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Prayer Alert (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Title: Melaka
Description: FYI #48, 2006-9-6 (Praying for the states)

Melaka, Negeri Bersejarah/Hang Tuah, Historical State

 

Capital             Bandar Melaka
Governor          Tun Datuk Seri Utama Mohamad Khalil Yaakob

Chief Minister    Datuk Seri Mohd. Ali Mohd. Rustam


Statistics (Malaysia Statistics Dept., 2005)

 

Population: 713,000 (est.) 

                                              

Malay 60.86%, Other Bumiputera 1.23% (Temuan), Chinese 26.82%, Indian 6.09%, Others 0.68% (Kristang, Eurasian), Non-citizens 4.32%.

 

Religious breakdown (2000)

Islam 64.2%, Buddhism 24.1%, Hinduism 5.6%, Taoism/Confucianism 1.5%, Christianity 3.9%, Others 0.2%, No Religion 0.4%, Unknown 0.1% 

Incidence of Poverty (2004) 1.8% (Hardcore: 0.2%)  

 

 

The story of Malaysia does not begin with Negara Bersejarah, but the states heritage provides the insights and relevant context as Malaysian history unfolds. The subject Tawarikh (History) was first introduced in 1918 in the Malay College in Melaka. Munshi Abdullah (1795-1852), the great Malaysian scholar whose works remain an inspiration for modern Malay literature, came from Melaka.

 

Historically known as `The Emporium of the East', the architecture of the Melaka town was shaped by centuries of colonization of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. The state (together with Penang) has bid for the UNESCO-World Heritage Site Status since 2001.

 

It is said that the Malays had the first legal publication in the form of Hukum Kanun Malacca.. 

 

Historical and Political Development in Brief

 

The first Malay sultanate started in Melaka. Sultan Mahmud Shah, who launched several successful attacks against the Portuguese conquerors in early 16th century, was the last sultan of Melaka. Today, the state has no Sultan. The head of the state is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri or governor.

 

Melaka was founded by a Palembang Prince, Parameswara, in the late 14th century. It soon became a prosperous and a renowned trading center. Its pattern of government and lifestyle became the basis of what was later termed traditional Malay culture and statecraft. Nonetheless, its period of greatness was drawn to an end with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1511. Melaka soon became the strategic base for Portuguese expansion in the East Indies. The Dutch then ruled Melaka from 1641 to 1795. It was later surrendered to the British in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty in 1824. It formed part of the Straits Settlements in 1832, together with Singapore and Pulau Pinang.

 

Melaka exerted a strong influence in Malaysian politics and administration. The concept of daulat (sovereignty) as applied to the absolute powers of the monarchy was clearly understood and applied. The customary ceremonial practices of the court formed the basis for the official ceremonies and protocols being observed to this very day in the royal courts of the various states.

 

On 20 Feb 1956, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's first Prime Minister, announced the news of impending independence to 50,000 people gathered at the Padang Pahlawan (Warrior's Field), Bandar Hilir, Melaka.

 

Melaka is currently the political stronghold of Barisan Nasional. Kota Melaka, a seat which the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) held since 1969, was taken over by the Barisan Nasional in the 2004 general elections.

 

Islamization and Human Rights Development

 

Melaka was central in the spread of Islam in the peninsular Malaysia. Its main contribution to the evolution of Malay culture was the incorporation of Islamic ideas. Masjid Kampung Hulu in Malacca is one of the oldest mosques in the country, built in 1728 during the Dutch occupation.

 

The founder of Melaka, Parameswara, is said to have converted to Islam in 1411 after marrying a princess from Pasai. Other documents ascribe the adoption of Islam to the 3rd reign, Sri Maharaja Muhammad Shah (1424-45), the first ruler to convert to Islam. His son, Mudzaffar Shah (1446-59), proclaimed Islam the state religion of Melaka. Regardless, the conversion of the Melaka Sultanate to Islam is seen as a watershed in Melakas history in the political concept of kingship, and in terms of economic advantages and territorial expansion. Its vassal states were persuaded or compelled to adopt Islam, and its commercial success reinforced self-islamization.

 

During the Portuguese colonial period, the Portuguese missionaries went about seeking to convert the Malays to Christianity were construed as yet another attempt of subjugation. Islam thus became the cohesive force holding Melaka society against Portuguese domination.

 

Once established as the religion of the Malays, Islam profoundly affected Malay society and the Malay way of life. Some analysts believe that the foundation of Malay/Muslim society remains unchanged through history because it is essentially grounded on the politics of ethnic-nationalism, and founded, particularly, on a political memory of the Melaka Sultanate in the 15th century.

 

With the signing of Pangkor Treaty in 1874, the British gained political control over the Malay sultanates in the Peninsula. In return, the British agreed not to interfere in matters of Malay custom and religion. The British carried this policy of non-interference to the extent of vigorously opposing any attempt to evangelise amongst the Malays by Christian missionaries.

 

In 1988, the modern day Melaka state government formalized the prohibition of propagation by passing the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religious Enactment. The Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1991 prescribes punishment to Muslims who attempt murtad (apostasy), i.e. detention in Islamic Rehabilitation Centre not more than 6 months. The Melaka Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2002 empowers the Syariah High Court the civil jurisdiction to declare a person is no longer a Muslim or declare a deceased person was a Muslim.

 

Religious fervour among the bureaucrats was further heightened by the 2001 pronouncement Malaysia was already an Islamic country. 

 

In Aug 2004, restaurant operators were directed by local council to remove beer advertisement and logos from their premises. The rationale was communal sensitivities. Of course, it was also to prevent the historic city from bearing the image of a beer-drinking city.

 

A moral squad called Pasukan Gerak Khas 4B, launched by the Chief Minister himself in Feb 2005, was cited by concerned groups and individuals as violation of human rights and dignity. The squad was set up by a youth group to spy on people and deter behaviour considered indecent under Islamic law. In response to public protests however, the Cabinet directed the state government to disband the squad.

 

In the following month, the plight of a non-Muslim family of a deceased fireman began to catch the media attention. The family lost their inheritance right when the Chinese fireman died officially a Muslim without his wife knowing his status. His estate was placed under the administration of Melaka Islamic Religious Council. Although the issue was considered resolved, close to satisfactory, in October with half of the estate returned in kind to the family, it illustrated the dilemma of dual legal system and the hardship caused to the families when one of their members converted to Islam.

 

Early this year, the Jasin reclining Buddha statue, supposedly the 2nd largest in the country, along with a Siamese temple, were demolished by the local authorities on grounds that they were illegally built on private land meant for agricultural purposes (The Sun, 6 Jan). 

 

The much-protested forum on Federal Constitution-Protection for All, the second in a series, was successfully held in Melaka in April. The forum was nonetheless called to a halt, after the Johor Baru proceedings in July, by the prime minister due to the rising discontent among certain Muslim quarters who claimed that the forum undermined the position of Islam, challenged the syariah system and attempted to demand government for Malays freedom to apostatize.

 

Despite the Islamic zeal, it is generally acknowledged that the racial assimilation and integration has laid a strong foundation for the state. Prof. Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of University Kebangsaan Malaysia, the consultant to the mandatory course Ethnic Relations for 1st year students at public institution of higher learning, believes that Melaka is the apex of ethnic relations and this is how we need to see it in the light of our interest in ethnic relations today (NST, 5 Feb 06).

 

Others

 

Corruption

 

The Auditor-General had, in June 2004, queried the state government on its lack of proper allocation for development on tanah wakaf (endowment land) which resulted in only 10% of the allotted land being developed to benefit the community (Star Online). It also questioned its expenditure on state projects. However, year 2005 saw great improvement. Not only the states bookkeeping earned a Clean Certificate from the Auditor-General, its improved treasury received special mention. Yet, several landscaping contracts given out were reported to be unsatisfactory. Only 51 out of 186 projects were fully completed at the end of 2005. The state continues to be plagued by delayed or unfinished government projects (NST, 6 Sept 06).

 

In October 2004, Melaka stole the press headlines by liberally awarding 84 datukships to mark the 66th birthday of its governor. The incident was highly criticized for months and was considered by many as reflecting an expansion of money politics and thus affecting the integrity of the title (The Star Online).

 

In January, the leader of the opposition party, DAP, lodged a report with the Anti-Corruption Agency against the Melaka Chief Minister (NST, 12 Jan 06) for an alleged misused of charity health fund.

 

In April, a controversy was created by the Jasin member of Parliament who admittedly asked the Melaka Custom office to close one eye over an import of illegal sawn timber. The quarrel went a step further when the MP accused the Custom officials for abusing their power in handling confiscated luxury cars. Recently, a senior Customs officer claimed to have received an SMS threat from the said MP. The stinging bickering between the MP and the Department has highlighted the question of integrity. It also risks the Parliaments credibility.

 

Piracy

 

The Strait of Malacca is a critical and strategic waterway in the global trading system; more than 10 million barrels of crude oil pass through the strait every day, with more than 50,000 vessels transiting its waters every year.  On 25 April, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore signed a Strait of Malacca Patrol Joint Co-ordinating Committee Terms of Reference (TOR) and Standard Operational Procedures (SOP) document to work closely to strengthen the security of the strait.  Since then, piracy in the region has reported marked decrease.

 

Financially stable, Melaka was considered as one of the more developed states in 2005. Based on the Development Composite Index 2005, Melaka ranked 3rd after Kuala Lumpur (1st) and Pulau Pinang (2nd). It remains one of the major choices of location for both domestic and foreign investment due to the availability of adequate and good infrastructure, proximity to air and sea hubs, financial centres and support services. There are more job and business opportunities as compared with other states. Development projects in Melaka under the 9th Malaysian Plan include the upgrading of Melaka airport to handle narrow-bodied jets to boost tourism.

 

The Church

 

Churches were established in the area with the coming of the Portuguese in 1511, the Dutch in 1641 and the British in 1786.

 

The arrival of the Portuguese in Melaka was probably the first contact Peninsular Malaysia ever had with any form of Christianity. It brought in the countrys oldest denomination, the Roman Catholicism. Soon after his conquest, Afonso dAlbuquerque built its first church, and many other religious institutions.  Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary, was said to have used Melaka as his headquarter in the South East Asia region. It was reported that he established a Christian school on St. Pauls Hill and translated several Christian prayers into Malay. When Goa came under the archbishops jurisdiction in 1558, Melaka became the seat of a Bishop.  

 

In the 17th century, the arrival of Dutch in the region ousted the Portuguese and thus discouraged Catholicism and promoted Dutch Reformed Protestantism (Roxborogh 1992, pp7-8). St. Peter's Church, the oldest functioning Catholic Church in Malaysia, is built in 1710 after the Dutch restore freedom of religion to the Catholics. Christ Church in Malacca, built in 1753 by the Dutch, is said to be the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia. It was handed over to the Anglicans in 1838.

 

Spurred by the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965, the Malaysia Bible Seminary was first inaugurated as the Pusat Latihan Kristen Melaka (PLKM).

 

The present day Melaka houses about 20 Protestant churches. Functional unity among the churches is admirable. Recent years see the concerted effort among the churches in organizing evangelistic meetings and Christmas celebrations. Due to the influx of foreign workers, churches have been working together, sharing resources and manpower, in establishing vibrant migrant ministry. However, there is room for improvement in relational unity, among the pastors in particular, for the purpose of accountability and leadership bonding. 

 

In terms of church growth, the Chinese-speaking churches of late are growing strong while the English-speaking appear to be status-quo.  Youth work, especially outreaches to the university & college students, has been fruitful.

 

Despite the active involvement in ministries and church activities, the Gospel has yet to become a lifestyle, says one of the Christian leaders in Melaka. Local Christians, with higher standard of living and economic prosperity, have become more comfortable and materialistic. Instead of developing greater passion for the Lord, there is always a temptation to advance to the next level of socio-economic status. It is God who is building His Church, we need to come to the First Love.

 
Pray

 

  1. People may know the Eternal God who is the Ancient of Days. People will find sufficiency in God, the Help of all time.
     
  2. Repent for all wrongs committed by the Christian foreign colonialists.
     
  3. Local authorities to have wisdom and consideration in the efforts to exploit Melakas historical heritage to boost tourism. [Many tradesmen in the old quarters are gradually displaced by businesses catering for tourists.]
     
  4. Integrity and efficiency in all government departments; against all forms of corruption.
     
  5. Against crime (e.g. snatch thief) robbery, brawls in bars, murders, suicide, lawlessness, motor-racing, gambling, adultery, immoral behaviour.
     
  6. Youth and young adults of all ethnic groups: Wisdom, courage, and good discernment; good role models & good family relationship; moral purity and honesty.
     
  7. Christian Youth: abiding personal relationship with Jesus Christ; living example of biblical principles of integrity and responsibility in relationship; pure-hearted; good witness among peers.
     
  8. Church: rekindled-passion for the Lord; evangelistic efforts to bear fruit; relational unity across denomination; effective networking between the Christian students and local churches in all campus-outreaches; the ability to proclaim relevant message amidst different beliefs and cultural backgrounds.

 

 

 

 

 



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