1819: Isa Kamari on the Foundation of Singapore
Abstract1819 is the year of the British “founding of Singapore.” Early in that year Sir Stamford Raffles signed a preliminary treaty with the Temenggung of Johor permitting the British to set up a trading post on the island (Turnbull 1). By 1824, the request for a trading post had grown into a treaty through which the British claimed control over the whole of Singapore. 1819 is also the title of the English translation of the novel by the major Singapore Malay writer Isa Kamari on that same series of events (Malay: Duka Tuan Bertakhta, Sadly You Rule, 2011). In that book, Raffles, the Temenggung and the newly-installed Sultan Hussein of Singapore all play leading roles, but their actions are also balanced by those of the saint Habib Nuh, the silat master Wak Cantuk and the writer Munsyi Abdullah, who provide their own perspectives on the impact of the British colonisation of Singapore. In this paper I am interested in the way Isa tells the story not of the founding of Singapore in 1819 but of its loss, specifically to the Malay community, and the implications that he draws from that story for the contemporary Malay community of Singapore.
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