Tales from the Malay Annals: The Wisdom of Tun Perak

by Alvin Chua

One of Melaka’s most formidable foes was the Kingdom of Siam, now known as Thailand, whose power reached as far south as the Malay Archipelago. All the kingdoms of the region, with the exception of Melaka, acknowledged Siam as their overlord and paid tribute to the Siamese king.

When Bubunnya, the King of Siam, learned that the Melakans had not accepted Siamese suzerainty, he demanded a letter of obeisance from them. At that time, the ruler of Melaka was Sultan Muzaffar Shah. He rejected Bubunnya’s demand. When the Siamese king heard of the Sultan’s refusal to submit, he was furious and ordered his army to prepare for war. The Siamese army, which was placed under the command of Awi Chakra, marched down the Malay Peninsula until they arrived in Pahang.

Frontispiece of a Jawi edition of the Malay Annals. Image: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

When Sultan Muzaffar Shah received news of the impending Siamese invasion, he assembled an army by ordering his vassals to bring their soldiers to Melaka. One of the vassals who responded to the sultan’s order was Tun Perak, a chieftain from Klang, Selangor. Unlike the rest of the Sultan’s vassals, Tun Perak brought not only his warriors, but also their wives and children. The men of Klang saw this as an inconvenience and complained about it during their audience with the Sultan.

Sultan Muzaffar Shah was intrigued by what he had heard so decided to get to the bottom of the matter. He summoned one of his heralds, Sri Imarat, who was originally from Pasai, northern Sumatra. Thanks to his wit and eloquence, he had been appointed as a herald at the court of Melaka. Sri Imarat was instructed by the Sultan to question Tun Perak about this issue when he came to present himself. A stool was then placed below the Sultan’s knees, Sri Imarat’s usual spot. When he sat on this stool, the herald carried the Sword of State and delivered the Sultan’s messages.

Once Sri Imarat had taken his seat, Tun Perak entered the court and presented himself to Sultan Muzaffar Shah. The herald addressed the chieftain, “Tun Perak, your men have complained thus to the Sultan: all the other vassals of the Sultan have brought only their warriors to Melaka, whilst we were commanded by our chief to bring our wives and children. Tun Perak, what is your explanation for this?” Tun Perak made no reply, so Sri Imarat repeated his question. Tun Perak maintained his silence.

An artists depiction of Tun Perak; photo taken at the Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum. Image credit: Orhanghazi (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Sri Imarat questioned Tun Perak a third time, and only then did he respond, “Hey Imarat! Take good care of yourself and of the Sword of State that you bear. Let not its blade rust, nor its tip lose its sharpness. What do you know about the work of us fighting men? His Majesty resides here in Melaka with his wives, his children, and all his belongings. Do you think it would be right for a vassal to bring only his warriors to defend the city? Should anything happen to Melaka, what would it matter to us? That is why I instructed my men to bring along their wives and children, so that they would fight the Siamese to the utmost. Even if they lose their resolve to do battle for the Sultan, they will continue fighting in order to protect their families.”

Sultan Muzaffar Shah was impressed by Tun Perak’s wisdom and approved of his answer. As a reward, the Sultan gave Tun Perak some betel leaves from his own betel box. The Sultan also remarked that Tun Perak should not stay in Klang anymore but move to Melaka so that his services may be put to better use.

Eventually, the Siamese army arrived, and a great battle ensued. The battle lasted for a long time and many Siamese soldiers were killed. The invaders, however, failed to capture Melaka and were forced to retreat.

When the war was over, all the vassals of the Sultan returned to their homes. The Sultan, however, did not allow Tun Perak to return to Klang, but kept him in Melaka. As one might expect, the Siamese were not at all pleased with their defeat, and planned another attack on Melaka. That, however, is another story for another time…!

In this series

The Sultan Who Went Undercover

A Brief Introduction

Reference

Cheah, B. K. (comp.), Abdul Rahman, Hj. Ismail (transcr.). 2009. Sejarah Melayu. Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Author: Museum Volunteers, JMM

Museum Volunteers, JMM Taking the Mystery out of History

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