What do the Singaporeans think of annexing Johor

Franz Ferdinand's World Tour

Today you should pay a visit to Dschohor, the capital and residence of the Sultanate of Dschohor, founded by Sultan Abu Bekr in 1859. In the absence of the sultan, the heir to the throne had invited me to enter the interesting realm of the sovereign Malay sultans of Dschohor and to hunt in the afternoon after seeing the sights near the city.

Accompanied by the Belgian consul general, my suite and several gentlemen from the staff of the "Elisabeth", I set off early in the morning by car from Singapore, a journey which, as the heat was not yet too oppressive, turned out to be extremely pleasant. On an excellent road we crossed the entire island of Singapore, first along the numerous parks of the villa city, then driving through the jungle and primeval forests.

The eye is amazed and delighted with the wonders that nature conjures up in the children of Florens. While I would like to describe the predominance of the palm and the banian tree as characteristic of Ceylon, here the colorfully changing diversity of the images can be seen. Bamboo, mango and durian trees line the street; behind it are coffee and pepper trees; Primeval forest, from whose inextricable thickets rise the sago and areca palms, as well as the tree ferns, follows. Numerous small settlements of Malay and Chinese bring invigorating hues to the lush green of the landscape.

We had driven for about two hours when we finally reached the end of the island and, only separated by the narrow waterway Salat Tabras, saw the city of Johor lying in front of us. The first sight of Dschohor is an extremely lovely one. From the deep blue sea rise, to the left of the Sungei (brook) Chat, flowing through green hills, decorated like a park and crowned by bungalows; in the middle the Istana Laut, the Sultan's palace; to the right of it the government buildings and the Sultan's former serai; on the left the small, flourishing town with light-red tiled roofs; in between groups of trees and green lawns. Truly, if we did not know that a strait lies ahead of us, we could imagine ourselves being transferred to the friendly shores of an inland lake.

Received by two of the sultan's nephews at the jetty on this side, I was escorted on a neat launch to the Dschohorer Ufer, where the first minister, as well as all the dignitaries and Europeans who were staying here, had gathered. A handsome steam-yacht of the Sultan was at anchor. I walked into the palace, where I was greeted by the heir to the throne, a tall 18-year-old of a very likeable personality, and a younger brother of the sultan. The palace is a long, two-story building, the exterior of which is unadorned, while the interior is more tasteful and homely than that of the palace in Singapore. There is no shortage of guest rooms; for the sultan practices hospitality in a splendid way and every European who comes to Singapore, but especially every naval officer, is welcome with him.

Tea was taken in a vestibule of the Istana and the program for the day was discussed, although the leading figures apparently did not quite agree. At the court of the Sultan, several Europeans, some of whom have had a rather eventful life behind them, and who do not live in the best of terms with one another, but pay homage to divergent views and pursue personal interests, seem to seek decisive influence over the Sultan. One of the people living here is a Swiss man who has now leased a coffee plantation from the Sultan and acted as arranger and interpreter at the court during our stay; furthermore, among other British people, a Scot who came to Dschohor as an engineer and is now the owner of a large steam saw.

The heir to the throne seems to be rather subject to the influence of these strangers, although he otherwise displays a decided character; He has only recently been in the position of heir to the throne, since the Sultan had another of his relatives in England trained to this dignity, but when he did not get what he wanted, he soon lost this rank and without further ado and made him boss appointed by the police, whereupon the current heir to the throne was designated heir to the kingdom of Dschohor.

After the discussion about the day's program was over, a trip by steamboat was undertaken in the inlet that separates the island of Singapore from the mainland. First our ship drove along the small town, then past several plantings and finally we steered between the jungle that stretches to the beach on both banks, forming a delightful frame of the sea road.

This was followed by an opulent breakfast, which I had the opportunity. to admire the golden centerpieces and the golden service - lavishly decorated splendid works of goldsmithing which the Sultan had made in England. The household in Dschohor is generally furnished with the greatest luxury, which, however, and especially in connection with other costly inclinations of the Sultan Abu Bekr, is said to result in an overload of this ruler's civil list. However, in a clever calculation of its own advantage - so it is claimed - powerful England always knows how to help its protégés out of their financial needs.

The Dschohor empire covers 24,850 km2 with around 300,000 inhabitants, including 210,000 Chinese, and is very well managed thanks to the involvement of England. The main income of the state comes primarily from the customs duties on the import of opium and spirits, as well as on the export of gambir, pepper and other agricultural products, which incidentally form the only condition with which the population of Johor is taxed.

The interior of Johor, whether marshland, wavy terrain or mountainous, is consistently covered with dense, tropical jungle, as evergreen vegetation can be found everywhere under the influence of the almost daily rain, the heavy dew falls and the high humidity.

Palms, such as the sugar-rich cabong palm, the coconut, the saga and the areca palm, gutta-percha trees (Isonandra gutta), camphor trees (Camphora officinalis) and high-quality timber from the virgin forest characterize the tree zone; Shrubs that produce resins, oils and toxins form the undergrowth of the jungle. The cultivated land is especially dedicated to the production of rice, maize, but especially pepper and catechu, the tannin-containing extract from the branches of the Gambir bush (Uncaria Gambir), a Rubiaceae.

The strong culture of pepper and Gambir-Katechu, which is mainly practiced in the northwestern province of Muar and almost entirely by the Chinese, is also reflected in the exports of Johors, since the two products mentioned are the most important export items. Imports mainly include rice, the main food of the population.

So far, relatively little land has been converted into cultivated land; In many parts of the empire the forests are not exploited at all, otherwise only irrationally, why is it that the jungles of Johors still have numerous monkeys of the genus Gibbon (Hylobates), then Semnopithecus obscurus, etc., occasionally also elephants, rhinos, tapirs, bison (Gaur), bears, yes the Malay tiger, furthermore sambar deer and the smaller kidschangs (Cervus muntjac), then crocodiles, snakes, finally all kinds of birds.

The mineral treasures of Johor are pretty much undeveloped except for tin, of which the whole Malay Peninsula is extraordinarily rich, and gold. The latter can be found in particular in the vicinity of the Ophir (Gunong Ledang), the highest mountain in the area of ​​Johor, whose abruptly rising peak we saw from the sea on April 5th.

All in all, the Dschohor Empire, which entered history as one of the feudal states of the once powerful Sultanate of Malacca, but later managed to conquer its independence and to maintain its sovereignty to this day, undoubtedly granted the tasks of contemporary culture an extremely favorable terrain . Under Abu Bekr the administration, the culture and the commercial activity of Johor have made decisive progress on that path which alone is able to ensure lasting prosperity for the small but richly endowed and favorably situated country.

A hunt for deer and wild boar was planned, and so, after we had indulged in the culinary delights of Dschohor, we drove on an excellent road inland, through a scenic area, past numerous nicely kept Malay settlements, in whose gardens the croton bush (Croton tiglium) forms the main ornament. We drove comfortably and quickly; the carriages, but especially their stringing, were excellent, since the sultan is a horse lover and has imported, among other things, a pair of excellent horses from our fatherland. At a police station where the hunting party awaited us under the orders of the sultan's brother, a stout gentleman, as well as the deposed heir to the throne - two supposedly capable hunters. we stopped.

After a long parliamentary period it was decided that we should take a position in a jungle in a developed line, while the already posted drivers would drive the jungle against us with the dogs. A kind of net was stretched out of bast loops behind us, in which every missing or shot and escaping piece of game had to be caught. So we stood at intervals of 50 paces each, in the middle of tall grass and thick ferns, with little waste, waiting for things to come. But hour after hour passed and nothing came but a tremendous downpour, which, falling under thunder and lightning, dazed the view except for a few steps and soaked us completely in a few minutes.

The present and the former heir to the throne, as well as the sultan's brother, stood dripping behind me and finally declared that hardly a piece of game should get lost near us and that we should therefore return home. We quickly agreed with this view and soon found ourselves in the police station, where the arrangers excused the failure of the hunt by saying that they had not had the time to make better, promising preparations. Although the news that my arrival was imminent had already become known in Singapore and in Dschohor five weeks earlier, the Belgian consul general, perhaps because of the simultaneous representation of four states, is supposed to be too busy with the court of Dschohor of my arrival have only recently notified. The Consul General did not take part in the hunt either, but asked me to use the time to visit the state prison, so that he lost his share in the fall bath that we had suffered.

On the way back I enjoyed the company of the heir to the throne, who spoke with delight of Vienna, which he recently visited, and of Frankfurt am Main, where he had spent six months. The Sultan had a great affinity for Western culture and used to send his relatives to Europe for training.

We attended a gala dinner in the palace with the prince, a large number of dignitaries and the Prince of Pahang, who had been deposed by the English. This, formerly the independent prince of a 25,900 km2 comprehensive empire, located on the northern border of Johor, had simply been deposed by the English on account of alleged unrest in his country and had withdrawn, grumbling and sulking, to Johor, where his daughter was to be in touch with our host soon, at the special request of the Sultans of Dschohor; but the prince does not seem to be in complete agreement with this plan and is still refusing for the time being. The Prime Minister sat next to me at dinner, a friendly and understanding old man with whom I had a lively conversation through an interpreter. He knew a lot about our homeland and about all the officers of the mission ships of our navy who were guests here. In the absence of the ruler, he leads the government and enjoys the reputation of being a very business-minded, active man.

The golden essays that adorned the table were, if at all possible, even more precious and magnificent than those who had admired the wild morning. A very good private orchestra of the Sultan provided the table music and, immediately after dinner, the accompaniment to a Malay dance in which boys dressed as girls turned in a round dance; According to the view applicable here, women are excluded from participating in public dances. The idea was pretty disinterested, by the way, although the poor fellows did their best.

After saying a warm farewell to the prince and gentlemen in Dschohor, I visited a Chinese casino that, previously established in Singapore, is now here, more tolerated than permitted, and has made its home. The Chinese indulge in gaming with true passion, sacrificing the acquisition of arduous work, and move in whole caravans from Singapore to the casino in Dschohor on every holiday. The game room is very clean. Next door is a restaurant and an opium den. The game is a very simple hazard game, where you bet on four numbers and turn a dice to make a decision.

As a canceled enemy of the hazard game, which - incidentally - offers me neither entertainment nor interest, I received a downright disgusting impression in this gambling den. Nevertheless we tried our luck in order to have participated in this as well and returned, relieved by a few dollars, driving there in a wonderful, mild tropical night, on the path we took this morning on board the "Elisabeth", where we arrived late in the evening.


  • Location: Singapore
  • ANNO - on April 7th, 1893 in Austria's press.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays “Verbot und Orders”, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater performs Wagner's opera “Die Walküre”.
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