KUALA LUMPUR: In 2004, a set of armour mysteriously arrived at the home of Raja Aini Rahman. The 66-year-old retiree refused to go into detail about how the armour came into her possesion, but said she needed to keep the artefact safe and return it to its owner.
The armour is believed to belong to the 16th sultan of Brunei, Sultan Husin Kamaluddin Malik Al-Dzahir, who reigned in the 18th century twice from 1710 until 1730 and again from 1737 to 1740.
Sultan Husin was said to be a just leader, who ruled based on the teachings of Islam.
Raja Aini said Muzium Negara in 2014 had authenticated the chain mail suit, which came with one gauntlet and a helmet.
She produced to the New Straits Times a report that bore Muzium Negara’s name.
However, a Muzium Negara spokesman, in response to NST queries, said the report merely characterised the artefacts but made no determination on their authenticity.
The report said the gauntlet and helmet were adorned with gold and pitis (metal coins that were issued by various Malay kingdoms).
The museum said the armour was made with a mixture of six materials — rubies, gold, silver, copper, iron and tin.
“The whole shirt was woven using iron hoops that were neatly arranged so that it became a shirt that has high civilisation value. The decoration of the water flower motif, which is specially shaded on the copper pieces attached to the front of the shirt, depicts its greatness, in line with the greatness of the Malay government of Brunei Darussalam,” it said.
Raja Aini, who has held on to the suit for more than 18 years, had set out to return it to the current of sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah.
Since then, the set of armour was kept in her private collection in pristine condition and was never publicly displayed.
Returning the armour, however, had its challenges. Raja Aini said she had engaged brokers to get the armour back to Brunei but nothing came of it.
She said a delegation from Brunei, led by a person she identified as “Pehin Jamil”, inspected the armour in 2007.
“The armour was authenticated by a group from Brunei in 2007, including experts in history, Jawi script, jewels and armour.”
The NST is unable to verify the identity of “Pehin Jamil”, but a search on the Internet revealed a Bruneian historian by that name.
In conjunction with Ramadan, Raja Aini is appealing to the Brunei government to take back the suit of armour.
“I only want to give back the armour to Brunei as it is their heritage, and I must ensure it is back where it belongs.
“As the trustee of the armour, I humbly seek permission to present the armour to the successor to the throne of Brunei Darussalam, and to complete the akad (contract) in returning it to its rightful owner, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
“As the Malay proverb goes, bagai sirih pulang ke ganggang (back to where one started), it is only fitting for the armour to return home as it deserves to be seen by Brunei’s future generations,” she said at her home recently.
Raja Aini said the armour, weighing more than 30kg, demonstrated the apex of the Brunei Sultanate.
“This armour is also the pride of a nation for an administration that has managed to maintain the royal government to this day.”
In a bid to return the armour, Raja Aini had enlisted her friends, Nurul Shafizi Mazlan, 37, and Aina Nabila Mazlan, 22, who are sisters, to help spread the word on the armour online, hoping the sultan of Brunei would take notice.
Nurul Shafizi said their social media posts about the armour on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok had garnered more than 20,000 views.
“We are helping our family friend as it is our hope to relieve her of the burden of being the caretaker of the armour.
“Seeing that Aunty (Raja Aini) had tried so many ways to return it but was unsuccessful, we are trying to share it on social media and hoping that the Brunei government will take notice and take it back.”