Negeri Sembilan, Darul Khusus, The Special Abode
Royal Capital: Seri Menanti
Yang Di-Pertuan Besar: Tuanku Jaafar ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman
Chief Minister: Dato' Seri Utama Haji Mohamad Haji Hasan
Statistics (Malaysia Statistics Dept., 2005)
Population 1,004,807 (2007 est.): Malay 54.86%, Other Bumiputera 1.42% (Temuan, Semelai), Chinese 23.91%, Indian 15.24%, Others 0.43%, Non-citizens 4.14% (Indonesian, Vietnamese)
Religious breakdown (2000) Islam 58.6%, Buddhism 20.3%, Hinduism 13.9%, Taoism/Confucianism 3.0%, Christianity 2.7%, Tribal 0.6%, Others 0.3%, No Religion 0.5%, Unknown 0.1%
Incidence of poverty (2004) 1.4% (Hardcore: 0.2%)
Negeri Sembilan is greatly influenced by the Minangkabau culture, evident in the buffalo-horn shaped roofs of the many buildings and the practice of fascinating Adat Perpatih, a matrilineal system of inheritance and administration.
The second Yang di-Pertuan Besar Tuanku Abdul Rahman ibni Almarhum Tuanku Muhammad (1895-1960) was elected as the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong of independent Malaya on August 31, 1957. His face has adorned all Ringgit Malaysia banknotes. One of the streets in Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, commemorates his name.
Historical & Political Development in Brief
The Minangkabau people from Sumatra settled in Negeri Sembilan in the 15th century under the protection of the Melaka Sultanate, and later the Johor Sultanate. As Johor weakened in the 18th century, attacks by the Bugis forced the settlers to seek protection from a prince of their homeland. This resulted in the proclamation of Raja Melewar by the Sultan of Johor as the first Yang Di-Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan (He Who is Highest Lord of the Nine States) in 1773.
Raja Melewar was instrumental in uniting the loosely confederated nine fiefdoms. His death however set off years of rivalry among the nine chieftains. In 1873, the British intervened in a civil war in Sungai Ujong and consequently reunited the fiefdoms and placed them under the control of a British resident in 1895. The British agreed that it would provide guidance on all matters of administration except those of Islam.
Negeri Sembilan became one of the Federated Malay States in 1896, joined the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and became a state of Malaysia in 1963. It endured Japanese occupation in World War II between 1941 and 1945. Jelebu, Kuala Pilah and Rembau witnessed some of the worst Sook Ching atrocities committed by Japanese troops against the local Chinese population. Over 1,400 villagers were killed in the 1942 Jelulung Massacre in Titi.
Negeri Sembilan now consists of six states. The former state of Naning was annexed by Melaka, Kelang by Selangor, and Segamat by Johor.
Today, the State is still not ruled by a sultan but by the Yang Di-Pertuan Besar. The present Yang di-Pertuan Besar, Tuanku Jaafar ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman, was elected in 1967. The state government has been the ruling coalition ,Barisan Nasional (BN).
The March 2008 election saw great slide in people's support for BN. For the first time the opposition gained stronger ground. Regardless, the state continues to be under the administration of the BN state government with marginal victory.
Islamisation & Religious Freedom
For political purposes, the Minangkabau people in Negeri Sembilan are regarded as Malay. According to historians, they share little in common in sociocultural aspect with the Malays in other States. Adat perpatih (custom) overrides agama (religion) in some areas of family law. The interesting mixture of matrilineal system and Islam also sees a steady increase in the number of women obtaining divorces without the husband's consent under the syariah provision.
Still, religious piety is on the rise among the Muslims. It has recently been reported that the State Mufti strongly supports the Chinese Muslim Community in setting up Islamic dakwah centre for new converts and non-Muslims (20 Oct).
Conversion is always a contentious matter, notably converting out of Islam.
The States Control and Restriction (the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Amongst Muslims) Enactment 1991 makes it an offence for non-Muslims to propagate non-Muslim doctrines or religions to Muslims.
The Section 48 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment 1992 states that declaring oneself to be a non-Muslim to avoid action taken is a punishable offence. He or she will be fined not more than RM5000 or imprisonment not more than 3 years or both.
Nyonya Tahir, a Malay woman converted to Buddhism, died early this year. The Negeri Sembilan Religious Affairs Department (JHEAINS) obtained a syariah court order to postpone her burial until the case was heard in syariah high court concerning her religion status. The court decision was in favour of the deceaseds family. The case was eventually cited as evidence of syariah courts ability to declare a persons religious status and also to safeguard the rights of non-Muslim. However, many think otherwise as the judge, in his judgment, quoted a Muslim scholar, saying that a person who had left the Muslim faith should be asked to repent three times and if he did not, he should be killed, his body cannot be bathed according to Muslim rites, prayers cannot be performed for him and he cannot be buried in a Muslim cemetery (The Star, 24 Jan).
In June, Dato Dr. Abdullah bin Md Zin, the Minister in the Prime Ministers Department in charge of religious affairs, seemed to implicate that a Muslim could leave Islam as long as the prescribed procedure was followed through. According to him, the Syariah Court could hear the application to leave Islam and make a declaration that the person has renounced the religion. This is evident in the Negeri Sembilan Islamic Religious Administration Enactment 2003. The above Nyonya Tahir case is an example. The enactment also carries provision on the procedure to convert out of Islam (S119). While this is gleefully accepted by some, many actually opine that the situation has deteriorated as compared to the past when one only needed to send notification to the Registrar of Mualafs to register his or her renunciation. They claim that the existing provision is ultra vires. Requiring an apostate to go to the syariah court is going beyond the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution. In short, it may seem more liberal but legislatively they have encroached into a domain that they dont have any business in, commented Zaid Kamaruddin, President of Jamaah Islah Malaysia (malaysiakini.com, 29 Jun).
Regardless, there are groups who are ferociously opposing apostasy, strongly believing in no exit in Islam. For example, a group named Gabung Anak Muda Negeri Sembilan expressed its opposition in a statement in August, calling for the largest Muslim gathering in Port Dickson.
Negeri Sembilan also reportedly houses a faith (Aqidah) rehabilitation centre. In 2002, it was revealed that hundreds of followers from "deviationist" groups were "rehabilitated" after undergoing "counselling" at the centre. In Aug 2005, the Chief Minister told the State Assembly that action had been taken against followers of at least nine deviant sects to ensure that they return to the right path (SUARAM Human Rights Report 2005). In 2006, the state's Religious Council issued a fatwa banning Rufaqa's teaching which was alleged to be deviationist in doctrine.
In 1996, three Muslim brothers were expelled from Sekolah Kebangsaan Felda Serting in Negeri Sembilan for refusing to take off their serban during classes. Their father filed a suit against the school and education ministry. The case finally reached the Federal Court and a judgement was announced in July 2006, that the suspension did not affect the students religious freedom because serban was not an integral part of Islam. While the decision continues to be applauded by those who advocate moderation, some perceive the ruling as watering down freedom of religion in the country, i.e. the right to practice and profess ones religion as well as the childs rights. The opposition PAS has also accused the judge of insulting Islam by saying that a Muslim boy need not wear a turban to prove his faith.
The freedom of worship by adherents of other faiths is respected by the State Government. However, there have been reports on the infringement of the rights to places of worship. In May, a 150-year-old Hindu temple in southern Negeri Sembilan was served a demolition notice for unlawful occupation. An injunction hearing at the High Court was fixed on 19 October.
Generally, at the civil level, the relationship among the different ethnic and religious groups has been harmonious. Many may not realize that the most severe racial clashes occurred in Negeri Sembilan and Kedah in 1967 leading to the unforgettable May 1969 racial riot.
As indicated by the Auditor-Generals Report 2005, a sum of RM9.94 million meant for the poor was misused by the State Government. It took out RM5.44 million from the special fund to purchase furniture for the administration offices of Seremban and Port Dickson district councils respectively. Another RM4.50 million was used to convert the State's official guest house into the Menteri Besar's residence (malaysiakini.com, 6 Sept).
After the general elections in March 2008, the MB was reported to have abolished the RM1,500 monthly allowance for the state assemblymen and that new state exco would drive used Proton Perdanas. "The money saved will be chanelled to the underprivileged in the state," he said (NST, 3 Apr 08).
Recently a former State Assemblyman lodged a report with the Anti-Corruption Agency against the MB for cronyism. The MB was also chided by the Opposition members for wasting public funds on decorative lamp posts in Seremban (NST, 30 Apr 08).
There may be social problem created by illegal foreign workers. It is recently reported that 380 foreign students enrolled in a college in Seremban are actually working illegally instead of attending classes (NST, 3 Nov).
Drug addiction continues to be a pressing issue, especially among the youth in Seremban, Tampin and Jempol.
According to the MB, there are currently 2,133 hardcore poor families. The state government has been given aid under the Social Safety Network, as well as providing training and support programmes to empower the poor (NST, 29 Apr 08). About 12,000 families are receiving welfare aid (10 Apr). The MB also said that every village would have a welfare officer.
Negeri Sembilan is mainly an agricultural State. However, the establishment of several industrial estates has enhanced the manufacturing sector as a major contributor towards the States economy.
The main industrial areas are Senawang, Sungai Gadut, Tuanku Jaafar Industrial Park, Nilai and Tanah Merah in Port Dickson.
There are supposedly 40 churches in Seremban and 12 in Port Dickson. The relationship among the church leaders has been strengthened through pastors fellowships. They meet on a consistent basis for accountability and prayer as well as sharing of needs.
Some challenges faced by the local churches are weak attendance, complacency and ageing church leaders. The rapid migration of young Christians to major cities, e.g. Kuala Lumpur, has drained some churches of their manpower.
1. State government: wisdom, integrity and corrupt-free, prioritize public interests, good stewardship of state funds, respect and uphold religious freedom
2. All government policies and development programmes to be administered justly, without favouritism or any discrimination.
3. Against the spirit of those who incite hatred, bigotry and intolerance.
4. Economic sufficiency especially for those involve in agriculture e.g. farming and fishing.
5. Economic development and employment opportunities to prevent brain-drain.
6. Effective rehabilitation programs and measures to combat drug abuse.
7. Youth: moral purity, respectful, sense of responsibility and sense of purpose.
o Unity, vision, fire for Jesus & passion for the lost.
o More dedicated leaders and committed full time workers.
o Leaders and pastors to receive strong support from families and members.
o Fruitful campus-outreaches, the foreign students in particular.
o Young Christian graduates will return and contribute to the wellbeing of both their local churches and the State.