by Eric Lim
I woke up this morning to the news that Barisan Nasional had scored a landslide victory in the Melaka 15th state election. They had captured 21 seats out of the 28 seats that they had contested. So, I thought it was timely to visit Taboh Naning, a state constituency located in the northern part of Melaka, bordering Negeri Sembilan. Tampin is just 11 km away via Federal Route 19 (Jalan Kampung Taboh-Kampung Ulu Kendong) and Federal Route 1 (Jalan Seremban-Tampin) while the state capital is 37 km south via Lebuh AMJ (Alor Gajah-Sentral Melaka-Jasin Highway) a.k.a Federal Route 19. This constituency covers a large area and it includes the following mukim (sub-districts): Taboh Naning, Brisu, Sungai Buloh, Melekek and Ayer Paabas. And, Taboh Naning is within the municipal borders of Alor Gajah.
Naning has existed since the time of the Melaka Sultanate and it was under kingdom’s suzerainty. Taboh was one of the main settlements in the state. When Melaka fell to foreign powers, Naning was protected by the Sultanate of Johor. Later, when Raja Melewar became the first Yamtuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan in 1773, Naning was one of the original nine states of this loose confederacy. However, due to its position as the most southerly district and its close proximity to Melaka, Naning was disunited from the other states in Negeri Sembilan during the long and distinct period of the Portuguese, Dutch and finally, the British in Melaka.
Immediately after the capture of Melaka by the Portuguese in 1511, Alfonso De Albuquerque sent an expedition into Naning as part of their mapping exercise to determine the circumference of Melaka; Naning was made an integral part of the Melaka’s territory. Alfonso de Albuquerque then left for Goa where he later became the Viceroy. Though obligated to the Portuguese during its long reign, Naning retained its independence and territorial integrity until the arrival of another foreign power to Melaka.
By the start of the 17th century CE, the Dutch were already making their presence felt in the region and ready to challenge the Portuguese for control of the spice trade. In 1606, the Dutch under a corporation that was formed in 1602 named Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC) and the Johor Sultanate concluded an alliance against the Portuguese and immediately after, the VOC fought the Portuguese in a naval battle at Cape Rachado (today Tanjung Tuan). However, it took the VOC another thirty-five years to break the dominance. On 14 January 1641, VOC together with the Sultanate of Johor and a new ally, the Achenese, took control of the fortress of Melaka.
Unlike the Portuguese, the Dutch did not send an expedition to Naning in the year they conquered Melaka. It was two years later, in 1643 that the Dutch invaded Naning and as a follow up action, Naning had to render tribute of one tenth of its produce to the Dutch. However, it was never enforced as the state was small and poor, and furthermore, it was not cost effective to do so. In 1701, Johor relinquished Naning to the Dutch following the conclusion of the Treaty of Protection. During the 18th century CE, the Dutch were enjoying a monopoly of the tin trade in the peninsula. Then, in 1765, the Dutch reduced the tenth to a yearly nominal tribute of 400 gantang of paddy, equivalent to 1/1000 of its total crop produce. Still, the Dutch allowed Naning self-rule.
Moving forward to 1795, the French Republican armies were emerging as the new power in Europe. The Dutch was a refugee in England and while there, signed the Kew Letters, which gave Britain the right to protect Dutch possessions in the East, which included Melaka. British troops under Major Brown landed in Melaka and duly took possession of the fort from the Dutch. The British would take custody of Melaka while the war in Europe lasted, and return it to the Netherlands after the war ended.
Prior to the takeover, Melaka was facing a period of declining trade and revenue. In 1801, Naning saw a change in leadership when a 26-year old Abdul Said Bin Omar (Dol Said in short) was chosen as the new Penghulu Naning and the appointment was confirmed by the British authorities in Melaka. Both parties then inked a treaty where the British will receive one tenth of Naning’s total crop produce, similar to the Dutch treaty of 1643. This treaty was regarded by the British as proof that Naning was part of Melaka. The following year, the Treaty of Amiens ended the war in Europe and this provided for the return of Melaka to the Dutch but the resumption of war in May 1803 forestalled any British withdrawal. Dutch finally returned to Melaka in 1818 following the restitution of possessions to the Dutch by the Treaty of Vienna. The Dutch return lasted only six years. On 17 March 1824, Britain and Netherlands signed the Anglo Dutch Treaty in London, which put an end to the long period of territorial and trade disputes between the two nations in Southeast Asia. Melaka was ceded to the British and, in return, the Dutch took possession of Benkulen (Bencoolen) in Sumatra.
In 1826, the East India Company united the settlements of Penang, Melaka and Singapore into an administrative unit called Presidency of the Straits Settlements. Robert Fullerton, who was the Governor of Penang (1824-1827), was made the First Governor of Straits Settlements (1826-1829). He assumed that Naning was part of Melaka and hence subject to its land laws, judicial system and the delivery of the tribute of produce. Dol Said resisted and demanded the recognition of Naning’s autonomous status. However, Fullerton’s demands were kept on hold as it was met with counteractions from the other British officials until the final approval came from the Director in London in 1830. By this time, Fullerton had returned to Europe and he was succeeded by Robert Ibbetson (1830-1833). Ibbetson received fresh approval the following year to take action and the stage was set for an invasion of Naning.
Proclamation for the arrest of Dol Said and his supporters, written in Jawi and romanized Malay. Photo source : Buku Naning in Melaka – Jonathan Cave | PDF
In July 1831, the British moved in with a force of 150 sepoys and 2 six-pounders drawn by bullocks, led by Captain Wyllie. Dol Said managed to fend off the attack with help from the neighbouring Malay states of Rembau, Sri Menanti, Sungai Ujong, Johol and Muar. These states feared that after the capture of Naning, the British would levy the same tax on them. Furthermore, the Malays were notably better trained for jungle warfare than the British were. Prior to the second attack, the British signed a treaty with Rembau on 30 November 1831, which marked the accession of Rembau to the British side in the Naning War. This was closely followed by another treaty on 28 January 1832 signed at Simpang. And as a final push, on 9 February 1832, the British issued a proclamation for the arrest of Dol Said and four of his supporters; the reward was $1,000 and $200 per supporter respectively. These manoeuvres duly changed the cause of the war. The second attack, started in March 1832, was led by Colonel Herbertwith far more superior weaponry. This was coupled with the arrival of Syed Syaaban, the son in law of Raja Ali of Rembau, with a force of Malays to help the British capture the stockades. On 16 June 1832, Taboh was captured and it effectively ended the conflict.
(L) Camp near Alor Gajah in March 1832 (R) Attack upon the first line at Taboh in 1832.Photo source : Buku Naning in Melaka – Jonathan Cave | PDF
Dol Said managed to escape to Sri Menanti. Two years later, Dol Said surrendered on the promise of pardon. He was given a house, a pension and liberty to live freely in Melaka. He became a farmer, trader and a doctor/healer. He died in 1849. After the war, Naning was offered to Raja Ali but he turned it down. For his service to the British, Syed Syaaban was rewarded with a site for a house in Melaka town and given a pension. It proved to be an expensive and unprofitable venture for the British – they spent 100,000 British pounds to secure the paltry annual revenue of $100! This costly lesson discouraged British expansion in Malaya for the next four decades until the start of a new period with the signing of the Treaty of Pangkor in 1874.
Places of Interest
The most convenient and popular local landmark of Taboh Naning is Dato Dol Said Mosque Taboh Naning  (top photo) which is located near the Simpang Ampat toll plaza, along Lebuh AMJ toward Federal Route 1 intersection to Seremban-Tampin. The mosque was built in 1955 with public funds and was inaugurated by the 18th Penghulu/Dato Naning, Dato Mohamed Shah Mohamed Said. The significance of this mosque is the tomb of Dol Said, which is sited at the cemetery behind the mosque. He was believed buried near the graves of earlier Penghulu/Dato Naning and the site was a rice field. (Note: A smaller mosque goes by the name of Masjid Taboh Naning at Kampung Cherana Putih)
Located further along this highway, just before reaching Kampung Cherana Putih, is the Datuk Tua Megalith  site. The Alor Gajah district is the major megalithic site in Melaka and there are more than 100 of these ancient stones or ‘batu hidup’ to the locals, which can be found in this district.
Coming to something more modern, located at Kampung Cherana Putih is the Cherana Putih Hot Spring . It is actually a hot spring-cum-waterpark and a smaller version of the Toji Waterpark in Japan. In 2019, the park went through some repair works and as a result, it is one of the cleanest hot springs in the state. Admission fee is RM 6.50 for adults and RM 5.00 for children.
On the other end of Lebuh AMJ, heading just past the Simpang Ampat police station is the Naning Heritage and History Museum / Muzium Peradaban dan Warisan Naning . The museum is housed in the former Official Residency and Hall for Penghulu Naning, which was constructed in 1951. It was first used by the 18th Penghulu/Dato Naning, Dato Mohamed Shah Mohamed Said in 1953 until his death on 13 June 2004. Perbadanan Muzium Melaka took over the building on 9 April 2015 and soon after started conservation work. It was completed on 30 June 2015 and it is established as the museum today.
Further south from Simpang Ampat on Lebuh AMJ is the town of Alor Gajah. There are sites here that are closely linked to the Naning War. Found within the compound of Sekolah Kebangsaan Alor Gajah 1 and just beside the school canteen is a fenced enclosure containing three tombstones. The one in the centre is the grave of Ensign George Holford Walker who was killed in an attack on a stockyard on 3 May 1832 (second expedition of the Naning War). He was just 18 years old. The other two are graves of his horse and dog, which stood loyally beside his dead body until they too died of thirst and grief.
The school is located in the centre of the town, next to the Dataran Keris. Also within the vicinity is the Muzium Adatistiadat Alor Gajah / Tradition & Custom Museum. Dol Said is well remembered for his anti-colonial stance and in commemoration, there is a street in Alor Gajah named Jalan Dato Dol Said, as well as a school, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Dato Dol Said.
Moving on to the capital city of Melaka – located at the foot of St. Paul’s Hill is the Dutch Graveyard. This site was used in two stages, during the Dutch era from 1670 to 1682 when it was known as St. Anthony’s Kerkhof (graveyard), and the British era from 1818 to 1838. Two casualties of the Naning War are buried here, namely Lieutenant James White who was killed on 20 August 1831 and Lieutenant E.V Harding, killed on 29 March 1832. Both were in their mid-twenties when they died. Their grave is the only one marked with an obelisk.
From Kuala Lumpur city centre, use the North South Highway (E2 South) and exit at Exit 227 Simpang Ampat. After the toll plaza, turn right to join Lebuh AMJ (Alor Gajah-Sentral Melaka-Jasin Highway) a.k.a Federal Route 19 to Taboh Naning. Dato Dol Said Mosque Taboh Naning is not too far from this junction (see the map above).
The Malayan Peninsula embracing its history, manners and customs of the inhabitants, politics, natural history, etc. from its earliest records : Begbie, Peter James : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
In this Series
Please click HERE for a list of articles in the ‘A Very Rough Guide’ series.