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Sultan Mahmud Shah vs Afonso de Albuquerque

"There's always two sides to a coin", or so said a popular English proverb. Like everything else in the world, the same goes for history. But sometimes, there are not just two, but dozens of differences and interpretations of history.

No this is about Mat Sabu, Bukit Kepong or Mat Indera or the Communist Party of Malaya, no. That's old news. I've debated and argued (or rather tweeted) about it long enough already on Twitter.

The Star: Melaka and Portuguese
So to those not in the know, this year marks the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Sultanate of Melaka (I prefer the Malay spelling for Melaka), and the beginning of Portuguese colonial rule in Tanah Melayu. What caught my interest to blog about this is partly due to an article in The Star (see image), the Melaka Chief Minister Ali Rustam was reportedly to have remarked that "Melaka had prospered as a nautical haven since the arrival of Alfonso d' Albuquerque" on August 24 1511.

Hang on a second there, YAB. Are you serious? I read it more than twice just to make sure that I got it right. And I marked the keyword in the article- "prospered". So is the Chief Minister trying to reinterpret the history of Melaka by saying that Albuquerque had prospered Melaka? I wouldn't give a hoot if it was just an average Abu or Mat who said it, but this is the Chief Minister of Melaka speaking.

Albuquerque caused the downfall of the most influential trading port in Southeast Asia. His only interest in Melaka was purely to monopolise the natural resources and to spread Christianity.

Chief Minister Ali could have at least shown his appreciation towards the Portuguese heritage and culture without erroneously glorifying (or perceived to be glorifying) Albuquerque, whom with the help from an influential Javanese community leader and Tamil traders, had successfully defeated the Sultan of Melaka's army and subsequently conquered Melaka. Where is his sensitivities?

Let me stress that I have no prejudices whatsoever against the local Portuguese community in Melaka (fact: I have Portuguese blood running in my veins) and I can understand that it is about remembering the Portuguese heritage and culture in Melaka.

The Portuguese community in Melaka have the right to celebrate. But what saddens me more is that knowing the state government has not done anything (please correct me if I am wrong) to commemorate the FALL of the sultanate of Melaka, which to my opinion have had greater historical impact and significance. We should instead be focusing more on the glory and the achievements of Melaka as the most influential trading port in Southeast Asia which hosted international traders from China, India and the Arab lands. Melaka was also the epicenter for the growth of Islam in the Malay peninsular before the Portuguese came and conquered Melaka.

Personally, it begs the simple question; was Albuquerque a coloniser who fought against the last Sultan of Melaka, Sultan Mahmud Shah, or was he now a reformer, in the eyes of Ali Rustam? I think the answer is pretty obvious. He can't be both. I feel that CM Ali could have been more careful in his choice of words.

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