbow and a hostile subject or rival at home, conceived the bright idea of supporting his somewhat shaky throne by British protection.