Friday, 4 November 2011

Medical History of Kelantan 1900-1957


It seems that from reading many history pages, travelling to many places in Kelantan, and after much asking around, that there is much we do not know about Malay history. There were so many sultanates and families that it leaves the impression, the Malay peninsula had so many fractal kingdoms, some limited by hills, sandy beaches and rivers. The names of many places have a history and some have links to the sultans or sultanates. There are still Malay people who have name prefixes that indicate their royal descent. The problem now is there are so many and there is no effort to computerise and present all these ancient kingdoms and sultanates as a multimedia production of some means where they can become useful learning objects for schools, universities and further research. Alongside sultanates and kingdoms, there are people and staff who were hired for work by rank. Ranks and files change with times and after treaties were signed. Keeping track of one hierarchy is fine but when there are so many kingdoms and each is managed separately, I think the administrative systems used in the past were complex and we will need computers to help map them properly. I would like to pull your attention to Dato Perdana. I wrote about Dato Perdana in an earlier post. Why I have chosen Dato Perdana is because I have a photo which I downloaded from a family in The family members identified only 3 men in the photograph but I can identify most people in the first row, just based on my TEMD research that I have done so far. 

Eight early Malay doctors have connections with Kelantan. They are, Dr Ali Othman Merican, Dr Abdul Wahab bin Muhammad Lal Khan, Dr Che Lah bin Md Joonos, Dr Abdul Wahab bin Mohd Ariff, Dr Abdul Aziz bin Omar, Dr Ezanee Merican, Dr Mohamed bin Taib (dentist) and Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin bin Raja Shahbuddin. Some worked as royal physicians.

This post highlights the Sultans, Dato' Perdana and his descendants who were instrumental for our Merdeka, and Dr Abdul Aziz bin Omar.

Raja and Sultans of Kelantan (names, style, reign)

The Kelantan sultans are derived from the Terengganu prince, and from the Bugis Malay lineage.

A Raja assumes the Sultan title when he ascends to the Kelantan throne. The Raja name is no longer used once a Raja becomes a Sultan; the sultan's name remains for life. Another name replaces his sultan name when he dies - usually name of a place where he died or a description of how he died. All sultans and their families are buried at royal cemeteries, separate from the common folks.

Makam DiRaja di Langgar, Kota Bharu, Kelantan

Makam DiRaja Langgar, Kota Bharu, Kelantan

Many of the Kelantan Sultans are buried here. Dr Ali Othman Merican and his wife are buried here. The royal graves are quite close to Billion Shopping Centre & Renaissance Hotel Kota Bharu.

These 3 biographies were obtained from 3 different volumes of The Who's Who.

Dr Abdul Aziz bin Omar's biography in The Who's Who 1963: 30 has no pic
Dr Abdul Aziz bin Omar's biography in The Who's Who 1965 (his first published portrait)
Dr Abdul Aziz bin Omar's biography in The Who's Who in 1971-1972 (his second published portrait)

He was born in 1919 and grew up in Penang. He studied at the Chowrasta Malay School in Hutton Lane (now renamed to Jalan Hatin) in George Town. He then studied at Penang Free School in Green Lane (now Jalan Masjid Negeri) and passed Senior Cambridge. He went on to read Medicine at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore. He returned to Malaya but went to work in Kelantan. His close friend in Kelantan was Dr Ezanee Merican. Dr Ezanee Merican operated Merican Dispensary in front of Pasar Besar Kota Bharu (demolished in June-July 2011) while Dr Abdul Aziz operated Aziz Dispensary in front of the Kota Bharu bus station.They were probably good friends as when I went to interview the relatives of Dato' Dr Haji Abdul Aziz in Jalan Pintu Pong, they were asking about Dr Ezanee Merican and his wife. Dr Abdul Aziz married Wan Sharifah Ash'aari and they have 6 children.

Penang's landmarks - Pasar Chowrasta (brown building at left) and KOMTAR (Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak) (tower), Georgetown, Penang.

Chowrasta is an Indian/Sanskrit word for a crossroad (4-junction). There is a big old brick market block that has a 4-junction on the right and a 5-junction on the left (near KOMTAR side). Pasar Chowrasta (Chowrasta market) is in Penang Road (Jalan Penang).

The school was at a previous spot (between Transfer Road and Phee Choon Road) which now houses the Penang Police Contingent. I have not seen the police venue after 2 visits to George Town. KOMTAR is in Penang Road (now renamed to Jalan Penang). Jalan Hatin opens into Jalan Penang. The Chowrasta Malay School has been renamed to Sekolah Kebangsaan Sri Tanjong. The big double/triple story old Malay-styled school is painted beige with a blue roof. From a distance it looks like an unused godown.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Sri Tanjong, Jalan Hutton, Georgetown, Penang


There are altogether 17 MB Kelantan. MB used to be called Dato' Perdana Menteri. When Malaya gained Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj became the first Prime Minister. He was photographed (I think) in Kelantan around that time.

Group photo with Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Dr Abdul Aziz bin Omar and his 2 male siblings, all seated. The date for this photograph is not stated. I worked it out to be a round 1965, based on 2 things - Tunku as first PM and the photo of Dr Abdul Aziz here matches his photo in The Who's Who 1965. So I have chosen to mark this photo as a 1965 production. The family did not identify who's who in the photo but I have managed to identify 5 of 7 men who are seated.

If you take a close look at the man seated beside Tunku, the face looks familiar but I don't know who he is. I think he also appears in another photo I found on the Internet. I had contacted Muzium Kelantan very early on in this research and Muzium Kelantan staff mentioned a name to me. They had asked me whether I knew Nik Ahmad Kamil (or similar name) and I replied no. They went on to describe his role (importance) in Kelantan. I listened but I didn't know where to fit the information I had received from Muzium Kelantan. After meeting with Muzium Kelantan, I came across Nik Ahmad Kamil's name (or similar) many times. I thought to myself, maybe this is an important person after all.

I think he authored a lot of books about Kelantan

Though I'm not sure of his name, I gather he is an important person in Kelantan history. I can take the photo above and go directly to Muzium Kelantan to ask and quickly get help with identification of the men in the photo. Tonight, I came across a student's MSc thesis on Menteri Besar Kelantan. I read through the online executive summary. It mentioned Dato' Perdana.

The man in baju Melayu in this photo (3rd from left) could be the same man in the previous group photo that has Dr Abdul Aziz and Tunku Abdul Rahman. How do I find out if they are the same man or different men?


Dato' Nik Mahmud Bin Nik Ismail merupakan seorang pembesar Negeri Kelantan yang mashor. Belau telah dilantik sebagai Menteri Besar Kelantan pada masa Sultan Ibrahim. Beliau adalah satu-satunya yang telah dianugerahkan darjah kebesaran negeri iaitu Dato' Perdana Menteri.

Dato' Perdana
 Who was Dato' Perdana? He was one of the earliest Perdana Menteri in Kelantan. Kelantan abolished the Perdana Menteri title and replaced it with Menteri Besar. Dato' Perdana was the first Menteri Besar of Kelantan. Dato' Perdana was taught Islam by his father. He became a knowledgeable man on Islam as he had studied in Makkah. He then worked at Istana Balai Besar. 

Istana Balai Besar, Kota Bharu, Kelantan

What is interesting is Dato' Perdana died all of a sudden. It was suspected that black magic (sihir) was used to kill him mysteriously. Dato' Perdana died a mysterious death. There were a lot of speculations about how Dato' Perdana died. Dato' Perdana was buried at Kubur Banggol in a big graveyard, across from the grave plot belonging to Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz bin Omar. How did I come to know of Dato' Perdana's grave? The person who guided us to the grave of Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz pointed out Dato' Perdana's grave and asked my husband and I whether we knew who he was. We said no. The graveyard guide (Raja Sulaiman) told us about Dato' Perdana and pointed to his grave. Kubur Dato' Perdana is across the road from the family graves of Dato' Hj Ab Aziz bin Omar. Dato' Perdana is sohor (well-known). He is the people of Nik Ahmad Kamil Nik Mahmood.- from Raja Sulaiman

Dato' Perdana's grave and the graveyard of his clan at Kubor Banggol, Kg Banggol, Mukim Banggol, Kelantan


I don't know who he was but his grave lies within that of Dr Abdul Aziz's plot. Either Dr Abdul Aziz was buried in Sheikh Abdullah's plot or Dr Abdul Aziz bought over the plot for his family. I know that one of the Fathani ulama' was a teacher to Dato' Perdana in Makkah.

Sheikh Abdullah's grave and his wife's grave in Dr Abdul Aziz's burial plot