I’m greatly moved by all your messages of condolence. Thank you!

I was extremely fond and have many affectionate memories of my late uncle. To be able to “sembah” him from the age of 4 till 44 has been a privilege.

I would like to offer my heartiest and warm congratulations to my first cousin Tuanku Muhriz, the 11th Yang DiPertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan. It has been a long wait indeed.

There has been some media interest in the appointment of the Negri Sembilan Yamtuan. Here’s an extract from my late father’s biography (Tunku Abdullah – A Passion for Life):

“On 14th April 1967, Tuanku Munawir, the Yang DiPertuan Besar passed away at the Istana Hinggap, the Perching Palace, in Seremban. The Tunku and his brother had been particularly close. The two had similar interests, the Tunku enjoying the frequent parties the Yam Tuan held at Istana Hinggap and Cahaya Negri, the government VIP house in Port Dickson. Although the Yam Tuan was frequently ill from diabetes, he ignored his illness and continued to indulge himself. With news of the death, the royal family converged on Seri Menanti for the funeral.

Before the funeral could take place, however, as part of the Negri Sembilan royal tradition, the next ruler had to be elected. At the time of Yam Tuan Iman’s death in 1869, the territorial chiefs could not agree on whether to appoint the Tunku Ahmad Tunggal or Tunku Antah to the throne and, after two days in the humid heat, the Ruler’s body had started to give off an odour. Perhaps this prompted the chieftains, at that time, to quickly appoint the wife of the Ruler, Tunku Ampuan Intan, as regent whilst the problem was sorted out. Thus this tradition ensured a new ruler was always quickly found.

So with the death of Tuanku Munawir, the territorial chiefs or Undangs met to appoint the next Yam Tuan. The heir apparent was Tunku Muhriz, son of the dead Ruler. On the day before the announcement of the new Yam Tuan, Tunku Abdullah received a phone call from the Chief Minister of Negri Sembilan. The Chief Minister of Negri Sembilan asked “Is Tunku Ja’afar in Seri Menanti?” Tunku Abdullah replied in the affirmative. The Chief Minister quickly added “ . . . and, of course, you all must be there.” You all was a reference to the Four Royal Princes who might be selected as the new Yam Tuan, although, from the phone call, Tunku Abdullah now suspected that Tunku Ja’afar would become the next Ruler and he told his brother so …

So the Four Undangs came to the balai, the royal hall, in Seri Menanti, to announce who would become the new ruler. The royal family and other dignitaries gathered there and seated themselves. All Four Royal Princes – Tunku Nasir, Tunku Ja’afar, Tunku Abdullah and Tunku Muhriz – had to memorise the acceptance speech just in case he was called on to become Yam Tuan. The senior Undang then announced to those gathered that Tunku Ja’afar had been elected. A sharp intake of breath was heard from many of those present, Tunku Muhriz, Tuanku Munawir’s son, was expected to become the next ruler, instead the crown was passed to Tuanku Munawir’s younger brother.”

A similar scene played out only a few days ago. The result was entirely different this time. Also, this time round, but don’t quote me on this, the four candidates were already told of the results before hand.

Tuanku Munawir and Tunku Abdullah (right)
Tuanku Munawir and Tunku Abdullah (right)

Negri Sembilan has a unique system in choosing the next ruler. It is more democratic in that the Undangs themselves are chosen by a greater number of Lembagas who in turn are elected by a still greater number of Buapaks who are in turn elected by the people. I have put together a chart that explains this in my forthcoming book A History of Malaysia – A Children’s Encyclopedia.

It’s quite interesting when history becomes relevant to the present day. What’s more, history is continually being created.

I do wish everyone a Happy 2009!

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