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If you ask a Malay who is the most famous Laksamana (Admiral) in Malay history, the first person who

held the title, Hang Tuah, would automatically be the answer. The second person would be Megat Seri
Rama, also known as Laksamana Bentan, who is infamous for committing the regicide of 1699.

Somewhere in between Hang Tuah and Megat Seri Rama lies the shadowy figure of Tun Abdul Jamil. A
Laksamana of the Old Johor Empire I, his role in Malay history remains unknown for most people. Yet his
story is closely linked to the empire that he served, and later controlled.

In 1597, Ali Jalla Abdul Jalil Shah II, the warking of the Old Johor Empire I died. He was succeeded by his
eldest son, who assumed the title Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah III. The de facto ruler of the empire was
his half brother, Raja Abdullah, better known as Raja Bongsu.

In 17th May 1606, the empire signed an agreement with the Dutch Admiral Cornelis Matelieff. Soon
afterwards, the Dutch fleet, aided by men of the empire, attacked Portuguese Malacca. The Dutch
blockaded Malacca by sea, while the empire by land. The Viceroy of Portuguese Goa (in India) sent a
fleet to relieve the garrison. The relief Portuguese fleet clashed with the Dutch fleet and was defeated
by the latter. However, due to the approaching monsoon season, the Dutch fleet had to abandon the
siege. With the loss of the naval blockade, the empire’s men were forced to abandon the land siege.

With the rise of Aceh, the empire was forced to make peace with Portuguese. Aceh, displeased with the
empire making peace with the Portuguese, attacked twice, in 1613 and in 1615. Alauddin Riayat Shah III
was captured both times and after the second time he was captured, he died in Aceh. The Acehnese
made Raja Bongsu the successor king. He took the title of Sultan Abdullah Ma’ayat Shah and tried to rule
the empire free from Acehnese influence. The Acehnese were having of that nonsense and pursued him
from island to island, making Abdullah Ma’ayat Shah a wandering king. Abdullah Ma’ayat Shah died in
the furthermost land of the empire from Aceh, the Tambelan Islands, in March 1623.

During the first attack of the Acehnese in 1613, the Bendahara (Prime Minister) Tun Seri Lanang was
captured as well. Tun Seri Lanang never did returned to the empire, and died in Acehnese lands in 1659.

With the Bendahara absent, the most powerful man, second only to the Sultan, by default therefore falls
onto the next ranking Officer of the Court, which is the Laksamana, who is Tun Abdul Jamil.

With the death of Abdullah Ma’ayat Shah, his nephew Raja Bujang, son of Alauddin Riayat Shah III, was
enthroned as Sultan Abdul Jalil Shah III. It was Tun Abdul Jamil who had set the condition that Raja
Bujang could ascend to the throne, provided that upon his death, the throne reverts to the 2-year old
son of Abdullah Ma’ayat Shah, who is known as Raja Bajau.

In 1637, Abdul Jalil Shah III and Tun Abdul Jamil began negotiations with the Dutch based at Batavia
(now known as Jakarta) to seek an alliance with them against the Portuguese. The driving force behind
the proposed alliance from the empire’s side is Tun Abdul Jamil, who is described by a Dutch envoy as
“always been an instrument against the Portuguese and a true friend of Holland”.

From the Portuguese side, a letter from Goa, India, to the captain of Malacca dated April 1640,
emphasised the importance of recovering the goodwill of Abdul Jalil Shah III, as “because our differences
with the Malays have not originated from them, but from the Laksamana (Tun Abdul Jamil), who wanted
to stand up against our Government.”
It is to be noted that Tun Abdul Jamil took considerable personal risk in pressing for an alliance with the
Dutch, because it seems to have incurred some criticisms from the orangkayas (noblemen) of the
empire, who prefers the empire to remain friendly with the Portuguese.

In October/November 1638, Aceh attacked Pahang, then ruled personally by Abdul Jalil Shah III, and
overrun it. Abdul Jalil Shah III was forced to flee to Patani, a northern Malay kingdom. Tun Abdul Jamil,
gathered the empire’s military forces and seek battle with the Acehnese fleet in August/September
1639, mauling them hard, forcing the Acehnese fleet to retreat back to Aceh in September 1639. But the
Acehnese land forces still hold Pahang until mid-1642.

On 16th September 1639, Tun Abdul Jamils’s envoys reached the Dutch in Batavia, bringing assurances
of the empire’s assistance in taking Portuguese Malacca, provided the Dutch stay neutral in the Johor
empire-Aceh war.

Aceh also sent envoys to the Dutch, appealing for naval support against the empire. The Dutch, wanting
the empire’s immediate military support against Portuguese Malacca, promised Tun Abdul Jamil’s
envoys that the Dutch would never allow Aceh to attack the empire again. The Dutch also promised the
Acehnese envoys that diplomatic mediations would be held to safeguard Acehnese interests in Pahang
after Portuguese Malacca has been taken, thus ensuring in practice that no Acehnese attack will be
made on the empire. This is an example of Dutch Janus-like diplomacy in Southeast Asia.

Tun Abdul Jamil gave immediate proof of his good faith by joining his forces off Karimon Islands in
October 1639, with the Dutch blockade squadron under Philip Lucasz, who signed a formal agreement to
attack Portuguese Malacca with Tun Abdul Jamil. Envoys from the empire came to Batavia in March
1640 to confirm the anti-Portuguese alliance.

In early August 1640, the empire sent out 40 war vessels and 1500 soldiers, led by two co-commanders,
who represented Tun Abdul Jamil on the ground, to aid the Dutch in their onslaught against Portuguese
Malacca. The Dutch and the empire laid siege on Malacca until the Portuguese was forced to surrender
in 14th January 1641. The Dutch would not be able to maintain an effective siege of Malacca without
the aid of the empire, ably led by Tun Abdul Jamil.

However after the capture of Malacca, the Dutch gave the empire only about 50 small cannons and
swivel guns, together with some presents for the principal officers . The limited amount of loot the
empire received from the Dutch after the capture of Malacca again exposed Tun Abdul Jamil to
criticisms from the orangkayas who had opposed his pro-Dutch policy.

During the siege of Portuguese Malacca, Tun Abdul Jamil had moved his base from Bentan Island to
Makam Tauhid, opposite the old ruined city of Batu Sawar, to prepare a new capital city for Abdul Jalil
Shah III. With the capture of Malacca by the Dutch, aided by the empire’s forces, the empire can now
use the Dutch as a buffer from which to recover its fortunes. The enhanced prestige of the Dutch
enabled them to impose peace between the empire and Aceh. The peace imposed by the Dutch
prevents Aceh from reasserting its authority in Pahang, to the benefit of the empire. This new sense of
security for the empire is to be credited to the far-sighted Tun Abdul Jamil, who showed shrewdness in
allying himself and the empire with the rising power of the Dutch. Had the empire remained allied to the
Portuguese, it would be at a losing side when the Portuguese Malacca fell. The Dutch ally would then be
Aceh, and the Dutch would not felt obliged to prevent an Acehnese reconquest of the empire.

In a letter to Anthony van Diemen, the Dutch Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies in August 1641,
Tun Abdul Jamil listed down a list of grievances the empire and he had after the capture of Portuguese
Malacca. In addition to the meager booty, Tun Abdul Jamil had received “not a thing” for his adherence
to the Dutch alliance; and that presents sent to Abdul Jalil Shah III by the Dutch were less expensive than
those they had received from him. These are not the complaints of a greedy man, but that of a minister
to demonstrate conclusively the advantages of his alliance with the Dutch at the empire’s court.

During his sojourn in Patani, Abdul Jalil Shah III had married the Queen Regnant of Patani. In November
1641, he returned to the new capital city of the empire that had been prepared by Tun Abdul Jamil,
which is called Makam Tauhid. The Dutch in Malacca had heard rumours that Abdul Jalil Shah III is
preparing to dismiss Tun Abdul Jamil because of the criticisms by other orangkayas of his alliance with
the Dutch.

In a letter to the governor of Dutch Malacca, Abdul Jalil Shah III gently rebuked him for listening to
rumours, “because the Laksamana (Tun Abdul Jamil) is a good and excellent man, of great intellect, and
has always done me excellent service, and still does so daily”.

By September 1642, after an outbreak of fever, which apparently killed a minister and left Tun Abdul
Jamil and many other orangkayas sick, Abdul Jalil Shah III forsook Makam Tauhid for the old site at Batu
Sawar, which remained the capital city of the empire until 1673.

Capture of Portuguese Malacca had raised Tun Abdul Jamil’s influence and profile in the empire,
enabling him to sideline three different Bendaharas who were the successors of Tun Seri Lanang:

1) Tun Anum, Bendahara Seri Maharaja

2) Tun Mat Ali, Bendahara Paduka Tuan

3) Tun Rantau, Bendahara Seri Maharaja. He was captured by the Jambi forces.

Tungkal is a coastal land located in eastern coast of the Sumatran and on the border of the Malay
kingdom of Jambi facing the Straits of Melaka. Tungkal has a superb harbour which attracts trading
vessels of all kinds from all over Malay Archipelago carrying items such as pepper, rhino horn, centipede
pearl, dammar gum, gold and other items of value. He who controls Tungkal will therefore control a
sizeable trade in eastern Sumatra in 17th century.
Map of the empire, Tungkal and Jambi

Tungkal became a source of rivalry between the empire and Jambi. Tungkal came under the empire’s
control near to end of the 16th century. During the empire’s misfortune in her wars against Aceh, Jambi
took the opportunity to take over Tungkal.

After Aceh was heavily defeated in Portuguese Malacca in 1629, in March 1630 the empire demanded
that Jambi returned Tungkal back to them, but the demand was ignored. In 1655, the empire managed
to incite Tungkal to break free from Jambi and return to the empire’s control.

In 1659, to restore the peace between the empire and Jambi, it is decided that the empire’s crown
prince (Raja Bajau) will marry a princess of Jambi. Worried that Raja Bajau would make use of Jambi to
seize the empire’s throne for himself, Abdul Jalil Shah III begins to have second thoughts about the
wedding.

Raja Bajau returned to the empire after his wedding in September 1660, promising to fetch his wife
‘after their future house’s construction has been completed’. In 1663 Abdul Jalil Shah III then informed
Jambi that Raja Bajau’s wife cannot come to the empire due to security reasons. At the same time, Raja
Bajau became engaged to another woman. Because of this, the king of Jambi was furious with the
empire for humiliating his daughter and his kingdom.

War then erupted between Jambi and the empire. In May 1667, aided by another Sumatran Malay
kingdom of Palembang, the empire attacked the town of Kuala Jambi with 7 ships and burned the town.
Tun Abdul Jamil leading a fleet of 50 warships, harried the Jambi coast. Bugis mercenaries led by Daeng
Mangika also took up service with the empire and attacked Jambi.

Matters dragged on until early 1673. The Dutch, concerned about disruptions to trade by the war,
offered to mediate between the two. But no progress was made in the peace discussions. Therefore
Jambi, aided by the Dutch and also the Bugis mercenaries led by Daeng Mangika (who switched sides),
sent a fleet to attack the empire’s capital city of Batu Sawar in April 1673. The raid was successful. Jambi
managed to capture and sacked Batu Sawar and its treasures. Abdul Jalil Shah III was forced to flee to
Pahang and the Bendahara Tun Rantau was captured by the Jambi forces. Tungkal was also occupied by
Jambi.

With Abdul Jalil Shah III away at Pahang (he died there on 22nd November 1677) and the Bendahara Tun
Rantau captured by Jambi forces, Tun Abdul Jamil by default became the leading general to lead the
empire at war against Jambi. In 1677, with the empire again aided by Palembang and again employing
the Bugis mercenaries of Daeng Mangika (who switched sides once more), the war continued, for two
more years until 1679 before Jambi surrendered in defeat.

It was Tun Abdul Jamil’s finest hour. He managed to avenge the empire’s great defeat in 1673 and
brought low the power of Jambi. In recognition of his service for successfully defeating Jambi and
restoring the empire’s honour, the Sultan, Ibrahim Shah (son of Raja Bajau), who ascended the throne of
the empire in 1677, granted Tun Abdul Jamil the title ‘Paduka Raja’, which previously was only used by
the Bendaharas. Ibrahim Shah also appointed Tun Habib Abdul Majid to fill in the vacant post of
Bendahara in 1677.

In 1678, Tun Abdul Jamil persuaded Ibrahim Shah to move the empire’s seat of power from Pahang to
Riau, in the island of Bentan, south of Singapore. Heavy international trade soon occurred in Riau,
bringing great riches and prosperity to the empire. This aroused the jealousy of the Dutch, who sent a
mission to Riau in 1685 to negotiate a treaty. As the senior ranking officer of the empire and the de
facto ruler, it was Tun Abdul Jamil who negotiated on the empire’s behalf. Secure in his position and
power, he respectfully refused to make any concession to the Dutch.

He did however, signed a treaty of friendship with the Dutch. Two versions of the treaty was drawn up;
one in Malay, the one in which Tun Abdul Jamil actually agreed upon, and another in Dutch, which
incorporated many commercial concessions not found in the Malay version. Tun Abdul Jamil
immediately repudiated the Dutch version of the treaty once he knew about it. The Dutch, which at that
time were heavily involved in the war in Java, and wishing to keep peace with the empire, did not
attempt to force the issue any further.

Experienced statesman that he is, Tun Abdul Jamil also managed to sideline Tun Habib Abdul Majid in
the day-to-day administration of the empire. He also managed to wed his daughter to Ibrahim Shah to
be the latter’s third wife.

Ibrahim Shah moved to Johor Lama city in 1682, which is where Habib Abdul Majid and his men chose to
reside to avoid being under Tun Abdul Jamil’s sphere of influence in Riau. It is said that Tun Abdul Jamil
no longer concerned himself to observe his duty to the Sultan. He appointed his sons to important posts
of the empire, such as Laksamana (to replace himself), Temenggung (to replace the one he ordered to
be killed in 1678 for going to Siam without his knowledge and approval), Seri Bija Diraja, Seri Amar Diraja
and Seri Perdana Menteri. Because of this and his arrogance in dealing with other noblemen, Tun Abdul
Jamil soon grew to be disliked and hated by many.
Tun Abdul Jamil soon brought Ibrahim Shah back to Riau. In 1685, Ibrahim Shah died, rumoured to be
poisoned by his three wives, one of them whom was Tun Abdul Jamil’s daughter. His son ascended to
the throne as Sultan Mahmud Shah II at the age of 10 years old.

The Bendahara, Tun Habib Abdul Majid, led a palace revolt against Tun Abdul Jamil in 1688. He managed
to gain possession of the boy Sultan. The military force of the empire, the Orang Laut (Sea People)
flocked to Tun Habib Abdul Majid’s banner after knowing that the Mahmud Shah II is with him, leaving
Tun Abdul Jamil powerless militarily.

This forced Tun Abdul Jamil and his family (a total of around 30 of them) to retreat from Riau to all the
way up north to Trengganu using five lancing (a type of warship) ships. Tun Habib Abdul Majid and his
men pursued Tun Abdul Jamil and his family using twenty two-masted lancing ships, thirteen one-
masted lancing ships, forty banting (a type of trading ship) ships and some other type of prahus.

At the coast of Trengganu (Pulau Rakit), there occurred a running naval battle. Tun Abdul Jamil’s
remaining three ships were soon out of ammunition, and his ships were forced to fire Spanish Real silver
coins (the accepted international currency at that time) as substitute. Using this method, Tun Abdul
Jamil ships managed to evade Tun Habib Abdul Majid’s ships for a few more days. But soon, Tun Abdul
Jamil and his family were forced to land and seek protection in the inland forest.

Tun Habib Abdul Majid and his men continued to pursue Tun Abdul Jamil and his family in the forest.
They managed to capture Tun Abdul Jamil ten days later. As a mark of insult to Tun Abdul Jamil, Tun
Habib Abdul Majid ordered a disabled slave to execute Tun Abdul Jamil by stabbing him with a kris. Thus
ends the life of the most powerful and influential Laksamana in Malay history.

Based on this event, the song ‘Sayang Laksamana Mati Dibunuh’ (Such a pity, the Admiral was killed)
was composed.

Despite his inglorious end, Tun Abdul Jamil deserves to be remembered for achieving the ultimate goal
of every Laksamana since Hang Nadim and every Sultan since Mahmud I of Malay Melaka – to wrest the
city of Malacca from Portuguese control.

He is also to be credited for holding the empire together during the trying years of 1615-1629 and he did
managed to subdue Jambi after humiliation of the sack of the Batu Sawar (the empire’s capital city) in
1673, restoring the empire’s reputation and honour in the region. As a statesman, he dealt with the
Dutch as equals, always striving the preserve the empire’s rights under the treaties signed while
diplomatically avoiding war. The Dutch treated Tun Abdul Jamil, whom they addressed as ‘Orang Kaya
Laksamana’ at first and later as ‘Paduka Raja’, with due circumspection , but recognised that the empire
under Tun Abdul Jamil leadership shared their need to keep the Straits of Melaka peaceful and open to
international shipping. For better or for worse, the history of the empire would not be complete without
the presence of the heroic but flawed Laksamana Paduka Raja Tun Abdul Jamil.

---- Anderiguru Bugis---


Note:

Old Johore I Empire was ruled by Sultans from the line of the Sultans of Melakan Empire. It ended after
the last scion of the bloodline was assassinated in 1699.
Old Johore II Kingdom was ruled by Sultans from the line of the Bendahara Abdul Jalil, who took the
throne after the regicide of 1699. The existence of the position of the Yamtuan Muda (Viceroy), which
was reserved for the Bugis alone, marked the difference between this Kingdom and the Empire
previously.

None of the above two are in any way directly related to the modern Malaysian state of Johor.

Picture credit: Mohd Agg (Ageg77)

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