Change in Politics

During the Srivijayan Empire (600 AD- 1400AD) 


The Srivijayan Empire though had its capital based in Indonesia, Palembang, however its territory consisted of the Malay peninsular, in particular the Malaccan strait which was an important trading region. 

All that is known of the political structure of the Srivijayan Empire is obtained from the journals and records of Arabic, Chinese and Indian traders and pilgrims. However what we do know is that it used the Chinese mandala system as it was a vassal state of China to ensure trading deals with the Chinese 

Political System in Malaya during the Srivijayan Empire (600 AD- 1400AD) 

a) Single Malay Overlord 

  • Power is strongest in the capital (possibly in Palembang) and the area around it
  • Autocratic ruler with the sole authority and power to condone and veto decisions
  • Job as main protector of Empire

b) Provincial governors 

  • Governed regions away from the capital where the influence of the King decreased as the regions were further away from the capital
  • Provided King with Manpower and in turn had his protection and favour

Political System in Malaya During the Malaccan Sultanate (1400 AD-1511 AD) 

The political structure of Malaya in the era of the Malaccan sultanate before colonization is as follow, with the current raja of the period as the one holding the most authority. 


(a) The Bendahara 

The first Bendahara was the younger brother of the reigning monarch. When the king was away, the Bendahara took charge in place of him, which showed the importance of the Bendaharas status and political authority. 

According to custom and tradition, the Bendahara was always the father-in-law of the ruler, since the ruler was married to his daughter. 

(b) The Perdana Menteri 

It is difficult to establish the exact status and political role of this official. In the audience hall the Perdana Menteri is said to have sat facing the Bendahara. One of the Perdana Menteri of Singapore was Tun Perpatih Permuka Segalar. Though some sources suggest he acted as the prime minister and imperial adviser 

(c) The Penghulu Bendahari 

This official was described ‘as seated below the Bendahara’, showing that his political status was inferior to that of the Bendahara. One of the Penghulu Bendahari of Singapore held the title of Tun lana Bunga Dendang. Below him there were several bendahari, amongst who was the famous Sang Rajuna Tapa (title), a leading figure in the political crisis which occurred during the Malay Javanese conflict in Singapore. He was the one in charge of financial and economical affairs. 

(d) The Hulubalang Besar (Captain-in-Chief) 

This official was said to have sat next to the Penghulu Bendahari and is in charge of all the captains or military commanders. He was known by the title Tun Tempurung Gemerentak.One of the most legendary Hulubalang Besar is Hang Tuah. 

(e) Other Lesser Ministers comprised: 

i. The Orang Kaya-kaya (lords/noblemen) 

ii. The ceteria (royal bodyguards or knights) 

iii. The sida-sida (palace attendants/courtiers) 

iv. The bentara (heralds) 

The hulubalang (captains) and the Orang Laut or Orang Selat formed the backbone of Malacca’s security. 


Governing Body after colonization  

 Political structure  

  • A Resident System is in place within each state
  • British officials as ‘advisors’ to local sultans
  1. Take charge of everyday administrative details like law, legislation and tax collection

British Malaya was administered as thus: 

Federated states (Yellow), Unfederated States (Blue), Crown Colonies (Red)

  1. 3 Straits settlements [CROWN COLONY (Direct rule from Britain)]
    ie. Penang, Malacca and Singapore
  2. 4 Federated Malay States
    (indirect rule via Residents)
    ie. Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang
  3. 5 Unfederated Malay States
    (indirect rule with the native Sultan more or less in charge)
    ie. Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu
  • Judgments were made under English Law
  • Training has begun on the local elites to take the place of the colonial masters when they leave
  • Rule by local Raja’s seen as arbitrary, cruel, capricious and unlimited with the locals having no rights and subject to the whim of the Raja.
  • British saw themselves as bringing Law and Order to an unruly
  • Civil service officers recruited in Britain’s colonial office
  • Those from public-school/university backgrounds selected
  • To keep illusion that native rulers were still in charge, government was always conducted in the name of the Malay sultans.
Aspects Change in Politics Continuity in Politics
Malaya before colonization Malaya After colonization
Structure Manadala Bureucratic  
Political figures Raja Officials  
Administration & System Provisional Governors, Malay Overloads Organizations, Laws  
 Governence     There still were leaders and forms of governance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: