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Subnational Flags (Kelantan, Malaysia)

District Flags, Bendera-Bendera Tanah Jajahan

Last modified: 2006-08-26 by ian macdonald
Keywords: kelantan | tanah jajahan |
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In actual fact, the direct translation of Tanah Jajahan in Malay to English is 'Occupied Territories'. I could only suppose that in the past, Kelantan was a divided feudal state, a common situation in the Malay Peninsula, with separate petty local rulers. However, a strong one managed to rise and conquer all these small petty territories. In the end, Kelantan probably became a united Sultanate under one Sultan. The small territories were then probably absorbed to form the Sultanate of Kelantan.

Even when the British arrived, the Kelantan Sultanate refused any intervention by a British Advisor, unlike the federated malay states of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang. Hence, the Kelantan Sultanate still existed during initial British Rule in Malaya. I think most of the flags are no longer used since the Kelantan government is now more civilian-based and has only limited state powers, except the Sultan, Queen, Crown Prince etc. for whom they still exist.
Herman Felani
, 6 September 2001

According to my sources these flags refer to Kelantan sultanate's districts. As far as I know Kelantan was always a single state and there were never other sultanates in the zone. I believe this happened only in Negri Sembilan.
Jaume Ollé, 6 September 2001

The history of Kelantan was never clear due to the lack of available written documents. Kelantan is presently in practise a state of Malaysia but theoretically a Sultanate in their own right for their Sultan still exists, and is eligible to the Malaysian throne. Thus there is no reliable source on why the flag plate [in Znamierowski 1999, p. 30] describes these flags as Bendera Tanah Jajahan or 'Flags of the Occupied Territories'.

In addition, I never mentioned that there were any other Sultanates around. There were however many petty warrior states, which were formed on the fall of the Malacca Sultanate in 1511. These territories —that now sit within modern Kelantan— were ruled by warrior princes. According to my sources, a warrior by the name of Kubang Labu managed to unite all this disparate states. In 1764, another warrior by the name of Long Yunus seized the throne. From then on, Kelantan was a Siamese vassal state until British intervention in 1909. Interestingly, the current Kelantan Royal Family is of his descent. Therefore the flags must have been created during his period.

Hence you see, I cannot find any other reason why the plate would name the flags as such except by the historical fact that a number of petty states did exist. It is possible that after the union of the petty states, no other ruler rose to power or that the sultan managed to supress any opposition, from occupied territories, they soon became localised districts. I agree that these areas are now districts of Kelantan. Hence, based on the limited historical facts available and the strange status and origins of the Kelantan territorial flags, I could only deduce that these places were once petty states/territories then localised into districts.
Herman Felani, 7 September 2001

Red flag with the emblem was adopted in 1924. Ocuppied territories flags must be adopted in 1924 or later, I dont know, but I dont know if, during Siamese domination, Kelantan split like Pattani and later was reunified or what happened, sources are not fully according because I have a source that says that Long Yunus was 'rajah' from 1800-1835. But it is known that Pattani was split in several small sultanates and it is possible that the same happened in Kelantan, but why to wait until at less 1924 to grant flags to these territories reunified c. 1800? According to the Royal Ark website:

Kelantan was once a powerful state with ancient trade links with China, Champa and India, but became tributary to the Majapahit Empire during the 13th and 14th centuries. It re-established its independence under Raja Kumar, ca. 1411. It became an important centre for trade and commerce during the fifteenth century, but fell to Malacca in 1499. Following the Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511, the state disintegrated into several petty principalities. These principalities were conquered again by the Siamese and made subject to Patani I 1603. In 1760, a certain Kubang Labu succeeded in unifying the disparate territories into a single state once more, but he was overthrown four years later. Long (Luang) Yunus seized the throne and proclaimed himself Raja of Kelantan in 1764 but the state fell under the control of Trengganu after his death. Long Muhammad, younger son of Yunus, declared himself Sultan in 1800. He was eventually accepted by the Siamese as ruler of a separate tributary, twelve years later. Kelantan was transferred to British protection by the terms of the Anglo-Siamese treaty of 1909. Britain paying Siam for all outstanding debts and assuming responsibility for them in Siam's stead. Negeri Kelantan Dar ul-Naim became one of the Unfederated Malay States in 1911.

The Japanese invaded Kelantan on 8th December and were in full occupation by the 22nd of December 1941. They transferred Kelantan to Thai control in 1943. The state was freed from Japanese occupation on 8th September 1945 and became a state of the Federation of Malaya on 1st February 1948. It joined the other states of the peninsula to form the Federation of Malaya on 31st August 1957 and became a state of Malaysia on 16th September 1963.

The genealogy of the sultans is available in the next two pages (second and third. Perhaps sombody can make a research about modern Kelantan subdivisions.
Jaume Ollé
, 7 September 2001

I looked up the meaning of Jajahan in my Malay Dictionary (Kamus Dewan: Edisi Ketiga). Interestingly enough, the word has two possible definitions:

  1. territories which are within the government's jurisdiction
  2. regions/territories or areas (states etc.) which are occupied/colonised by another state etc.
In present day usage, from my experience in school and the media, the second meaning is always inferred. (...) It is more likely that the first definition is true here and that the Kelantan territorial flags are district flags and not flags of colonised territories. In present day usage, the words kawasan and daerah are more commonly used to describe a district or region.
Herman Felani
, 8 September 2001