My first visit to Bengkulu was in 1998 and I was there for nearly one month. My last visit to Bengkulu was just recently that was during the Labour Day holiday. Bengkulu is a province in Indonesia that located in the west-south of Sumatra. The province is surrounded by hilly mountains and the access to the province is mainly through roads along the coastal areas and crossing the hilly mountainous areas. The roads along the mountainous areas are narrow and winding but all the drivers that drive along the narrow winding roads seems to be so proficient and careful. Bengkulu is the place of my ancestors. Both of my grandmothers on my father and mother sides came from Bengkulu. My grandmothers left Bengkulu in the early twentieth century with the hope of finding a new greener pastures in Malaysia. In those days, Malaysia was known as Klang, because Klang was the first seaport in Peninsular Malaya. In those days my grandmothers and all others who want to migrate to Malaysia would say that they wanted to live in Klang. My father used to tell me that the reasons why my grandfathers want to come to live in Klang were that the life in Bengkulu was very hard and difficult. Bengkulu was once under the control of British and with the signing of the treaty of Bangkok between the British and the Dutch, Bengkulu was given to the Dutch in exchanged with Malacca. My grandmother used to tell my father that life under the control of British was much better than under the Dutch. Under the control of the Dutch, my grandparents had to pay taxes for their head and they were forced to do hard labour in the plantations with very meagre pay. My grandparents decided to leave Bengkulu and migrate to Klang because they want to live under the control of the British and not under the control of the Dutch. Sir Stamford Raffles was in Bengkulu and when he wanted to open up Singapore, he took peoples from Bengkulu to help him. Some of these Bengkulu peoples crossed over to the Peninsula Malaya and some settled in Gemas, Negeri Sembilan while others moved upwards and settled in Sungai Choh, Rawang, Selangor. The migration of Bengkulu peoples over to Peninsula Malaya probably took place during the late of nineteen century.
Bengkulu peoples belong to the Malay race and they speak Malay in their own dialect. Bahasa Melayu Bengkulu probably has the influence of the Javanese language and this happens because of intermarriage between the Malays and Javanese people in Bengkulu. It was believed that a Prince from Majapahit ran away to Palembang and then to Bengkulu and married with one of the princess of Bengkulu Malay Sultanate of Air Hitam. It is believed that the Lembak Malay peoples of Bengkulu are descendent of this sultanate and I am descendent of the Lembak peoples. My great grandfather on the father side was the Basirah or the leader of his communities and he owns a Keris (dagger) and a sword that supposed to be passed down to generations and now the Keris is with me. My elder brothers told me that there used to be many expensive gems and diamond on the Keris cover shield and irresponsible peoples had stolen all. I was also told that many had tried to steal the Keris and the sword from the custody of my family lineage but without success. I was told; whoever tried to steal the Keris will met with some kinds of misfortunes or calamities. My great grandfather who is the Basirah has three sons, two of the sons migrated to Malaysia, and one of them is my grandfather on the father side. My father married my mother in Malaysia, both of my parents belong to the Bengkulu Malay race, we speak the special Bahasa Melayu with Bengkulu dialect and all my brothers and sisters including myself are able to speak the dialect with sufficient proficiency. There are very few Bengkulu Malays in Malaysia and if they do not know how to speak the Malay Bengkulu dialect, they will lose the identity of Bengkulu Malays. Many children of Bengkulu Malays, particularly when one of their parents is not a Bengkulu Malays, all the children would not be able to speak the dialect. Many words in the dialect are Malay words and some of the non-Malay words in the dialect seem to be borrowed from other languages or other Malay dialect. Bengkulu Malays look more often like the Chinese. They usually have very fair white skin and some of Bengkulu women have a very beautiful looking face such as our famous artist and actress, Ms Erra Fazira, who was once the beauty queen of Malaysia. The wife of our Minister Dato’ Seri Utama Rais Yatim, Datin Seri Utama Maznah Rais, who is also a very beautiful woman also belongs to the Malay Bengkulu race. Other famous personality in Malaysia who also belongs to the Bengkulu Malay race is the Government Advocate and Solicitor for Anwar Sodomy case, Dato’ Yusof Zainal Abidin who used to study with me in the same class during our primary education in Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Choh. Dato Zainal Sakom, who was once the political secretary to Selangor Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Taib, looks very much like a Chinese also belong to Malay Bengkulu race. Many Bengkulu Malays may not be able to speak the Bengkulu Malay dialect anymore and the dialect is fast disappearing. Only those who live in my village known as Kampong Sungai Choh, is still able to speak the dialect. Whenever I have the opportunities, I often speak the dialect and whenever I speak the dialect, I really feel that I am a Malay Bengkulu race. Since my wife does not belong to the Malay Bengkulu race, all my children are able to understand but are not able to speak the dialect.
Bengkulu is a very remote area of Indonesia and it is much-undeveloped province of Indonesia. The roads in Bengkulu are full with potholes and the times of travel that will take about one hour in Malaysia will take about three hours in Bengkulu. Although the lands are fertile and probably have plenty of natural resources, but due to lack of research exploration studies, the rich natural resources remain unused for development of the province. Generally, peoples in Bengkulu live in poverty and only few peoples are rich. Bengkulu Malays in Bengkulu have no financial capability to travel to Malaysia as often as their Malay Bengkulu counterpart in Malaysia to visit Bengkulu in Indonesia. My relatives in Bengkulu live in poverty compare to their Bengkulu counterpart in Malaysia. My grandparents had made the correct decision to migrate to Malaysia. However, since Allah has made the Bengkulu Malays in Malaysia richer, they should help their poor relatives in Bengkulu. Indonesia and Malaysia are belonging to the same roots and they should work closely to help each other. We speak almost the same language, and we have the same religions. In order for Malaysia to help Indonesia to develop, a good communication between Malaysia and Indonesia must be made. Malaysia and Indonesia must built bridges across the Strait of Malacca and roads must be built to connect Peninsula Malaysia and Sumatra and to connect Sumatra with the island of Java. With better communication system between Sumatra and Peninsula Malaysia and Java, Sumatra and Java can be developed. Malaysia and Indonesia must share their resources, technology and manpower in order to develop the regions known as Nusantara. Nusantara is the lands of Malay speaking peoples and the lands of the Muslims that will spread Islam to all over the world.
Malaysia may have the money and the technology but lack of workers. The workers to develop the region can come from Indonesia. Malaysia cannot disjoint Indonesia from her development programme. About 80% of our workers in the Felda schemes come from Indonesia. Indonesia is rich with natural resources and its lands are more fertile and with vigorous research studies and infrastructure developments, we may turn the lands known as Nusantara as lands of opportunities. Nusantara is rich with natural resources such as oil, natural gases, gold, and charcoal. The lands are very fertile for almost all types of plants and vegetables to grow. Malaysian and Indonesian are belong to the same root and we should behave as brothers and sisters and no misunderstanding must lead to hatred. We should be able to solve our problems, like brothers and sisters solving their problems and we should never break our relationship as it used to happen during the confrontation years at the time of Sukarno.
I had been going to Bengkulu to teach them on how to do the work of the Prophet saw and to visit my families since many years and with the grace of Allah, the work of the Prophet saw has started in the town of Bengkulu. My root is in Bengkulu and whatever good I have, I will never forget Bengkulu. One of the people in Bengkulu that I know told me that Bengkulu is the most undeveloped province in Indonesia. I told him, now Bengkulu is the most undeveloped province in Indonesia, but if all of you do the work of the Prophet Muhammad saw, only to please Allah until Allah is pleased, one day, Allah will make Bengkulu to be the most develop province in Indonesia. Now in all over Indonesia, only Bengkulu peoples are doing the work of the Prophet Muhammad saw as the Prophet saw used to do. They visited everyone and every house in any lanes that they are visiting, when meet the Muslims; they will remind them about the meaning of the Great Kalimah and the orders of Allah, and to the non-Muslims, they will invite them to recite the Great Kalimah. In other parts of Indonesia, they are doing the work of Tabligh Jamat which only concerns on the rectification of Muslims by inviting them to spent time for 3 days, 40 days and 4 months. In Indonesia, the non-Muslims are actively inviting the Muslims to become Christians while Muslims are not active in inviting the non-Muslims to become Muslims. According to Indonesian constitution, no one can invite a person with a religion to enter another religion. When a Christian was asked why you invite Muslims to become Christian, the Christian replied that it is their responsibilities given by God, to invite others to their religion. When a Muslims in Indonesia was asked to invite the non-Muslims into Muslims, the Muslim answered that it is against the constitution of the country. Now, we know the answer why there are so many calamities in Indonesia. Allah sent so many calamities to Indonesia because they have neglected the work of the Prophet Muhammad saw. They are not inviting peoples to good and preventing peoples from evils and instead the evil peoples are actively inviting those who have recited the Great Kalimah to betray the Great Kalimah. Wake up Indonesia!
Prof. Dr. Nasoha Saabin
Dean of Faculty of Optometry
International University College of Technology Twintech
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia