Johor Sultan revives historical ‘Mejar Cina’ title, confers it on community leader in state

Sultan Ibrahim awarded the 'Mejar Cina' title to oil palm estate manager David Wong Khong Soon effective today. — Picture courtesy of Johor Royal Press Office
Sultan Ibrahim awarded the 'Mejar Cina' title to oil palm estate manager David Wong Khong Soon effective today. — Picture courtesy of Johor Royal Press Office

JOHOR BARU, Sept 1 ― Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar has revived the royal title of Mejar Cina (Chinese Major) the late Sultan Abu Bakar had bestowed to leaders of the state’s Chinese community in the 19th century.

Sultan Ibrahim also awarded the title to oil palm estate manager David Wong Khong Soon effective today.

The restoration of the title was part of the sultan’s decree for a continuity of Johor’s modern history.

In a statement, the Johor palace said Wong will carry out his duties and work with Yayasan Sultan Ibrahim and other Johor royal foundations, district officials, elected representatives, village heads and community leaders in distributing food aid to the Chinese community.

“In carrying out that task, Mejar Cina Wong Khong Soon is not considered a representative of the Ruler.

“He is not provided with any power, rights, remuneration, facilities or privileges," read the statement that was signed by the Johor Royal Council president Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim Ramli.

Wong is a descendant of Wong Ah Fook, a prominent Chinese community leader and chief government contractor who built some of the most recognisable heritage buildings in Johor.

In 1840, Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim allowed his followers of Chinese descent to move to Johor from Singapore, and placed them in a settlement called kangkar or river port by the Tebrau River.

By 1870, there were 29 such kangkar in Johor.

Abdul Rahim said the Chinese community then were allowed to conduct activities such as agriculture and raising livestock as well as practice their religion, culture and traditions without interference.

He said the Temenggong also appointed a Kangcu (translated as river master) among them, to manage the people’s welfare within the community.

“The outstanding ones among the Kangcu would then be appointed as the Kapitan Cina and Mejar Cina.

“Among their duties included acting as the mediator between the Ruler and the community, to ensure that the community’s needs were met and also to shape and strengthen unity with the society as a whole,” explained Abdul Rahim in the statement.

Abdul Rahim said when Maharaja Abu Bakar took over as Johor’s Ruler, he invited even more Chinese and those from Indonesia, India and other Malay states to settle down here and develop the state.

“As a way of expressing their gratitude to the Temenggong and Maharaja Abu Bakar, the Chinese community built a Chinese Hall in the Istana Besar grounds in 1873, which served as a venue for important state affairs and meetings.

“Maharaja Abu Bakar also appointed prominent leaders such as Kangkar Tebrau Kangcu Tan Hiok Nee as Mejar Cina and Skudai Kangcu Seah Tai Heng as Kapitan Cina.

“Both were also made state assemblymen to represent the Chinese community,” said Abdul Rahim.

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