Mindless urging for Penang’s return to Kedah

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The three treaties archived in ‘A Collection of Treaties and Engagements with the Native Princes and States of Asia of the British Governments in India’, published in 1812 are:

  • Agreement with the King of Queda for the Cession of Prince of Wales Island in 1786.
  • Treaty of Peace with King of Queda and for an annual Quit-rent for Prince of Wales' Island in 1791.
  • Treaty with the King of Queda for Cession of Territory on the Coast of Queda, in November 1802.

These treaties were written and agreed upon under a very different legal and political setting from ours. Back then was colonial and monarchical era, while we are now living in a modern democratic nation-state.

Back then, Penang and Kedah formed one country, as read in the 1791 treaty:

“These nine articles are settled and concluded, and peace is made between Empetuan [sultan] and the English Company, Queda [Kedah] and Pooloo Pinang [Penang] shall be as one country.”

Back then, Perlis too was ruled by the same sultan, as the 1802 treaty addresses him in Article I as “Yeng de Pur Tuan of Purlees [Perlis] and Queda”.

Today, Penang, Perlis, and Kedah along with other states and territories form the Federation of Malaysia.

Therefore, the request from certain academics to implement the old treaties is a mindless confusion between times.

On one hand, this reveals their regressive mindset that continues to dwell in outdated treaties while others are moving forward in developing trade agreement that reflects modern nation-state reality.

On the other hand, it unveils the remarkable ignorance among these Malaysians that their very own citizenship is defined and guaranteed by the constitution, not by some archaic treaty. By urging the implementation of colonial treaties, they are requesting for the undoing of their own citizenship, bordering seditious attempt to subvert the constitution.

Some have argued that the colonial treaties are still effective because Penang continues to pay RM10,000 to Kedah.

The fact is that Penang has no constitutional duty to continue the payment. The state carries on this practice as a symbolic gesture, not as an obligation. The failure to note this distinction is another symptom of the regressive mindset that confuses the present time with that of the colonial period.

Even if, for argument’s sake, the demand to implement those archaic treaties is granted, the Article 2 of the 1802 treaty states that Penang is forever given to the British:

“Yeng de Per Tuan [sultan] agrees to give to the English Company, for ever, all that part of the sea coast that is [Seberang Perai]...”

Thus, should Penang be taken out from the federation to be given back to England? If those academics are consistent, they would have to argue for such arrangement instead of calling for Penang to be returned back to Kedah.

As if there is not enough mindless politicking going around the country, these academics, who are supposed to be the finest of minds, have just added more to it.

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