Kedah, Darul Aman, ‘Abode of Peace’
Government Pakatan Rakyat (since March 2008)
Capital Alor Star (Royal Capital: Anak Bukit)
Sultan Tuanku Alhaj Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah
Chief Minister Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak
Statistics (Malaysia Statistics Dept., 2007)
Population 1,918,700 (est.): Malay 75.3%, Orang Asli 0.2%, Chinese 13.6%, Indian 6.7%, Others 1.75%, Non-citizens 2.45%
Religious breakdown (2000) Islam 76.9%, Buddhism 13.5%, Hinduism 6.5%, Taoism/Confucianism 2.0%, Christianity 0.8%, Others 0.2%, No Religion 0.1%
Incidence of Poverty (2004) 7.0% (Hardcore: 1.3%)
Kedah, the "rice bowl" of Malaysia, produces one third of total rice production in the country. Under the recently launched Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) project, padi estates will be set up and irrigation system will be improved to boost Kedah’s economic development. NCER is intended to eradicate hardcore poverty and to give the rural and farming community a higher standard of living.
History in Brief
Kedah has an extensive historical and archaeological park. Evidence of a Hindu-Buddhist period dating back to 300ad can be found in the temple sites of the Bujang Valley and Merbok Estuary. Other literary findings and ancient shards suggest the rapid expansion of Islam in the 15th century.
The Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa indicates that Kedah sultanate began with the 9th ruler, Phra Ong Mahawangsa, a Hindu raja, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Muzaffar Shah (1160 – 1179). Since then there have been 27 Sultans who ruled Kedah.
In 1818, forced by the Siamese, Kedah ‘reluctantly’ invaded Perak and forced the latter to send its Bunga Emas (tribute). Kedah’s subsequent rebellion cost the state its sovereignty and the sultan went into exile in Pulau Pinang. The pro-Siamese British government intervened only after severe criticism and strong protests. The long war (1829 – 38) between Kedah and Siam finally ended.
Sultan Hamid Halim Shah, who reigned Kedah for 61 years (1882-1943), is referred to as the “Father of Modern Kedah.” A forward-looking Sultan, he reformed the administration and successfully facilitated development in the region. When he fell seriously ill in 1896, his son took control of the government and subsequently led to financial crisis in the early 1900s. This drove Kedah to approach Siam for a loan with the condition of accepting an adviser.
When BangkokTreaty was signed in 1909, the suzerainty of Kedah was transferred to Britain. George Maxwell was appointed the 1st British Adviser. The state administration improved since. Despite, the Malay Council attained a reputation for independence. After an agreement in 1923, the British affirmed the Sultan’s power and the place of Malay as the official language.
During World War II, Kedah (along with Kelantan) was first to be invaded by Japan. Alor Star was captured on 12th Dec 1941. Japan returned Kedah to Siam in recognition of its cooperation during the invasion. The state was renamed Saiburi.
When the war ended, Kedah was given back to the British government who had to contend with the threats from Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) to take possession of Kedah towns and villages. Saberka (Syarikat Bekerjasama Am Saiburi), founded in 1944 and functioned publicly as co-operative society, took upon itself the responsibility of mobilizing the Malays in the face of the MPAJA threat. In April 1946, it openly donned its political garb in its campaigned against the Malayan Union. A new name was given to the acronym “Saberkas”: Sayang Akan Bangsa Ertinya Reda Korbankan Apa Segala (love for the nation means a willingness to sacrifice everything).
Meanwhile, the Malayan Communist Party (CPM) started to take control of some districts.
In the course of preparing for the independence talks with the British, the Alliance (UMNO-MCA-MIC) attempted to persuade the communists to lay down their arms. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the then Malaya’s Chief Minister, met with CPM leaders in Baling, in Dec1955. Although the attempt failed, CPM conceded saying that it would do so if “the Alliance government had self-determination in internal security and national defence.” This concession was reportedly given great publicity and “strengthened Tunku’s hand in the negotiations with the British in January, 1956.”
Kedah had never seen Opposition rule until now. The general elections in March 2008 saw Pakatan Rakyat (a coalition of PKR, DAP & PAS) took over the state government from Barisan Nasional with a simple majority. The new Chief Minister is Ustaz Azizan Abdul Razak, a member of PAS.
Tunku Abdul Rahman was one of 45 children of Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah of Kedah.
Kedah is also the home state of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister of Malaysia.
Islamization & Religious Freedom
Kedah was greatly affected by the culture of Hindu Majapahit. The linguistic traces remain. The “Kedah Annals” record how on conversion to Islam the Malays destroyed all the idols they were accustomed to worship, together with the idols handed down from their ancestors.
While the Administration of Muslim Law Enactment 1962 does not provide provision for converting out, the Syariah Criminal Code Enactment 1988 does not provide any punishment for apostasy either.
There were at least two applications for apostasy in Kedah. The first was simply an oral application. The other was a written application by Abdul Rahman Sigamani bin Abdullah (also known as Sigamani a/l Ramalingam), a convert who had renounced Islam and had not been practicing the religion. He made a deed poll and statutory declaration on 10 Aug 2002. An application for conversion out of Islam was sent to the Registrar of syariah court in Alor Setar on 18 August. Because there is no provision for Muslims to convert out of Islam in the state enactment, the matter was not brought forward. Sigamani’s attempt to officially renounce Islam and return to his original religion, Hinduism, encountered an impasse.
In the landmark case of Soon Singh v. PERKIM Kedah in 1999, the Federal Court affirmed the syariah court’s power to decide whether a person had converted out of Islam or not. It held that, although there is no stipulation on apostasy in the state enactment, there are expressed provisions giving syariah courts the jurisdiction to deal with conversion to Islam. Therefore, matters concerning apostasy “could be read as necessarily implied in and falling within the jurisdiction of the syariah courts.”
Generally, applications to renounce Islam are rejected on the grounds that there is no provision under the syariah laws to hear such applications.
In May 2006, the Ganggai Muthu Karumariaman temple in an estate in Kulim was torched.
In October, an elderly American couple was traumatised when the Islamic Religious Affairs officers stormed into their home one morning, accusing them of committing khalwat (close proximity).
At the UMNO general assembly, Kedah politician Datuk Badruddin Amiruldin warned against those who questioned the rights of Malays and religion. Waving a book on the May 13 race riots, he said the “hornets will strike and destroy the country” if their nest were disturbed (NST, 2006-10-3).
In December, Kedah joined three other states in issuing a fatwa (decree) to ban the activities of Rufaqa Corporation Sdn Bhd. Menteri Besar Dato' Seri Mahdzir Khalid said any effort to revive Al-Arqam (deemed Islamic deviant sect), including through Rufaqa Corp., would be illegal.
The impact of political conflicts between UMNO and PAS to “out-Islam” each other cannot be overlooked in this Malay heartland.
In 2006, Kedah recorded the highest number of missing children in the country, the 2nd highest number of drug addicts, and 3rd highest crime rate index for rape.
Poverty continues to be a harsh reality for many rural households. The ethnic Malays are, by and large, poorer than their urban counterparts in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
Kedah’s poor financial standing in state reserves has been a concern for many years. This may be the result of slipshod administration, ineffective management and the lack of good stewardship.
The Auditor-General’s Report 2005 indicates that RM40 million allocated between 2003 and 2005 were used, among others, to put up billboards on the premier and deputy premier’s visits, to buy pin labels for dignitaries as well as hats and clothes for the state assembly’s march, to pay for the carpets and ‘timber blinds’ in the menteri besar’s office, and filming equipment for ntv7 crews. These expenses were said to have occurred on the orders of the Menteri Besar.
Dato' Seri Mahdzir Khalid, the then Chief Minister, had vowed to make sure the “projects under the RM3.4 billion set aside for rural development programmes will be carried out promptly." In any case, the state’s fund management still leaves a lot to be desired.
Though a tiny community (less than 1% of the population), the Lord has this say: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Like the Apostle Paul, the Kedahan Church will rather boast in her infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon her (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- State governments and local councils: capable men and women of integrity, trustworthy and respect the rule of law, uphold religious freedom for all.
- Good governance; wise management & good stewardship of state funds for public interests.
- NCER project & poverty eradication:
- Effective strategies and measures;
- Efficient, just and transparent implementation;
- Commitment and effective partnership among the government, business sector and the NGOs in creating job opportunities and improving people’s living standard and quality of life.
- State government’ commitment in expanding an agricultural-based economy.
- Against the spirit of religious overzealousness and extremism.
- The people:
- Change of mindset and enlightenment of heart;
- Eyes to see, ears to hear and heart to receive the TRUTH.
- Church: spiritual revival; the strengthening of Christian faith; unity; and continue to be salt & light.