Tuanku Syed Putra

Tuanku Syed Putra

name =Tuanku Syed Putra
title =Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia (King of Malaysia) and Raja of Perlis

caption =Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra ibni Almarhum Syed Hassan Jamalulail
reign =1945 - 2000
coronation =1946
predecessor =Tuanku Syed Hamzah
successor =Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin
suc-type =Raja Muda
heir =Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin
consort =Tuanku Budrirah
issue =Tunku Syed Sirajuddin
royal house =
royal anthem =
father =Tuanku Syed Hassan Jamalulail
mother =
date of birth =1920
place of birth =Arau, Perlis
date of death =2000
place of death =Kuala Lumpur
buried =Arau, Perlis|

In full, Almarhum Tuanku Sayyid Putra ibni Almarhum Sir Syed Hassan Jamalullail, KCMG (November 25, 1920 – April 16, 2000) was the third Yang di-Pertuan Agong (a constitutional monarch with a five-year term) of Malaya and later of Malaysia (September 21, 1960 – September 20, 1965), and sixth Raja of Perlis from 1945 to 2000.

Early career

He was the son of Syed Hassan bin Syed Mahmud Jamalullail (1897–1935), sometime "Bakal Raja" or heir presumptive to the throne of Perlis, by his commoner wife Wan Teh binti Wan Endut (d. 1952). [ Finestone, Jeffrey and Shaharil Talib (1994) "The Royal Families of South-East Asia" Shahindera Sdn Bhd] Born in Arau, he was educated at the Arau Malay School and later at Penang Free School between 1937 and 1939. [ (December 27, 2002) "Penang Free School newsletter" ] At the age of 18, he joined the Perlis administrative service, becoming a magistrate and in 1940, was transferred to Kuala Lumpur to serve as Second Magistrate in the Criminal Court. [ Willan, HC (1945) Interviews with the Malay rulers CAB101/69, CAB/HIST/B/4/7]

The Perlis Succession Dispute

The fourth Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Alwi ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Safi Jamalullail (born 1881; reigned 1905–1943) was childless. However, he had several half-brothers who were competing for the role of heir presumptive. [ Buyong Adil (1981) "Sejarah Perlis" pp 34–35 DBP ] The succession to the Perlis throne was not automatic and an heir presumptive had to be confirmed in that post by the State Council comprising the Raja and several others. [ Tang Su Chin, Julie (2002) "Sejarah Kerajaan Perlis 1841–1957" p 231 MBRAS ]

Syed Putra's paternal grandfather Syed Mahmud, was the oldest son of Raja Syed Safi ibni Almarhum Syed Alwi Jamalullail (the third Raja). He was also a half brother of Raja Syed Alwi. [ Tang Su Chin, Julie (2002) Op Cit p 232 ] He served as Raja Muda until 1912 [ "Perlis State Council minutes" (April 15, 1912) CO273 1098a.386/22831 ] when he was convicted and jailed in Alor Star, Kedah until 1917. Two years later, he died in Alor Star. [ "Secret Memorandum Howitt to Shenton Thomas" (March 25, 1937) "Papers of John Hamer" MSS ind. Ocn. s 316 Box 1 File 1] On December 6, 1934, Syed Mahmud's son Syed Hassan was, by a three to one vote, selected by the State Council as "Bakal Raja" or heir presumptive. However, Syed Hassan died on October 18, 1935. [ Tang Su Chin, Julie (2002) Op Cit p 232 ]

On April 30, 1938, again by a three to one vote, the State Council chose Syed Putra (son of Syed Hassan) as the "Bakal Raja". This choice was opposed by Syed Hamzah, the younger half-brother of Raja Syed Alwi and himself Vice-President of the State Council on the grounds that Syed Putra was too far removed from the throne under the Islamic inheritance laws (primogeniture did not then apply in Perlis). However, the British colonial rulers supported Syed Putra. [ Tang Su Chin, Julie (2002) Op Cit p 262 ]

Japanese occupation

On the outbreak of the World War II, Raja Syed Alwi retreated to Kuala Kangsar, Perak. He returned to Perlis on December 28, 1941 but was already very ill and state affairs were exercised by Syed Hamzah. [ Tang Su Chin, Julie (2002) Op Cit p 266 ] Syed Putra was at the time serving in the judiciary in Kuala Kumpur and had been advised by Sultan Musa Ghiatuddin Riayat Shah of Selangor to remain there. In May 1942, Syed Hamzah persuaded Raja Syed Alwi to withdraw Syed Putra's appointment as "Bakal Raja" and instead Syed Hamzah himself was appointed to that post. Raja Syed Alwi died in Arau on February 1, 1943 and a day later, before the funeral, Syed Hamzah was proclaimed fifth Raja of Perlis, by the consent of the Japanese Military Governor of Kedah and Perlis. [ Tang Su Chin, Julie (2002) Op Cit pp 267–268 ]

Syed Putra and his family stayed in Klang until May 15, 1942 when he returned to Perlis. He lived in a hut near the Arau railway station and received a $90 a month allowance from Raja Syed Alwi but this ceased on the latter's death. [ Willan, HC (1945) Op Cit ] On March 29, 1945 he left for Kelantan, the home state of his consort Tengku Budriah, where he sold cakes and sundry goods for a living. [ Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail "My Personal Experience Just Before and After the Japanese Occupation of Malaya" in "Papers of John Hamer" MSS ind. Ocn. s 316 Box 1 File 1]

Return of the British

The British Military Administration (BMA) under Lord Louis Mountbatten refused to recognise Syed Hamzah as Raja. On September 18, 1945, Syed Hamzah abdicated. [ Willan, HC (1945) Op Cit ] He went into exile in Thailand and died in Arau on February 20, 1958. [ Finestone, Jeffrey and Shaharil Talib (1994) Op Cit ]

On December 4, 1945 the British proclaimed Syed Putra as sixth Raja of Perlis. He returned to Perlis from Kelantan, via Padang Besar. He was installed on March 12, 1949. [ Che Puan Temenggung Perlis (1995) "Putra: Biografi yang diperkenankan tentang riwayat hidup DYMM Raja Perlis, Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail" pp 53 and 56 ]

The Malayan Union experiment

Raja Syed Putra objected to the Malayan Union treaty on the grounds that it contravened the 1930 British-Perlis Treaty giving governing power to the Raja-in-council. However, his protests that he signed under duress was rejected by the British. Subsequently, like all other Malay rulers, Raja Syed Putra repudiated the Malayan Union treaty. [ Tang Su Chin, Julie (2002) Op Cit pp 279–297 ]

Election as Deputy King

Raja Syed Putra was elected Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong by the Malay rulers and served in that office from April 14, 1960 until the death of Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah on September 1, 1960.

Election as King

Raja Syed Putra was elected third Yang di-Pertuan Agong of independent Malaya and served in that office from September 21, 1960. He was installed at Istana Negara on January 4, 1961. On September 16, 1963 upon the proclamation of the Malaysian Federation comprising Malaya, British Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore, he became Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. He completed his term of office on September 20, 1965.

Role as King

In September 1963, Malaysia was formed and Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra became known as the last King of Malaya, the first King of Malaysia and the only King that Singapore has ever had in modern history.

Raja Syed Putra's term of office as Yang di-Pertuan Agong was marked by the Indonesian Confrontation between newly-created Malaysia and its larger neighbour, Indonesia. He offered to stay on as Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the end of his term, to see out the end of Confrontation, but this suggestion was rejected by then prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. [ Tunku Abdul Rahman (1977) "Looking Back" p 343 Pustaka Antara, Kuala Lumpur ]

As Yang di-Pertuan Agong, he instructed proper treatment of the royal regalia, which he believed was partly responsible for the mysterious final illness and death of Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah, his immediate predecessor. [ Tunku Abdul Rahman (1977) Op Cit p 342 ]

The Stadium Negara, the Parliament House, the Muzium Negara, the Subang International Airport, the Masjid Negara and the wharves at Klang Straits represent some of the milestones of progress which marked the King's happy reign.

But there were sad times as well. Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra was perturbed that the separation of Singapore from Malaysia had to happen on Aug 9, 1965, just three weeks before the Merdeka celebrations, and about one month before he left office.

Later role, death and funeral

Raja Syed Putra became the doyen of the Malay rulers, giving advice to more junior Rulers especially during the constitutional crisis with the then prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in 1983 and again in 1993. He died at the National Heart Institute, Kuala Lumpur on April 16, 2000. At that time, he was the longest reigning monarch in the world, a position he inherited from Prince Franz Joseph II of Liechtenstein in 1989. He was buried at the Royal Mausoleum in Arau, Perlis. [ (April 18, 2000) "Utusan Malaysia" ]

Family life

Tuanku Syed Putra married twice:
# in 1941 to Tengku Budriah binti Tengku Ismail of the Patani Sultanate in Thailand. She served as his consort with the title of Raja Perempuan of Perlis and as Raja Permaisuri Agong. She is the mother of the current Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin as well as four other sons and five daughters
# in 1952 to Che Puan Mariam (1924–1985) by whom he had three sons and one daughter


# Jalan Syed Putra (formerly Lorney Drive) in Kuala Lumpur was named after him
# Sekolah Menengah Sains Tuanku Syed Putra in Perlis is named after him
# Tuanku Syed Putra is the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong to have completed his term in office
# Tuanku Syed Putra was the longest serving ruler of any state after serving as Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He died as Raja of Perlis thirty five years after completing his term as Yang di-Pertuan Agong
# He was the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong to wear the official installation robe "(baju sikap)" of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a tradition that has been followed ever since
# He was the youngest person ever elected Yang di-Pertuan Agong being 39 years 329 days old.


* [http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/8/14/nation/18581787&sec=nation A nostalgic tale of two Putras] , The Star, August 14, 2007.

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