The glorified myth of Hang Tuah and the misuse of funds

Malacca Chief Minister Ab Rauf Yusoh has been to the Netherlands to examine a 265-year-old manuscript at Leiden University in The Hague. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 12, 2024.

WHERE does entitlement end and accountability begin for politicians?

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim last year, citing the Global Financial Integrity report 2010, Panama Papers 2016, and Pandora Papers 2017, said Malaysia had among the most cases of funds misappropriation andd money laundering by political leaders and corporations in the world.

Neither shame nor the besmirched reputation of Malaysia bothers her politicians.

The most recent example is Malacca Chief Minister Ab Rauf Yusoh, who took off to the Netherlands in April to examine a 265-year-old manuscript at Leiden University in The Hague, claiming it could shed light on the Malay warrior Hang Tuah.

Strangely, his travelling companions included Akmal Salleh, the state exco for rural development, agriculture, and food security committee chairman.

Could Rauf clarify what relevance agriculture and food security have to Hang Tuah or the manuscript abroad?

The state government also hosted a seminar in April to strengthen research on the Malay warrior through new resources.

Rauf said a team of researchers from Universiti Islam Melaka, Universiti Malaya, and Universiti Putra Malaysia, facilitated by the Tun Perak Institute, have been conducting studies on Hang Tuah.

Then there was one Tun Muhammad Amin Tun Ahmad from Bintan, Indonesia, claiming to be the 11th heir of Hang Tuah, who handed over three keris or daggers supposedly belonging to Hang Tuah to Rauf for display in the upcoming exhibition due this month.

This led to an outcry among historians who are adamant there is no historical record of any weapon synonymous with any ancient Malay warrior.

One of them is Royal Gallery Tuanku Ja’afar curator Mohd Khairil Hisham in Negri Sembilan.

“So far I have not heard any comments from Indonesian history experts. What I have heard is that the person who claims to be the heir of Hang Tuah is a fraud,” Khairil has been reported as saying in MalaysiaNow.

Khairil said the team researching the issue should prove the Indonesian man’s claims or face criticism coming their way.

“The enthusiasm displayed by the Malacca government could lead to people taking advantage of them,” Khairil added.

He described the seminar as “a waste,” saying it yielded nothing despite a whole team dispatched to Europe.

“The seminar ended in confusion after Rauf claimed the oldest copy of ‘Hikayat Hang Tuah’ dating back to 1758 was found in the Netherlands.”

Khairil said Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, as the country’s authority on the national language, had already published a transliteration of a 1758 edition of “Hikayat Hang Tuah” based on the work of national laureate Muhammad Haji Salleh.

Who is Hang Tuah?

Historian Ahmat Adam meanwhile remains steadfast in his claim that a character called “Hang Tuah” never existed.

Ahmat, who has done extensive research on Hang Tuah, lamented in news reports that researchers hired by the Malacca government are not bona fide historians.

“They are falsifiers of history and have no idea how to research and study history,” Ahmat lamented.

He likewise questioned the state’s move to send a research team to the Netherlands, where they claimed to have discovered the oldest copy of “Hikayat Hang Tuah,” a work by an unknown author that serves as the main source on the subject.

“The much-hyped manuscript can be found in the library of DBP. There was no need to go all the way to Leiden. Don’t waste public funds,” Ahmat decried.

Rauf’s state-sponsored trip to the Netherlands was to examine findings of the research group and bring back Hang Tuah-related artefacts.

He said researchers from Universiti Islam Melaka, Universiti Malaya, and Universiti Putra Malaysia had studied various sources on Hang Tuah in preparation for the exhibition.

Ahmat, who has written at least two books on Hang Tuah, clarified that the name “Hang Tuah” itself was lost in translation and that the original term was “Hang Tuha” or “Hang Toh”.

In his work “Hikayat Hang Tuha,” Ahmat explains “Hang Tuha” was an honorific bestowed on admirals of the time given the Malay taboo against calling dignitaries by names other than their titles.

“The title Hang Tuha or Hang Toh is a description of an admiral from Malacca whose identity is unknown.”

Likewise, Ahmat debunked the claim of “Hikayat Hang Tuah” being a historical source and instead considered it a work of fiction, saying anyone arguing otherwise had not read it carefully.

“In the novel, the king of Malacca was called Sang Maniaka. His younger brother Sang Jaya Nantaka, after being disappointed by his brother, became king in Kalinga (India) and called himself Krishna Deva Raya in Vijayanagara. Is this an authentic historical source?”

What has the Malacca government to say about Hang Tuah being nothing more than a glorified mythological character?

With esteemed historians like Ahmat around, why did Rauf jet off to the Netherlands instead for so-called answers? Was it yet another excuse by politicians to enjoy junkets abroad, at taxpayers’ expense?

Did the Malacca government take liberties with the RM25 million funding for the state’s preservation of Unesco World Heritage Sites? – June 12, 2024.

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  • Well, nobody can prove there was NOT a Hang Tuah among Hang Li Po's or Admiral Cheng Ho's entourage.

    Surely at current 1.5 billion China's population, there are thousands if not millions of Abdul Rahman and Abdul Razak.

    Posted 1 month ago by Malaysian First · Reply

  • In Bolehland, it's common for Politicians to come up with stuffs like this to sponsor they're extravagant spendings and justify them. Now, why these folks wants to research about a person who is a mystic, according to historians! Go look at Malacca, wasted public funds very evident all over the city and now this! Their LRT is standing tall but no trains, river cruise but few takers, beautification everywhere but not practical plus there was a giant TV at the Dataran sometime back which is since gone....wasted public funds. Why do stupid stuffs and leave white elephants all over...guys learn and put this public funds to good use

    Posted 1 month ago by Crishan Veera · Reply

  • A waste of our taxes and the bodo Akmal went along? This local historian says Hang Toha as honorific, what about Hang Jebat,,is its Hang Jubo? I will believe what's in Netherlands not this guy. BTW why cant they make a electronic copy instead of spending millions?

    Posted 1 month ago by Alphonz Jayaraman · Reply