- 2010/05/02 Malacca's revised founding date stirs debate

The recent announcement by local historians pushing back the founding of the Malacca Sultanate by over 120 years, has attracted both public support and controversy. While many are in support of the findings, there are also calls for a public forum to be held before the state-appointed panel officially declares 1278 as the date of the founding instead of the widely accepted date of either 1396 or 1400.

Image: Jason Yoong showing off the celadon shard and tin piece found here over the years that support the 1278 founding year.
Jason Yoong showing off the celadon shard and tin piece found here over the years that support the 1278 founding year.

Maritime Archeological Museum's Jason Yoong, who supports the findings, said there were artefacts proving the existence of the city in that period. "There are shards of green glazed pottery dating back to the Song Dynasty of between 960 and 1279 have been found over the years. There are also odd-shaped tin artefacts discovered from the Malacca River, thought to be a simple form of currency before standard minted coins were used here in the 1400s," he said, calling for a forum for experts to share their views on the matter.

Another supporter is Dennis De Witt, a 45-year-old local expert on 17th Century Dutch history in Malaysia. "There will be those who may dispute the date. Yet, it seems logical if one traces backwards from the 15th century Malacca Sultanate's lineage," said the author of History of the Dutch in Malaysia, adding that he was eager to share his views during such a forum.

The issue has also caught the attention of local bloggers with fierce debates taking place online. One blogger has argued against the earlier date, adding that a Buddhist monk penning his travels around the region in the 13th century had failed to mention Malacca despite listing numerous towns and ports.

The findings by the panel, comprising 11 professors from local universities such as Universiti Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, still have to be approved by the state authorities. The panel, which has for its members academicians like Tan Sri Prof Dr Khoo Kay Kim and Tan Sri Aziz Tapa, began its research in June last year to fix the date of Malacca's founding.

Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Mohd Khalil Yaacob had mooted the setting up of the panel, which would make an official declaration in October. Panel chairman Prof Datuk Yusof Hashim said both local and foreign experts, including those from the Netherlands, England, Australia, Indonesia and Brunei, would be invited to discuss their findings later this year.

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