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The magnificent 7 of Muar – the untold story

August 23, 2017

Had it not been for seven individuals from Muar, it is very likely that the Malayan Union would have gone through.

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Kamaruddin Abdullah

On October 11, 1945, a special envoy of the British government landed at Port Swettenham (now Port Klang) with some important documents that would shape the future of Malaya. His arrival was secretly arranged to avoid any unnecessary protest or demonstration by the Malays.

It was common knowledge among many Malay leaders that a proposed union of the nine Malay states and the Straits Settlements had been discussed and approved in London, but only if all the Malay Rulers of the nine states signed the document brought by the special envoy.

Upon his arrival, Sir Harold McMichael proceeded to Kuala Lumpur and arrived at the King’s House greeted by Sir Alec Newboult and another British officer from the land office. Contrary to his silent reception at Port Swettenham, the reception at the King’s House was attended by a few invited members of the press.

It was during this brief meeting with some members of the press that McMichael announced the proposed Malayan Union (details of the proposed union are not included in this article). His most urgent task was to get the signatures of all the nine Malay Rulers indicating their acceptance to the proposed union.

The first Sultan to sign the document was the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Sir Ibrahim ibni Sultan Abu Bakar. It was signed on October 20, 1945 at the Johor Istana witnessed by one Tengku Ahmad and one Encik Abdul Kadir.

On October 24, 1945, McMichael managed to obtain the signature of the Selangor Sultan, Sultan Hishamuddin Alam Shah witnessed by one Raja Nong and one Encik Hamzah.

Next on his agenda was the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Al-Muazzam Shah, who penned his signature witnessed by one Tunku Mohammad and one G E Mohammed. It was signed on November 2, 1945.

The fourth Sultan to sign the document was the Ruler of Negeri Sembilan, Tuanku Abdul Rahman ibni Almarhum Tuanku Muhammad. As it was compulsory to get the signatories of the four Undangs, they too likewise signed the document. It was signed on November 14, 1945.

On November 22, 1945, McMichael obtained the signature of the Perak Sultan, Sultan Abdul Aziz witnessed by one Raja Youssof, the then Raja Muda and Datuk Temenggong.

Approximately a week later, the document was signed by the Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Badli Shah.

On December 12, the Ruler of Perlis, Raja Syed Putra Jamalullai signed the document and on December 17, 1945, the Sultan of Kelantan too signed the document witnessed by one T I Petra and one N A Kamil.

Finally on December 21, 1945, the Terengganu Sultan, Sultan Ismail Nasaruddin Shah signed the document witnessed by one D Omar and one T Halim.

Having succeeded in this important mission, McMichael left for London on January 6, 1946 and subsequently, the documents were tabled in Parliament on January 22, 1946.

The proposed Malayan Union was approved and was broadcasted throughout the British colonies and the Commonwealth countries. The news reached Malaya and sent shock-waves throughout the Peninsular and angered the Malays. No one dared to question their Rulers except one man.

Upon hearing the news, the then Johor State Treasurer Dato’ Abdul Rahman bin Mohammad Yassin (father of the late Tun Ismail) got extremely angry and announced that the Sultan of Johor was wrong to have acted on his own without the consent of the people of Johor. His immediate reaction was to seek an audience with the Sultan and to explain that what the Sultan did was wrong and against the Johor state constitution. His effort however was blocked by some members of the Istana. Feeling dejected and almost giving up all hope, he only began to feel optimistic again when six individuals from Muar approached him and assured him of their undivided support.

It was during a family gathering that Dato’ Abdul Rahman received the support of the then Mufti of Johor, Tuan Haji Hassan Yunos (they were cousins). The other five were Encik Suleiman Abdul Rahman (brother of the late Tun Ismail), the then State Forest Officer known as Cikgu Kosai (he was a Cambridge graduate), Cikgu Ahmad Suleiman, Tuan Hj Awang Hassan (later to become the Governor of Penang) and Cikgu Supiah Suleiman.

The seven met to discuss their course of action. They even bravely sent flyers throughout the state explaining to the people that what the Sultan did was wrong and that therefore the document signed by the Sultan should be considered null and void. Their actions angered the Sultan as well as some members of the Istana, and as a result all seven were suspended from their jobs.

Now they were left with finding other ways and means on how to obtain an audience with the Sultan as all avenues were being blocked by the Istana. By now however, support from the Johor people for them began to gain momentum.

It was Tuan Hj Hassan Yunos who was confident the Sultan would grant him an audience by virtue of him being the Mufti. The date was set (can’t verify the actual date) and word began to spread among their supporters.

The petition to the Sultan was ready to be delivered and on that day, all of them including their supporters gathered at the compound of the Sultan Abu Bakar mosque. Tuan Hj Hassan then headed alone to the Istana which was walking distance away. Later in his old age, he related the story to his eldest daughter So’aad about how his legs were trembling so bad, it made it difficult for him to climb the stairs of the Istana.

Sultan Sir Ibrahim was considered among Johoreans of that time as “Sultan Berdaulat” and was most feared by his subjects.

When Tuan Hj Hassan was brought into the living room of the huge Istana, he sat down and tried very hard to regain his self-confidence. When the Sultan appeared, he stood up and kissed the Sultan’s right hand and when they both sat down, he began his explanation in a courteous manner.

The Sultan listened attentively and finally agreed that what he did was wrong and against the Johor Constitution. The Sultan assured him that he would retract his agreement and send the message to the British government.

Tuan Hj Hassan left the Istana a very happy man.

At the mosque, an anxious group eagerly awaited Tuan Hj Hassan’s return, and when he appeared smiling from ear to ear, everyone knew it was good news and started jumping and shouting joyously.

He delivered a short speech while his leader Dato’ Abdul Rahman shed tears along with the other five members.

When the Johor Sultan retracted his earlier decision, the brother Rulers followed suit and it was from here that many Malay leaders throughout the country began to lend their voice to go against the formation of the Malayan Union. Dato Onn Jaafar was subsequently appointed to lead their movement in going against the British. The rest is history.

Why were they referred to as “Orang Tujoh Muar”? Because in spite of having many supporters, none of these Johoreans dared sign the petition except these seven, who were all from Muar.

Had it not been for these seven, it is very likely that the Malayan Union could have gone through.

(Source: Sejarah Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu by Ibrahim Mahood; Conversation with the only son of Tan Sri Hassan Yunos, Encik Murad Hassan.)

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