By Datuk Rejal Arbee
THERE have been some messages going round in facebook and whatsapp that the voyages of the Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho who had actually visited Melaka during the time of Sultan Mansor Shah, is going to be filmed.
It will of course be good for the Chinese to show how influential they were even at that time with their ships travelling all the way down from China to various places all over this Nusantara area and of course including Melaka.
In fact for us Malays and Malaysians we also have one person who was no less great than Cheng Ho.
He was of course Panglima Awang from Melaka. Like Jose Rizal, the Philippines freedom fighter who has been acknowledged as one of the greatest Malays.
Panglima Awang another great Malay of those days had actually embarked on various voyages not only in this area but more so in places as far away as the Caribbean and South America and of course Europe.
He had in fact been acknowledged to be the first man to circumnavigate the world and not Magellan as what we were taught by the British in our schools in the 50s.
We also learnt that he was in fact comandered by Magellan to be his navigator. Thus Magellan had embarked on his voyages with Panglima Awang as his navigator without whom perhaps Magellan would not have been as successful as what he had been attributed to.
Panglima Awang was in fact the navigator for Magellan when Magellan died in the Moluccas.
This fact of history should rightly be recorded by at least one of our universities here which should carry out a thorough research about Panglima Awang.
This is the least that should be done about the worrior sailor so that we and of course our students in all our schools can know and learn about the exploits of Panglima Awang.
I am actually perplexed that nothing, not a word about him was mentioned when we studied about the history of Melaka.
That was how the British had looked upon us then, belittling us and never wanting to acknowledge the exploits of any of the great Malays then.
Thus when I left school I had never heard of the name Panglima Awang though I learnt about Jose Rizal.
That was how the British had treated us then always putting us down and belittling us all the time including never wanting to let us know about the exploits of one of greatest Malays in history, that is Panglima Awang.
And thus true to their form they had not even mentioned a word about Panglima Awang let alone telling us about his exploits.
And the gall of it even history books written by us Malaysians never mentioned about him at all.
It is thus about time that the exploits of Panglima Awang is now acknowledged and be taught to our students in all the schools here.
Hopefully proper research about him would be carried out and studied so that his exploits and achievements are acknowledged and remembered in the studies about this country and this Nusantara area.
This is especially so when our students learn about Melaka and its Sultanate.
Imagine the British had never acknowledged Panglima Awang one bit to the extent of not even mentioning his name anywhere.
That was how the British colonialists and even the British in general had belittled us Malays.
It is thus time that we Malays of the present generation learn and acknowledge Panglima Awang’s achievements.
Thats the least that we should do to remember and acknowledge his achievements for posterity’s sake.
Datuk AhmadRejal Arbee has been in journalism for over 40 years, starting as a cadet reporter in the Straits Times in 1963 and heading its Johor Bahru office in 1966. He then moved to Bernama and became its first overseas correspondent to Jakarta in 1972. He also served as the Berita Harian Group Editor and the Editor of The Sun. Currently, he is reminiscing some of his memorable experiences throughout his long career in journalism.