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BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LINGGA KINGDOM
The Royal house of Lingga represents the junior branch of the Royal house of Johor, descendants of Sayyid ‘Aidarus of Aceh in Sumatra, originally from the Hadramaut in Southern Arabia (see Johor). His descendants eventually came to rule over four states, Johor, Trengganu and Pahang in Malaysia and Lingga in Indonesia. On the death of Sultan Mahmud Shah III of Johor, a dispute over the succession ensued because he had not named a definite heir. The British supported his eldest son by a non-Royal wife and the Dutch his younger half-brother. After a long period of dispute between the two branches, and between their colonial supports, a settlement was reached in 1824. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of London settled the boundaries of their spheres of influence, and two separate states emerged: Johor under British protection, and Riau-Lingga under the Dutch. The Sultan settled on Lingga and his Viceroy, at his stronghold on Riau The direct male line of the Royal house ended with the death of Sultan Sulaiman II in 1883. After a brief interregnum, the Dutch chose a grand nephew to succeed him as Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Rahman II Mu’azzam Shah.
The new Sultan was a descendant of the Malay Royal house in the female line, and in the male line, from the Bugis viceregal house of Riau. His choice by the Dutch authorities did not meet with universal approval. A des cendant of the Bugis line, his selection contravened the traditional adat between the Bugis and Malays. That pact called for the separation of powers and offices between the two races. They followed this breach of customary law by a poorly disguised plan to impose stricter conditions on the sultanate. Learning of these moves, the Sultan refused to sign the new contract, destroyed his palace, collected his family and sailed for Singapore. There, he appealed to the British for help. The Gover nor of the Straits Settlements, while providing sanctuary, would not intervene beyond facilitating negotiations with the reluctant Dutch authorities. Protracted but ultimately abortive negotiations ensued over a long period, but without success. The Sultan, at one point offered to abdicate in favour of one the sons of his heir, the Tengku Besar. Nothing came of these negotiations because of Dutch intransigence. The Sultan died in exile in Singapore in 1930, without accomplishing his mission. Soon after his death, four or five princes from various branches of the family presented themselves as candidates for recognition as Sultan.
The approaching war in Asia, and the apparent reluctance of the Netherlands East Indies government to resist the Japanese threat, prompted the British to plan for the establishment of a buffer state in Riau. They opened discussions with the Trengganu based Tengku Omar, the Tengku Besar, with a view to his own restoration or that of one of his sons. However, when actual war ensued and their new allies, the Dutch, actively resisted Japanese attacks, the British Governor of the Straits shelved these plans.
At the conclusion of the Second World War and the emergence of resistance to Dutch rule in 1945, several of the exiled groups in Singapore planned for and supported a new plan for a restoration. One of the most prominent of these groups, the Djawatan Koewasa Pengoeroes Rakjat Riau (DKPRR), included the son of the late Tengku Besar. Several exiled princes were prominent members of the organisation and Tengku Ibrahim, Tengku Omar’s son, served as the DKPRR candidate for sultan. They were financed by wealthy Riau expatriates and Singapore Chinese businessmen with trading interests in the archipelago, all hoping to profit from mining and trading concessions from any new government that emerged. Alas, the ultimate establishment of control over the region by the Indonesian Republic and the final withdrawal of the Dutch, put paid to these designs.
Since the late 1930’s, the position of head of the house has been contested. Rival branches of the family who descend from Tengku Omar’s elder half-brother Osman, claim the position for themselves. However, their rights to it remain hotly disputed. Largely, this is because Sultan ‘Abdu’l Rahman had specifically ruled out both Tengku Osman and his full-brother Tengku Ismail in 1908. The reasons for his exclusion hinged on a combination of several factors. Included amongst them were the status of their mother, their uncompromising ultra-religious tendencies and opposition by the ruling Dutch authorities. The dispute over the correct interpretation of adat laws and the respective rights and obligations between the Malay and Bugis families, present a further obstacle to resolution. Consequently, we feel unable to present any particular individual as the undisputed head of the house at present time.
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