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Recounting the Memories of the Past
Before Pengiran Indera Mahkota was known by that title, his real name was Pengiran Mohd Salleh ibnu Pengiran Sharifuddin. He was born in Sambas. His father was a descendant of Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin.
Pengiran Md Salleh was a well-educated man during his time. He was educated at Batavia and later furthered his studies in Holland.
Around 1820 the reigning Sultan at that time Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam summoned Pg Md Salleh to return to Brunei. His Highness then conferred on him the title Pengiran Indera Mahkota. Since then he was better knownby the title Pengiran Indera Mahkota. Seven years later Pengiran Indera Mahkota was given the task to act as the head of Government or Governor of Sarawak representing the Sultan of Brunei. It was Pengiran Indera Mahkota who first founded Kuching at a site named Lidah Tanah.
Around 1834 while Pengiran Indera Mahkota was ruling Sarawak Pengiran Muda Hashim arrived there to try to collect revenue. The reigning Sultan at that time was Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II the nephew of Pengiran Muda Hashim.
Pengiran Muda Hashim’s arrival was not personally recieved by Pengiran Indera Mahkota. He only sent his officers to recieve him while he himself waited in his court. This act hurt Pengiran Muda Hashim’s feelings and he accused Pengiran Indera Mahkota of not respecting him, an uncle of the Sultan. Pengiran Indera Mahkota’s justification was that since he was appointed by the Sultan surely he had the right to do what he thought was right. Since that day the conflict between the two started and it became worse with the arrival of James Brooke.
With Pengiran Muda Hashim in Sarawak, the Government of Sarawak was split into two. This gave rise to an uneasy situation in Sarawak. Besides this, there were constant quarrels among the Dayaks.
Pengiran Indera Mahkota was an intelligent man who was bold enough to face any problems. This contradicted the view held by some western historians who said that he was a tyrant. James Brooke himself acknowledged Pengiran Indera Mahkota’s shrewdness, as he had so recorded in his diary. It was because of his shrewdness that he was not influenced by James Brooke. Rather James Brooke regarded him as a threat to his plan of taking over Sarawak.
Pengiran Indera Mahkota knew the promise made between James Brooke and Pengiran Muda Hashim and saw it as a threat that could see Brunei became smaller and weaker. He devised several ways to get rid of James Brooke from Sarawak. Possibly this attitude of his led some historians to regard him as tyrannical. Pengiran Indera Mahkota’s actions had caused James Brooke to threaten to kill Pengiran Indera Mahkota’s followers should Pengiran Muda Hashim fail to fulfil his promise immediately. The threat was made on 24th September 1841. On that very day he was forced to proclaim James Brooke as the ruler of Sarawak. He did this in order to avoid bloodshed in the country.
It was only on 1st August 1842 that James Brooke was officially appointed as Raja Sarawak by the Sultan of Brunei. The appointment hurt Pengiran Indera Mahkota’s feelings because his post as Governor of Sarawak had not been abolished yet. In view of this Pengiran Indera Mahkota withdrew from Sarawak. He went to Batang Lupar and from there he travelled along the coast of Sarawak, finally settling down in Mukah.
Pengiran Indera Mahkota stayed for some time in Mukah. It was only in 1845 that Pengiran Indera Mahkota returned to Brunei when he was recalled by Pengiran Anak Abdul Momin, the son-in-law and assistant of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II. It was during his voyage to Brunei that he started composing Syair Rakis and after several months in Brunei he completed his works. One copy of his book was presented to Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II and another to Pengiran Anak Abdul Momin.
Because Syair Rakis contained various kinds of advice, guidance and lessons, many copies of the original were made. These copies were given to the chiefs to read.
In 1852 Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II passed away and Pengiran Anak Abdul Momin was crowned the twenty-fourth Sultan of Brunei. Sultan Abdul Momin conferred the title of Pengiran Shahbandar on Pengiran Indera Mahkota, one of the highest honours in Brunei in Brunei at that time.
James Brooke always kept up with the development of Brunei. He was rather concerned about the presence of Pengiran Shahbandar in Brunei. James Brooke made use of other people to eliminate Pengiran Shahbandar. It was said that there was a revolt in Limbang. On James Brooke’s instigation, the family of Pengiran Muda Hashim suggested that Pengiran Shahbandar lead an army to Limbang to settle the revolt which was said to have broken out there.
On the way to Limbang at a place called Lubai, Pengiran Shahbandar who could not swim was made to drown by capsizing his boat. He was buried at Kianggeh on 1858.