Thank you Mr. Master of Ceremonies.
I would like to first of all express my most sincere thanks to Mr. Fred Dijs for presenting me with the first copy of his translated book "Hang Tuah Untuk Anak-Anak" or "Hang Tuah for Children".
I would also like to thank the Organiser of this event, Drs. Livia Verstegen, Director of Verstegen & Stigter for inviting me to address this gathering on the occasion of the official launching of the Dutch translation of "Hang Tuah Untuk Anak-Anak" by the original author Nasjah Djamin. The Malaysian Embassy supports this project because it will introduce Malay culture to young Dutch readers.This book which is in a pictorial format is especially accessible to young readers.Given the multicultural nature of present-day Dutch Society and also the historical ties between this country and the Malay Archipelago, we feel that it is important to encourage an understanding and appreciation of each other's cultures between our two societies, especially among the young.
I find it fascinating that there is interest in the subject of Hang Tuah. Equally fascinating is the fact that there remains only one copy of the original text in the Royal Tropical Institute library, and I was made to understand that it is not even available anymore in Malaysia or Indonesia. The fact that Hang Tuah hailed from Melaka gives the project an added significance because of the historical ties between Melaka and the Netherlands. Melaka currently also happens to have a special twin-city relationship with the Dutch city of Hoorn.
I would like to congratulate Mr. Fred Dijs for his efforts in translating this work by Nasjah Djamin. After more than half a century, Nasjah Djamin's work has been revived. My congratulations also go to Drs S.H. Kwee-Tan of the Royal Tropical Institute for assisting and providing the proper language advice in finalising the translated work.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Much has been written about Hang Tuah. The original manuscript of "Hikayat Hang Tuah" written some 200 years ago is recognised as a national literary classic which is well known not only amongst the Malays in Malaysia but also to the people in the Malay Archipelago generally which encompasses present day Malaysia and Indonesia. Many studies have been made of this manuscript by local and foreign researchers. There is a more recent work on Hikayat Hang Tuah, almost 600 pages long, co-written by two Malaysian authors, namely Kassim Ahmad and Noriah Mohamed in 1997.
Hang Tuah is recognised as one of the most illustrious Malay heroes in traditional Malay literature, especially during the golden era of the Melaka Sultanate in the late 15th century during the reign of Sultan Mansor and later Sultan Mahmud. He represents the tradition of absolute loyalty to the Ruler and was the personification of the qualities much valued in the Malay society of that time, that of loyalty, chivalry and obedience to tradition.
Yet despite his grand status and fame, Hang Tuah's beginnings were very humble. He was lacking in education and social graces. In those days to be accepted as a great warrior, one required the ability to communicate well in the Royal Court, and to have access to the Sultan. Despite his initial handicap Hang Tuah went on to study under various teachers and attained knowledge of the cultures of countries such as India, China, Thailand and Java and mastered no less than 12 languages and dialects.
His diplomatic, linguistic and fighting skills, brought him recognition by the Royal Court. He was later sent as an envoy by the Sultan to India and Thailand.
I am sure that most of you who are present here this afternoon would have heard of the exploits of Hang Tuah and his courage and valour. He grew up with his four companions and life-long friends Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu and learnt the mastery of the Malay martial art of self-defence or "silat" as well as the mystical arts. His exploits were famous among the people of his day. His bravery as well as his loyalty to the Sultan saw him rise through the ranks to be eventually appointed the Admiral of the Royal Navy.
I am sure that we have all heard of the story of the epic but unfortunate duel between Hang Tuah and his best friend Hang Jebat. According to the legend, the Sultan had ordered the execution of Hang Tuah at the instigation of envious court officials who had lied to the Sultan that Hang Tuah was involved in a scandal. Instead of executing Hang Tuah as ordered by the Ruler, the Datuk Bendahara sent him into hiding and reported to the Sultan that Hang Tuah had been put to death as instructed.
It was just unfortunate that Hang Jebat was appointed by the Sultan as Laksamana in Hang Tuah's place. Hang Jebat was enraged over the fact that his close friend had been put to death for a crime he did not commit. As a result he ran amok and started killing the palace guards and others who challenged him. No one could defeat Hang Jebat as he was invincible. The Sultan regretted his hasty decision in ordering Hang Tuah's execution. Datuk Bendahara subsequently confessed to the Sultan that Hang Tuah was still alive and the Sultan fully pardoned Hang Tuah. And so the story went that Hang Tuah fought Hang Jebat and managed to wrest the famous kris "Taming Sari" from him and finally succeeded in defeating Hang Jebat. According to the legend Taming Sari was the only weapon that could kill Hang Jebat.
The battle between Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat was the ultimate example of absolute unquestioning loyalty to one's Ruler, even if one had to sacrifice one's best friend. The Malays of today have of course questioned the wisdom and desirability of possessing this particular attribute. In today's Malaysia people tend to be more questioning of the actions of their leaders and political leaders therefore have to earn the respect and loyalty of the people, but that is of course another story.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To continue with the legend of Hang Tuah, when he died Hang Tuah's body was never found. Some say he simply vanished but others say that he left the royal court to live a life of solitude on Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir) or perhaps to be with his true love, the legendary Puteri (Princess) Gunung Ledang. But if you do make a visit to the town of Melaka, there is one place which you should not miss visiting. This is the "Makam Hang Tuah", a symbolic grave in memory of this great Malay hero.
There you have it all - the ingredients guaranteed to make any book a success palace intrigues, plots, jealousies, rivalry, scandals, mysticism, Sultans, the Taming Sari, silat, etc and all these are captured in the writings about Hang Tuah as well as in this book "Hang Tuah for Children".
I would like to end by quoting the famous words used by Hang Tuah "Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia". This roughly means that the Malay race, the Malay language, culture and tradition will never be lost from the face of the earth. Mr. Fred Dijs has certainly contributed to this vision in the form of the Dutch translation of the story of Hang Tuah that will ensure that the Malay culture and tradition will continue to live on.
And for your information, a movie is presently in the making in Malaysia called "Puteri Gunung Ledang" which also features Hang Tuah.
Embassy of Malaysia
22 April 2003
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