Was Kuala Lumpur founded by Sutan Puasa?

Was Mandailing merchant, Sutan Puasa, the founder of Kuala Lumpur?

Was Kuala Lumpur founded by Mandailing merchant, Sutan Puasa? (NSTP file pic.)

The statement made by Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim in several intellectual discourses last year that “the founder of Kuala Lumpur was Sutan Puasa, from Mandailing”, had raised questions among the public since Malaysian history has stated that Yap Ah Loy, the third Kapitan China was the founder of the city.

However, a newly published book titled Sutan Puasa Founder of Kuala Lumpur authored by Abdur-Razzaq Lubis revealed new information about the city’s history.

Terry McGee, Professor Emeritus of Asian Research and Geography from University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, in his forward stated that the book “introduces a new interpretation of the early history of the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur and its hinterland.”

McGee, who had carried out a considerable research of Malays urbanisation both in Kuala Lumpur and the Malayan Peninsula in 1960s for his Ph.D, said the book which focused on the role played by Sutan Puasa in the early period of tin mining in Kuala Lumpur in mid-19th century, had “sparked” his interest on the subject.

“(Abdur Razzaq) Lubis provides convincing answers to two deceptively simple questions. First, who was the true founder of Kuala Lumpur? and second, are the existing historical accounts of the founding of Kuala Lumpur accurate?” he said.

McGee also said the author had carefully carried out research to provide information which formed the basis of reinterpretive history that all nations need and feeding into the debates about the in-between periods of Southeast Asian history before colonial rule created fixed boundaries.

He said the author also recognised that the idea of the Malay in the 19th century included not only riverine-based sultanates of the west coast, but also the migrant communities from Indonesia that were moving into the Malayan Peninsula.

Abdur Razzaq in his 615-page book, which includes old maps and pictures of Kuala Lumpur, started off with a chapter on “The Naming of Kuala Lumpur” which among others touched on Sungai Lumpur and Pangkalan Lumpur that had been used in old documents.

While in Chapter Two, he touched on several names that had been named founder of Kuala Lumpur by various personalities and writers, which include Yap Ah Loy, the first Kapitan China Hiu Siew, and Raja Abdullah, who was the territorial chief of Klang.

From Chapter Three onwards, he touched on the role of Sutan Puasa and the Mandailings in the early Kuala Lumpur.

The book, which has been one of the bestsellers at Books Kinokuniya over the past three weeks, will be launched by Malaysian Jazz Queen Datuk Sheila Majid, a family of Sutan Puasa, on April 7 at the Ilham Gallery, here.

Abdur Razzaq will be also be participating in a panel discussion with International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) Malaysia chairman and also the National Heritage Council chairman Datuk Dr Hajeedar Abdul Majid on the book at Galeri Petronas on April 8 at 10 am, in conjunction with the Art for All – Art Fair 2018 before proceeding to Books Kinokuniya for the “Meet the Author and Book Signing” session at 3pm. – Bernama

This article first appeared in the New Straits Times (1 April 2018)