[Note: I wrote the following article for last Sunday's Brunei Times (3rd August 2008)]
In the history of modern Brunei, no one should forget what Sultan Hashim did for us. He signed the historic agreement between Brunei Darussalam and United Kingdom in 1888 which made us a British Protectorate. He also signed the other historic agreement between the two countries in 1906 which created the post of British Resident to advise Brunei.
Despite signing these important agreements, not much is known about Sultan Hashim. What we do know about Sultan Hashim is always garnered from British writings especially from British officers who served under the Brooke Administration in Sarawak. Many of those people disliked him as he thwarted Rajah Brooke’s efforts to control Brunei entirely but some admired him being able to steer and save the remnants of Brunei Darussalam.
What do we really know about Sultan Hashim?
Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin comes from a long line of Brunei Sultanate. His father and his genealogical lineage were as follows:-
Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin ibni Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II ibni Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam I ibni Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin ibni Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin I ibni Sultan Muhammad Alauddin ibni Pengiran Di-Gadong Shah Mubin ibni Sultan Muhyiddin ibni Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar ibni Sultan Muhammad Hassan ibni Sultan Saiful Rijal ibni Sultan Abdul Kahar ibni Sultan Bolkiah ibni Sultan Sulaiman ibni Sultan Sharif Ali.
He was born in 1825. He ascended the throne as the 25th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam in 1885 when he was 60 years old. He died shortly after signing the 1906 Treaty with United Kingdom which allowed for a British Resident to be here in Brunei.
Before he became the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Sultan Hashim was titled Pengiran Temenggong, one of the four chief wazirs in the Brunei Royal Court.
Sultan Hashim married the daughter of Pengiran Yusof. Pengiran Yusof did not agree with the policy to surrender Sarawak to James Brooke and openly disagreed with James Brooke’s efforts to meddle in Brunei’s internal affairs. Sultan Hashim also held the same position with his father in law.
The three Rajah Brookes continued their efforts to capture and conquer more and more Brunei territories beginning with Kuching and its immediate surroundings in 1841. By 1853, areas as far as Sibu were under Rajah Brooke’s control. By 1861, Rajah Brooke controlled as far as Bintulu when Sultan Abdul Momin was forced to surrender that area as far as Tanjong Kidurong. By 1882 Baram. By 1884, Trusan and 1905 Lawas.
In 1885 when Sultan Hashim ascended the throne, he was supported by many of Brunei’s dignitaries. In fact the British agreed that he was the best choice to become Sultan. But that period which he ascended the throne is among the darkest in Brunei history.
He was one of the strong supporters of the 1885 Oath of Amanat. Sultan Abdul Momin and his supporters realized that the expansionist activities of Rajah Brooke and also that of North Borneo Company continued much further, there will no longer exist a country in Brunei. The Oath of Amanat 1885 was called by Sultan Abdul Momin whereby every chief in Brunei agreed that there should not be any more ceding or leasing of any of the remaining territories of Brunei to foreign power.
When Sultan Hashim took the throne, he took steps to preserve the rest of Brunei’s territory. He tried to recover Limbang when Charles Brooke occupied it. Nevertheless, he was not able to do so and he did not manage to prevent further loss of Brunei’s territories. Sultan Hashim did not have the military power to enforce the amanat.
During those early years of his reign, Sultan Hashim faced the greatest difficulties. He faced pressure from Rajah Brooke and North Borneo Company. In 1887, Sultan Hashim wrote to seek help from Queen Victoria imploring the British Government not to carry out the British plan’s to subdivide Brunei further until the Sultan only govern the area of what is currently Brunei District.
When Sir Frederic Weld visited Brunei in 1887, Sultan Hashim called upon him to help protect Brunei. Sir Frederic Weld, the Governor of Stratis Settlement, pointed out the best way the British can help was to have a British Resident advising Brunei. This led to the Protectorate Agreement between Brunei and United Kingdom in 1888.
Sultan Hashim agreed to sign the Agreement because he wanted to prevent further erosion of Brunei’s territory. However, despite this historic agreement, the British Government failed to take any action against Charles Brooke for seizing Limbang in 1890.
It was in 1889 when Charles Brooke insisted that Limbang be annexed to Sarawak. However, Sultan Hashim strongly opposed his demand. The British Government also refused to approve the ceding of Limbang. But Charles Brooke seized Limbang by force on 17th March 1890. The British Government did send Noel Trevenan to lead a mission to investigate the actual situation. Trevenan accompanied by Brooke’s officials met with 15 local chiefs and reported that 12 of them were in favour. But later it was realized that another 18 chiefs were not present at the meeting and those that were present were Brooke’s supporters and they therefore did not represent all the people of Limbang. Sultan Hashim rejected their findings.
Sultan Hashim was greatly disappointed and he continued his protests. He even wrote to the Sultan of Turkey imploring for help but the letter was seized by the British.
Sultan Hashim tried to do many things when he was the Sultan. Peter Blundell in his book ‘The City of Many Waters’ wrote about the Sultan. He described the Sultan as someone who was ‘heavily in debt and almost certainly without means of support. If he had been given a fair chance, he certainly would have been a great King.’
Sultan Hashim was concerned about Brunei’s economy. At that time, Brunei was heavily dependent on cutch for its foreign income. He even visited the cutch factory where he expressed hopes that the factory will continue to be successful and to continue providing employment to locals.
Sultan Hashim tried to issue the first modern coinage for Brunei in 1886. Prior to that, the various Brunei Sultans had issued their own coinage. But none lasted. Then the coins produced were mostly the tin pitis and produced locally. The Sultan Hashim’s coin was a modern coin produced in Birmingham. However the British discouraged that coin to be used so much so that among the first laws the British Resident enacted was to ban that coin and all other currencies from being used in Brunei except the Straits Settlements currencies.
Sultan Hashim also tried to introduce a postal service in 1895. Unfortunately the man he gave the concessions to produce the stamps and run the postal services had other ideas and did not fulfill his contract fully. Sultan Hashim’s efforts to get the private sector to run the postal services would be recognizable now as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative.
Poultney Bigelow writing for Harper Magazine in the early 1900s entitled his article ‘The Last of a Great Sultan’ when he wrote about Sultan Hashim then. The Sultan’s face was described as very kindly and his manner dignified. Peter Blundell wrote of Sultan Hashim as having ‘a first-class brain, albeit illiterate, might have proved an outstanding ruler.’
Sultan Hashim died on 10th May 1906. He did enough to save Brunei from extinction.