As far as sovereigns go, Sultan Iskandar Mahmud Badaruddin, or Mahmud Badaruddin, isn’t exactly removed from present-day affairs or aloof to the plight of his people.
He believes his traditional title bestows upon him the responsibility to protect society. Born in Palembang on Feb. 23, 1966, he is in fact known as a modest gentleman in his daily appearance although his dress sense is not so casual.
The sovereign shared his concerns on different issues in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post in the capital of South Sumatra.
“No less significant and demanding is the Sultan’s moral obligation to restore the time-honored custom and tradition of the region now nearly extinct,” he told The Post at his residence in Sekip Ujung, Palembang.
In his view, the presence of the sultanate or Sultan today serves more as a social and cultural symbol aiming to make the public, especially the younger generation, aware of the region’s past history, rather than signifying a return to the past system of administration.
“The Sultan’s symbolic position at present also has the function of preserving culture. This is not an easy task to carry out despite the existence of regulations,” acknowledged the father of four and husband of Ratu Anita Soviah.
The Home Affairs Minister’s Regulation No.30/2007 concerning the preservation and development of regional culture, stipulates that the central government, governors and mayors/regents are required to provide facilities for the maintenance of diverse cultural assets and organizations in regions.
“But many elements [outlined in this regulation] have not been implemented yet. Relevant state institutions need to coordinate better and work towards a common vision to achieve this objective,” said the president of the Association of Indonesian Sultanates and Kingdoms (AKKI).
The heritage of courts and or sultanates in the country is currently in a lamentable state, the Sultan laments.
“We keep hoping and pushing for the government to pay close attention and take serious measures to preserve our local culture, so that tangible steps are taken.”
Now that regions are autonomous, they must protect their local communities, maintain unity, integrity, harmony as well as safeguard the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia and preserve socio-cultural values. The major role of social organizations like courts and custom institutions should not be ignored, he added.
“Maintaining and developing regional traditions and cultural values is part of fostering the nation’s cultural resilience, which is a pillar of national defense,” he emphasized.
In this context, he noted, regional officials should involve the public when promoting and developing the regions’ existing potential. Programs that can easily be put in place include drafting an inventory of assets, staging art performances, instigating research and encouraging education.
“The activities should cover people training as well as regional arts, and writing publications. All such programs should be monitored and reported to regional heads for further evaluation along with relevant parties,” he pointed out.
For the preservation of national culture and local heritage, Palembang will host the Indonesian Court Festival VII in September 2010, themed the role of courts in the environment. Its agenda will comprise an archeological exhibition, a court cuisine display, cultural dialogues, grand parades and tree planting.
“For Palembang, this event is inseparable from initiatives encouraging the tourism industry,” said the Sultan.
Mahmud Badaruddin became Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin III in 2006. Three years earlier, Raden Mas Syafei Prabu Diraja, then a South Sumatra Regional Police officer, claimed to be an heir, which caused confusion.
“Let the public judge the case; the obvious thing is the Lineage Board’s decision [to chose Mah-
mud Badaruddin as the Sultan] already announced to various regions in the country was not made abruptly, but through research, discussions and long debates,” he responded.
Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II (1803-1819) who was the sovereign of Palembang Sultanate Darussalam, succeeded his father, Sultan Muhammad Bahauddin (1776-1803). During his reign, he led several battles against British and Dutch forces, one of which is known as the Menteng War of July 14, 1821 (under the reign of his son, Pangeran Ratu). The Dutch colonial government finally dissolved the Palembang sultanate in 1825.
When the Dutch ruled Palembang, Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II and his family were arrested and exiled to Ternate (Maluku), where they died.
His son, Sultan Ahmad Najamuddin Pangeran Ratu, was also sent to Ternate, the others, Sultan Susuhunan Husin Dhiauddin to Krukut Batavia (Jakarta), Sultan Ahmad Najamuddin Prabu Anom to Manado (North Sulawesi) and Pangeran Kramo Jayo to Purbalingga, Banyumas (Central Java).
Nowadays, Palembang’s international airport has been named after Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II and his face features on Rp10,000 banknote.