By Datuk Abdul Rahim Ramli NST, Johor Buzz, 22 March 2010
WHEN Sultan Ibrahim appointed his second son Tunku Idris Iskandar as Tunku Temenggong Johor on Feb 26, he fulfilled his desire to maintain royal traditions created by his forefathers.
Tunku Idris Iskandar kissing the hand of his father Sultan Ibrahim after his appointment as Tunku Temenggong Johor in Johor Baru on Feb 26
During the glory days of the kingdom of Johor in the 14th century, royal titles wereused to differentiate the ranks and responsibilities of princes and leaders. The more well-known titles were bendahara, te-menggong and laksamana.
A bendahara was someone who ruled the peasantry, the army and those who depended on the state. He was also known as prime minister. The population then consisted of "sea people" or islanders who fished or offered protection to merchant ships, land dwellers and agriculturists who collected forest produce.
Among the notables was Bendahara Tun Sekudai, who determined Johor's suzerainty over Negri Sembilan in the 15th century, and Bendahara Tun Abdul Majid Sri Maharaja, the founder of the Bendahara dynasty after the assassination of Sultan Mahmood in 1699.
A temenggong was a deputy and heir apparent to the bendahara. He was a minister of justice with a functionary duty to enquire and to seek out criminals, prevent oppression and punish transgressors. The urban area was the realm of the temenggong.
He was the minister in charge of defence, police and trade. In palace court, he was in charge of ceremonies and official functions.
The third officer was a laksamana, or admiral, in charge of the navy. The Dato' Laksamana Paduka Raja of the late 16th century was as swashbuckling and powerful in administering the Johor kingdom as was Laksamana Hang Tuah of 15th-century Malacca.
When the Bendahara dynasty was defeated by the Achenese and the Dutch, they fled to Riau. The new sultanate came under the control of the Bugis.
In 1760, there emerged among the Bugis princes Daeng Kechil, also known as Dato' Abdul Hamid, the father of Temenggong Abdul Rahman, the first of Johor's modern rulers. In 1816, Rahman settled in Singapore and was installed as Temenggong of Johor.
The title temenggong was last used by Abu Bakar, who later styled himself maharaja in 1866 and sultan in 1885. But he perpetuated the titles bendahara and temenggong by including them in the state Constitution.
Inexplicably, the title laksamana was not included, perhaps because the temenggongs had moved on to mainland Johor.
Sultan Ibrahim in 1927 through the Statute of the Palace and Sultan's Court redefined the roles of the offices.
The bendahara was nominally to act as grand court treasurer and exercised financial control over the accounts of the palace, and to ensure the crown jewels and insignia are kept in proper custody. Thus, the title had the prefix Aris, an Arabic word to mean custodian.
The duty of the temenggong was nominally as grand court controller to verify the accounts of palace expenditure. Their duties are now taken over by the comptroller of the royal household but the titles remain. The appointment is made by the ruler with the concurrence of the Council of Royal Court. Today, the Tunku Temenggong, being the son of the ruler, takes precedence over the Tunku Bendahara.
Tunku Abu Bakar, the second son of the late Sultan Ibrahim, was appointed as the first Tunku Aris Bendahara. He was the first Malay from Johor to obtain a degree from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London, and was responsible for establishing the Animal Husbandry Institute in Kluang.
The title is now held by the present sultan's younger brother, Tunku Abdul Majid Idris.
The late Sultan Ibrahim also appointed his third son, Tunku Ahmad, as the first temenggong in modern times. Tunku Temenggong Ahmad was the last state commissioner for Muar from 1929 to 1936.
Sultan Abu Bakar made provisions for the appointment of an heir (Tunku Mahkota) of his first-born son, and an heir-presumptive (raja muda) to ensure his bloodline is perpetuated.
Other traditional royal titles include Tun, which was conferred by Sultan Iskandar on his sister, Tunku Maimunah. The title was formerly held by his mother Sultanah Ungku Tun Aminah.
He conferred the title Tunku Puteri on his eldest daughter Tunku Kamariah, the title formerly conferred by Sultan Abu Bakar on his daughter who was later known as Tunku Besar. Sultan Iskandar conferred the title Tunku Besar on his second daughter Tunku Zabedah.
Sultan Ibrahim plans to revive the traditional honorific of Orang Kaya to personalities who have contributed to the well-being of the community. The title was conferred by Abu Bakar on village headmen who had influenced the development of Johor.
Among them was Orang Kaya Abu Bakar for opening and developing Muar Padang (now mukim of Parit Bakar after his name), and Orang Kaya Bagan for helping Dato' Bentara Dalam build roads in Batu Pahat.
Abu Bakar conferred the honorific Major Cina on Tan Hiok Nee, head of the powerful Ngee Heng kongsi, and Kapitan Cina on Thye Seah Heng, head of the Sekudai Kangchu, and on Chua Tua Soon to look after Chinese affairs in Muar.
Datuk Abdul Rahim Ramli is the secretary of the Council of Royal Court