Dato’ Sri Amar DiRaja Abdul Rahman Andak
oleh Dato’ Penghulu Istiadat Datuk Abdul Rahim bin Ramli
Abdul Rahman bin Andak was born in Telok Belanga Singapore on 13 June 1859, the son of Andak bin Meng who was later appointed as penghulu of Lenga in Muar and later as the district officer of Segamat in 1895. He had his early education under Ibrahim Munshi. Maharaja Abu Bakar, at that time childless, sent a nephew Ungku Othman Bin Abdul Rahman to be educated in England. Abdul Rahman Andak, even in his young days had shown talent and caught Abu Bakar’s eyes. He was sent to accompany Othman for further education in England. They left for England on 23 February 1871.
His English education was to prove vital in his future career as one of the most able and influential man in Johor at the turn of the century. On 19 June 1878 he was recruited into government service upon graduating. Up to 1883 he served as the assistant secretary and chief translator. In 1886 he was conferred the Second Class Order of the Crown of Johor (DPMJ) and the honorific title of Dato’ Sri Amar DiRaja by Abu Bakar. In 1892 he received the First Class Order of the Crown of Johor (SPMJ).
By the 1880’s the Johor government was taking the shape which would continue into the era of British intervention. Abu Bakar’s administration consisted of meritocrats like Ibrahim Munshi and Mohd Salleh bin Perang who were his contemporaries and educated at Keasbury School. However the most meteoric individual career that was founded on ability and ambition, not nobility was that of Abdul Rahman Andak.
His first opportunity came in 1885 when he was chosen by Maharaja Abu Bakar as one of his senior advisers to negotiate the Anglo-Johor Treaty by which Abu Bakar secured British recognition as Sultan of Johor. This visit to London was an attempt by Abu Bakar to avert the possibility of his kingdom being brought under the Residential system of British rule. This was the first time Abdul Rahman had a brush in outmaneuvering the British especially Governor Weld.
In 1884 he became the private secretary to the Ruler and later as Secretary for Foreign Affairs. In 1893 he had occupied the post of State Secretary and sat on the State Council. For twenty years he was the expert and trusted advisor for Sultan Abu Bakar and Sultan Ibrahim for their dealings with the British in Singapore and London. Winstedt wrote Abdul Rahman practically ran the State in the Sultan’s absence. Cecil Smith suspected it was Abdul Rahman who drafted the Sultan’s replies to communications From the Singapore authorities.
Under Abdul Rahman’s influence Abu Bakar became increasingly reluctant to accept British advice. For 33 consecutive years Abu Bakar successfully preserved Johor’s independence in the face of British forward movement and expansionist designs. Sultan Ibrahim a young ruler of twenty two had little administrative experience when he ascended the throne. He was more inclined to look to Abdul Rahman for guidance. Abdul Rahman had given Ibrahim precious ideas of his position as absolute sovereign and the independence of Johor.
The spiteful abuse which exasperated British officials directed at him is sufficient evidence of his skill in frustrating their efforts to intervene or to exert pressure on Johor.
The British strategy for intervention in Johor was three fold. First was to prevent the government from receiving advice and direction from its Advisory Board in London. Second was to press on for the construction of a railway line across Johor. The final strategy was to get rid of Abdul Rahman.
The Johor Advisory Board in London founded by Abu Bakar was wholly financed by Johor. The primary objective of constituting the Board was to secure an accredited representative of the state in England who would be in a position to approach the Colonial Office and claim its attention. Abdul Rahman knew of a ploy to prevent the Board from offering advice to Ibrahim. Firstly with advice from the Colonial Oftice the Board suggested Johor to receive a loan of 200,000 Sterling Pounds on condition she accepts a Straits Settlement Auditor or alternatively join the Federated Malay States. On Abdul Rahman’s advice the plan was rejected.
Secondly the Board was not agreeable on Ibrahim’s action of giving away large concessions of land to people in Britain. The differences in opinion between lbrahim and Abdul Rahman on one hand and the Board on the other came to a head in 1905 over a case involving the Johore State Corporation Ltd backed by Amsterdam financiers. The Board resigned en bloc on 20 October 1905. This was a triumph for the British.
The British under Swettenham who was regarded as the architect of indirect British rule had planned for the construction of a railway line across Johor providing a link between the Federated Malay States and Singapore. Swettenham offered two alternatives, the first was that the FMS build the lines and provide loans to Johor. Secondly it was for Johor to provide its own finances but the lines will be built by the FMS. With Abdul Rahman’s advice that the railway project be a Johor state enterprise the negotiations became protracted and grew into a bad tempered stalemate much to the impatience of the British. Ibrahim feared the acceptance of principal and other assistance from the British and the FMS would jeopardize Johor’s independence.
Abdul Rahman was at the receiving end of abuse by the British. Cecil Smith wrote of him “as a clever little fellow but an absolute nobody among the Malay aristocrats”. Other epithets cited are “corrupt” and “a mischievous little dog”. Swettenham denigrated him as “a bad adviser for anyone, quite unscrupulous…. and dangerous because he speaks English and has to do with Europeans all his life.”
An incident on January 1907 led Anderson to demand imperiously that he be dismissed. He was under the impression Abdul Rahman had sought to undermine an agreement to let the Johore Opium and Spirit Farm to the same tax farmers. History has proven in actual fact Abdul Rahman’s stance was based on a decision of the Johor State Council to discontinue joint letting of the farms since it was not in Johor’s interest.
Ibrahim had no choice but to agree with Anderson. Abdul Rahman’s service as Deputy Menteri Besar was terminated and he was sent into an enforced exile to London in April 1909 with an annual pension of 1,000 Sterling Pounds.
Loss of office was a personal disaster because most of the Malay administrators lacked personal wealth. They, and their fathers before them, have made their livelihood by service to the ruler. They did not own land or possess other personal wealth. Abdul Rahman spent his time in exile as a ward to Ibrahim’s young sons Ismail (later Sultan), Abu Bakar and Ahmad while they were attending schools in London. Ibrahim had come to England and looked into the arrangements for his sons and had contacted Abdul Rahman.
To Anderson the enforced removal of Abdul Rahman was a necessary prelude to the establishment of more overt British influence in Johor. He was to be proved more wrong. Ibrahim showed he was still his father’s son. He finally relented to have a General Advisor Douglas Graham Campbell in January 1910 but with certain conditions. British and Malay officers are to be of the same status. Johor Malays are given preference in government appointments. Except for the General Advisor all British officers are to don Johor uniform. The British flag is not permitted to be raised. The official language is both Malay and English. The Sultan retained the entire personal control of the Johor Military Force.
In 1918 the Federal government requested a loan from Johor. Rather than giving a loan Ibrahim decided to settle the loan of $11,052,000 given to Johor for the construction of the railway. This settlement was seven years earlier than schedule. It reflected the resentment Ibrahim held against the British idea and to prove Johor is able to stand on its own finances.
Abdul Rahman married Che’ Lembek a niece of Dato’ Yahaya bin Abu Talib an officer in the Johor Military Force. She died in 1885 when Abdul Rahman was accompanying Abu Bakar to London to sign the Anglo-Johor Treaty. She left a daughter Rahmah who later married Dato’ Abdullah bin Jaafar a relative of Dato’ Bentara Luar Mohammad Salleh bin Perang.
A reception was held in the residence of Ungku Abdul Majid, Abu Bakar’s younger brother on 12 June 1895 to welcome Dato’ Sri Amar DiRaja and his wife on their arrival from Europe. He had married the daughter of Herman Katz (spelt Cutts according to palace records) the proprietor of Katz Bros. Ltd. a department store in Singapore. Herman Katz was conferred the Dato’ Paduka Mahkota Johor in 1890 for services rendered to Abu Bakar on his trips to Frankfurt.
Herman Katz had accompanied Prince Henry of Prussia brother of the German Kaiser on his second visit to Johor on 24 February 1898.
In 1929 Ibrahim on his visit to London graciously granted an audience to Abdul Rahman in Grosvenor House, Mayfair. Abdul Rahman kissed the extended hand of Ibrahim as a sign of loyalty. Abdul Rahman presented Ibrahim a life size oil painting of Sultan Abu Bakar resplendent in full royal regalia. Abdul Rahman had the painting as his personal collection. To this day the painting is exhibited in the Istana Besar as a sign of appreciation by Ibrahim. In Malay custom when a ruler grants an audience and extends his hand it meant he has forgiven that person.
In reality Abdul Rahman was never disloyal to Ibrahim, neither did he commit treason. He was exiled for being a pawn in a strategy of extending indirect British rule.
Abdul Rahman died on 10 September 1931 at age 71. He was buried at Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey. His wife was buried next to him on her demise. They were survived by their two sons Dr. Murad and Maarof.
The jaundiced and controversial aspects of Abdul Rahman’s performance and rhetoric of colonialist domination have clouded his achievements. He took a leading part in the establishment of the education system. He was the founder of Pakatan Belajar Mengajar Pengetahuan Bahasa a literary society later known as the Royal Society of Malay Literature Johor to widen the vocabulary and use of the Malay language. He was responsible for the use of the Malay language as the official and working language of the government. His emphasis on the Jawi script is still in force as all official correspondence with the palace and decisions of the Executive Council are to be written in Malay with Jawi script.
Abdul Rahman was the expert in foreign relations and policies. He had traveled far and wide to promote Johor intemationally. He was in Chicago in 1893 for an exhibition of Johor State regalia. He had presented a talk to the Geographical Society in London when introducing the map of Johor plotted by Dato’ Bentara Luar in 1894. He arranged for the map to be exhibited in Adelaide.
In his time as State Secretary he made regulations, in the nature of general orders, on civil service procedure and financial accountability. He is credited with advising Abu Bakar to promulgate the first written constitution of any Malay state, with its provision against any surrender of sovereignty to a foreign power.
lbrahim’s Abdul Rahman claimed a greater degree of independence than Abu Bakar. He repeatedly resisted British advice and attempted to thwart British intent, in particular the FMS railway project.
These achievements and qualities have earned Abdul Rahman the status of a paladin and champion of Johor’s independence.