Make your own free website on Tripod.com



The Palace Audience Hall

The administrative system of Malacca expanded and became ever more intricate in parallel with complexity that arose out of the expansion and development that occurred in the kingdom itself. It rose from a fishing settlement inhabited by the Orang Laut, with its geographically strategic position as reported by Tome Pires, who quoted the Orang Laut themselves '... it seemed to them a good place where the said lord (Parameswara] would be able to rest.', and became the capital of a 'state'. The basis for that 'State' was the presence of a ruler with all the attributes of sovereignty and authority and who was able to effectively wield the power that belonged to him. That power was held aloft (in terms of charisma and belief) by the attributes of sovereignty that the ruler possessed, and constituted the source of his authority.

He was surrounded by the state officials and officials of various ranks who supported him as their sovereign ruler. Beyond this, there were also his subjects who gave their support to a king who had all the attributes of sovereignty and who gave the mantle of his authority to his officials to carry out the administration of the country. The existence of this cooperation and mutual support resulted in an increasingly complex social system and laid the foundation of a state. At first the kingdom of Malacca was concentrated around the city itself, but later it expanded to become an imperial power and an empire. The system and pattern of its administration grew appropriately, in conformity with a kingdom that had become an empire.

The basic number of high ranking state officials which had been inherited from the Singapore period increased periodically in order to meet the social, political and economic situation and needs of the time. According to the Sejarah Melayu, the second ruler of Malacca, the Raja Besar Muda (Megat Iskandar Shah) 'ordered the establishment of the protocol and administration of government'. Among the arrangements that the king established was the creation of a minister who was responsible for protocol in the audience hall, the appointment of heralds to carry out their duties there, and the appointment of royal pages.

Raja Kechil Besar (Sultan Muhammed Shah, 1424-1444) played a major role in developing and improving the ceremonial and the administrative system. He was said to. have 'organized the royal administration'. The Sejarah Melayu recounts in detail the various regulations, the individual responsibilities at the court, the identification of the various areas of jurisdiction of the high ranking state officials, the definition of the prerogatives of the ruler and the sphere of his power in Malacca, and the formalization of the customary and ceremonial practices connected with official regulations and protocol.

Two offices or ministers were created at this time - the Temenggung and the Sen Bija Diraja. The prevailing situation then necessitated the creation of these two offices due to the rapid development that were taking place in the town and society of Malacca. Since the preservation of peace must be given priority in Malacca, the office of Temenggung was created to watch over peace and harmony in the state as well as to supervise the smooth flow of commerce in the country. With the presence of the Orang Laut as the prime source of manpower to safeguard the waters of Malacca so as to encourage trade, the office of Sen Bija Diraja was established to act as the chief of all the armed forces at sea and on land.

It is difficult to determine when the office of Shahbandar was actually introduced in Malacca. This important office was introduced in conformity with the emergence of Malacca as a commercial and an entrepot port. The increasingly intricate commercial activities at the port, which became the lifeblood of Malacca, resulted in the Undang-undang Melaka placing the Shahbandar on equal status with that of the Four Great Lards, although this might not have actually been the case.

The office of the Laksamana was established during the reign of Sultan Mansor Shah (1456-1477). It was originally 'designated' by the Emperor of Majapahit, and later formalized by Sultan Mansor Shah. The first person to hold the office was Hang Tuah. It was placed on a par at court with that of the Sen Bija Diraja since the holders of both offices took turns to bear the Sword of State. Therefore, the duties and jurisdiction of the Laksamana were similar those of the Seri Bija Diraja. However, as the position of the Laksamana became more firmly established and more influential in Malacca, the status of the Sen Bija Diraja gradually declined.

At certain times, there were offices of religious administrator (kadi) and theologian (fakih). The holders of these offices were sometimes placed on equal status with those of the other important officials of Malacca especially when the sultan was seriously ill. They were also said to have accompanied the sultan with the other officials during the sultan's outings on an elephant. This revealed the importance of these religious officials, especially in relation to their functions regarding Islamic law in the administrative and governmental system. Indeed, there are now scholars who explicitly argue that islamization was a notable element in the political affairs of Malacca.

The Sejarah Melayu mentioned 'The Four Ministers' in the system of state officials in Malacca. Who were these 'Four Ministers'? Although the Sejarah Melayu does not provide any specific information about them, what has been understood so far regarding the system of the Four Great Lords of Malacca has been derived from a positive reconstruction and interpretation of their functions as revealed in the narration about them in the Sejarah Melayu itself.

The book by Tome Pires called Native Administration clearly records the functions and jurisdictions of the important officials of Malacca. He describes a hierarchy that descends from the Bemdara (Bendahara) which he confuses with the title Paduca Raja (Paduka Raja), the Lasemana (Laksamana), the Tumunguo (Temenggung) and the Xabandares (Shahbandar) which he reports comprises four office-holders. Probably influenced by Tome Pires and Winstedt, some historians tended to arrange the hierarchy order of the important officials of Malacca as follows: the Bendahara, the Laksamana, the Temenggung and the Shahbandars. The question that inevitably arises is that if several shahbandars in Malacca comprised foreigners, could they hold one of the four important offices although they were not regarded as indigenous?

The information derived from Undang-undang Melaka appears to be a source of confusion here. The First Article of these Laws describes the four important lords as follows:


There are serving the rulers,

Firstly the Bendahara,

Secondly the Temenggung

Thirdly the Penghulu Bendahari,

Fourthly the Shahbandar,

And thus the affairs of the ruler and his subjects were taken care of..


The primary source, namely that of the Portuguese, eliminated the title Penghulu Bendahari which according to tradition and time immemorial had already been a permanent established institution. The Undang-undang Melaka likewise omitted the important office of Laksamana. It is most likely that these omissions are the result of two factors; firstly, a copyist's (?) error; secondly, the manuscript of the Undang-undang Melaka extant today is a copy of the version written before the office of the Laksamana was created in Malacca (i.e. before the 1450s).

The compilation of the Articles or items in the text of the Undang-undang Melaka did not pose any problem, because this was done since the early days of the establishment of Malacca. The Articles were collected from senior and experienced ministers then, or as was mentioned in the text, ~...collected by all the ministers'. From time to time until the reign of Sultan Mahmud Shah, additions and deletions were made. However, strangely enough, the title Laksamana was never mentioned.

Tome Pires confused the role of the Bendahara with that of the Penghulu Bendahari, who, as he stated, '...has charge of the king's revenue'. This arose out of his inability to distinguish between the role of the Bendahara as the collector of revenue for the state treasury and that of the Penghulu Bendahari who was actually responsible for the task. Therefore, the title Penghulu Bendahari was omitted from the list of names and duties of the important officials of Malacca.

Nevertheless, if we combine the various local and external sources on the indigenous administrative system of Malacca by examining the physical functions, the sphere of the implementation of those functions, and the position as well as status of the high ranking officials, the vertical structure of the relationships between the reigning ruler, the Bendahara and the other important officials can be observed. The structure of the relationship between the three important officials which constitutes part of the system of the Four Great Lords can be expressed by a horizontal lay-out. The diagram below shows how this works out:



The 'Big Four' were without doubt the Bendahara, the Penghulu Bendahari, the Temenggung and the Laksamana. Those who held these offices must be indigenous and were appointed in a regular manner based on the traditions and customs or were appointed amongst new leaders who had performed meritorious service for the ruler. Heriditary appointment was dealt with within the family, especially with regard to the most important offices which had been inherited down the ages, such as those of the Bendahara, Penghulu Bendahari and Perdana Menteri.

On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to determine the establishment of the Eight Lords because no sources are available to give specific information regarding this. Therefore, the emplacement of the offices of Perdana Menteri and Sen Bija Diraja in the above diagram is based on pure conjecture. It is also difficult to establish the status of these two offices because when we study their positions in the audience hall, we are told that the Perdana Menteri is seated opposite the Bend~hara while the Sen Bija Diraja takes turns with the Laksamana to bear the Sword of State when escorting the ruler's procession, and when the ruler mounts his elephant, either the Laksamana or the Sen Bija Diraja sits at the elephant's rear.


Source: The Malay Sultanate of Malacca by Muhammad Yusoff Hashim

The Early Stages

The Political Functions


Please Sign The Guestbook

| Introduction | History-Dates and Events | Historical Places In Malacca | Interesting Places To Visit In Malacca | Walk About | Trivia and Folklore | Old Paintings and Maps | The Malay Sultanate of Malacca | Legendary Visitors Of Malacca | The Portuguese Conquest | The Malacca Fort | The Ruins of St Paul's Church | Getting There | Where To Stay | Maps | University Tenaga Nasional | Who Am I | Search | Today's Weather Report

Back to Robert K.H. Leo's Homepage

FastCounter by bCentral