Thursday, January 31, 2013
Monarch Profile: Sultan Ali Shah of Terengganu
At the time, however, with the inevitable difficulties of war, the reign of Sultan Ali Shah went forward with ‘business as usual’ as much as possible. The only major change came on October 18, 1943 when the administration of Terengganu was transferred, in name at least, to the Kingdom of Thailand. This was due to the treaty negotiated between the Empire of Japan and the Thai government of Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram by which Thailand cooperated with the Japanese campaign in Southeast Asia in exchange for four border regions, including Terengganu, from Malaysia. This was, of course, significant, but it is possible to make too much of it. It was mostly a shifting of legal responsibility from the Japanese authorities to those of Thailand, however, in Terengganu very little changed. Japan and Thailand were both in agreement that Sultan Ali Shah was the legitimate monarch and he would continue to govern his own people to the same extent as he had before and it is not as though the area had been totally independent previously. In effect, it was simply that instead of the King of Malaysia (or even the King of Great Britain) the area would be under the jurisdiction of the King of Thailand.
On November 5, 1945 the 13-member State Council, with British backing, declared Sultan Ali Shah deposed and named Tengku Ismail as the new Sultan of Terengganu as Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah though he was not formally enthroned until 1949. Officially, the British said this was because of the cooperation of Sultan Ali Shah with the Japanese. The British army also expressed their official disapproval of his divorce of his wife (the daughter of the Sultan of Abu Bakar of Pahang) and remarriage to a woman of dubious background. Rumors also spread of the debts and poor character of the Sultan, which he denounced as simply a campaign to blacken his reputation. It is true that not every royal who cooperated with the Japanese was so punished and Sultan Ali Shah always maintained that it was his refusal to sign the Malayan Union treaty that motivated the British to get rid of him. The legality of how he came to the throne during the Japanese occupation was also brought up, however, once again, this was a rather shaky justification given that there was no doubt that Ali Shah had always been the legitimate and designated heir of his father. However, little could be done as Britain was back in charge again and they clearly did not want Ali Shah on the throne. Nonetheless, he disputed his removal and continued to argue the injustice of the case for the rest of his life.
The former Sultan Ali Shah died on May 17, 1996 still insisting that he should have been the legitimate monarch. He had, in fact, outlived his replacement, Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, who died in 1979 (even serving a term as King of Malaysia) but it was his royal line which carried on and which continues to reign over Terengganu to this day.