5 Hidden Stories of Mat Kilau That Are Rarely Told

Mat Kilau is one of the big names, in line with the names of other individuals who rose up openly against British colonialism.

Allahyarham’s name returned to the public domain in Malaysia after the massive success of the film based on his rebellion, given the title ‘Mat Kilau’ by the famous film director Shamsul Yusof.

Shocking the country’s film arena, the extraordinary response to the film once again attracted the public’s interest to know who this Malay warrior is.

His history you may already know briefly, but what about a few different stories related to him? Here are five different stories about the late Mat Kilau that I rarely want to share.

1. All Mat Kilau’s movements against the British were masterminded by the Sultan of Pahang

According to the British perspective – all the insurgency incidents involving Tok Bahaman, Imam Rasu (Tok Gajah) and his son Mat Kilau actually stemmed from a secret movement masterminded by the Sultan of Pahang himself.

This opinion posed a dilemma among the British governing officials – because they knew they needed to cooperate with the Sultan, but at the same time had to be wary of the Sultan of Pahang’s own cunning.

This opinion is supported by British records, as most of the victims of the insurgency who were killed were not Malays, but rather Chinese individuals under British protection, Sikhs who served as security officers and some even involved the British themselves.

After the Tok Bahaman surrendered, discussions on the punishment commensurate with the crime they had committed. But due to their concerns over the influence of the Sultan of Pahang on the rebel group, the British found it difficult to make a decision.

So much so that to punish Tok Bahaman, there was an idea for him to be sent to the holy land of Mecca. Ironically, the idea was rejected because the British were worried that the Malays would see that if they revolted, they could perform a free British -sponsored hajj.

Mat Kilau, who was involved in a murder incident at the Kuala Lipis opium plantation and two Chinese men in Bukit Kayu Arak, will reportedly be sent to Andaman Island – a location where the British deport prisoners from India if he is arrested and tried.

2. Mat Kilau’s father is an efficient politician

In our historical record, Mat Kilau’s father’s name is recorded as ‘Imam Rasu’ or his more famous title ‘Tok Gajah’. For the colonialists who struggled to capture Tok Gajah, the title they used was ‘Si Rasu.’

He was an individual who played a huge influence in shaping the struggle of his son Mat Kilau, apart from the big role played by the Orang Kaya of Semantan, namely Tok Bahaman (also referred to as Tok Rahman or Tok Bahman).

In a British operation, Imam Rasu used his ingenuity to play politics among the loyal Malays, using his experience in discussing until he managed to make a pro-British leader named Penghulu Raja in Tembeling, Pahang defect.

The British at that time issued an order for the Penghulu Raja to build blockades to prevent the movement of rebel groups. He initially expressed agreement but adopted a two -faced attitude.

The fort was built to fulfill orders, but Imam Rasu, Mat Kilau and their followers were allowed by the Penghulu Raja to spend the night not far from the fort as a result of discussions with Tok Gajah. Ready to get the protection of the Penghulu Raja guard during the fight.

The next day, Tok Gajah and his followers continued their journey to Kelantan. Not far from the group, Penghulu Raja also moved to follow the rebel group with a group of 30 men, 70 women who were controlled by 17 rifle barrels.

The betrayal of the Penghulu Raja was very challenging for the British, as they did not expect the influence of the individual rebels on the Malays.

After the British realized they were being played, the British issued an announcement that the King’s Chief and all his followers who had defected would be pardoned if they returned loyal to the British.

Tok Gajah managed to persuade Penghulu Raja to use his political influence, managed to gather groups of warriors around Kelantan to fight with them.

3. The identity of Mat Kilau became a public polemic

After hiding for decades from being a British fugitive, Mat Kilau finally came out of hiding in late 1969.

The incident came as a shock to all parties as the majority thought that Mat Kilau had already been killed in an incident of fighting with British soldiers, although there were rumors that he survived with serious injuries.

The identity of Mat Kilau became a public polemic

Many deny that an old man who is thin and better known by the title ‘Mat Siam’ is the famous Mat Kilau. Polemics began to arise in the wake of the allegations, as the allegations depended solely on the individual’s confession.

The suspicion held by a large number of community members was not accepted by Mat Kilau’s immediate family members. They without hesitation believe ‘Mat Siam’ or whatever title he once used like Mohamed bin Ibrahim, is the real Mat Kilau bin Imam Rasu.

It was confirmed that his own son who was 80 years old at the time, Mat Kilau when he came out of hiding was believed to be 122 years old in press report. Only after research was conducted, was this figure reworked to 103/104 years.

The individual admitted that Mat Kilau was found to still have a strong mental ability, still fit and quite understand the intricacies of the affairs of the Pahang palace when he was called to meet the Sultan of Pahang. These behaviors to some extent shut the mouths of those who deny the allegations that arose.

4. The effort to film his story has been running for a long time without success

After Mat Kilau’s reappearance from hiding and the Pahang state government’s confirmation of his identity, efforts to film Mat Kilau’s life story began to be touted around the early 1970s – a few months before he died.

The party that voiced interest was the Shaw publishing house which was then known as the Shaw Foundation. Shaw had then announced negotiations to collaborate with Studio Merdeka (or Merdeka Film Productions) to refine the idea.

However, due to many questions and controversies regarding the true status of Mat Kilau’s identity at the time, the idea to film his life story did not find its starting point.

Only in 2022, a film based on his life story and there are elements added to elevate the storytelling was successfully published. The public response to the film proves it – our society actually cares about the history and legacy of the old people.

5. The late Jins Samsuddin was angry Mat Kilau wore a coat

The late Jins Samsuddin is one of the old and big names and a strong man in our film industry. After Mat Kilau’s reappearance and rumors of his life story being filmed, Mat Kilau began to be given exposure and the opportunity to appear in the media.

The late Jins Samsuddin was angry Mat Kilau wore a coat

In one of the reports published in the newspaper about the warrior who was still alive at the time, it was shown that Mat Kilau was wearing a coat that was clearly a British relic.

The action got a reaction from Jins who described the choice of clothes to be worn by a Malay warrior who committed himself against the colonialists – as a betrayal of Mat Kilau and also a group of Malay warriors in Pahang.

According to Jins, the clothes that should be worn must symbolize the Malays, with a slope and a keris to better fit the story of his life.

Jeans criticized those who were insensitive to the issue, willing to dress Malay warriors in clothes that were a colonial legacy that had been successfully left behind.

No response to the criticism was recorded, either by the event organizers or from Mat Kilau’s own family. Had that era been the internet era, we believe this issue would have been contagious and led to heated discussions.

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