|Mat Kilau Attempted To Establish Formidable Resistance
By Elmi Rizal Elias
KUALA TERENGGANU, May 23 (Bernama) - The name Che Wan Nawang Che Wan Ismail may not ring a bell to most people. Tough he may not be a celebrated figure in Terengganu like Haji Abdul Rahman Limbong, involved in the uprising against the colonial masters in Malaya, he lives to tell the story of another great Malay warrior and silat master.
Today this 105-year old man proudly relates how Mat Kilau tried to antagonise the British by training an army of silat exponents. Che Wan Nawang is the best man to shed some light on Mat Kilau, the man who once tormented the British, as he was once the protege of the elusive warrior.
Despite his advanced age, Che Wan Nawang who resides at Kampung Pasir Raja, Hulu Dungun still could recall some of his experience with Mat Kilau. Che Wan Nawang with his frail voice recalls he was the protege of Mat Kilau. He, along with about 20 able-bodied men from the village underwent three months silat training in the early 1900s.
The son of Katib Rasu Tok Shahrum, a local chieftain, Mat Kilau was born in 1847 in Kampung Pulau Tawar, Jerantut, Pahang. He joined the resistance against the British in Pahang at an early age along with his father better known as "Tok Gajah".
FIGHT AGAINST OCCUPATION STARTS RIGHT AT HOME
The fight against the British started right in his father's home. The family strongly opposed the invaders from the very beginning.
But it was when the British introduced the Resident System that curtailed the powers of the Sultan and local chieftains, including Tok Gajah's, and allowed the colonial power to rule with a free hand, Mat Kilau, like many other Malays then, was incensed.
In 1881, after his father was forced to submit to the British Resident, Mat Kilau driven by anger ambushed and killed five English soldiers at the Lubuk Terua security post in Lanchang, Pahang.
A few more hired soldiers who came looking for him also received the same fate. The incident was only a prelude to more clashes between both sides.
Following the infamous incident, the British Resident then, Sir Hugh Clifford, labelled him as a rebel and ordered his capture.
This prompted Mat Kilau to go into hiding and he went by several names like Mat Siam, Mat Dahan and Mat Dadu. Yet he had a close call when once shot on his shoulder but that failed to deter him from continuing with the resistance.
Mat Kilau was probably one of the earliest in the country to employ the guerrilla tactic realising that was the only option he had in standing up against the British might.
MAT KILAU ESTABLISHED A SILAT TEAM
Recounting the events then, Che Wan Nawang or Che Wan Pahlawan as known to his friends, said Mat Kilau taught silat to the villagers after he fled his village and arrived in Kampung Pasir.
While on the run, he gathered some able locals in Kampung Pasir Raja and taught them silat, the traditional Malay martial art, to fight the British again.
He said they studied the art of self-defence for a period of three months right after the Isyak prayer and up to midnight daily.
"But, we did not learn from Mat Kilau for long. It is only about three months. This is because he doesn't stay put in any one place for more than three months fearing his presence will be detected by the British," he said.
Relating his experience while learning under Mat Kilau, he said they were also taught to use traditional weapons like machetes and spears.
Initially, he was sceptical over Mat Kilau's call that they learn silat but it was clear he wanted to establish a formidable team of warriors to take on the British.
"From what I gathered, Mat Kilau had trained many silat exponents. When he goes to any place in Kelantan and Pahang, he often recruits able-bodied men and teach them silat," he said.
He said after about three months, Mat Kilau made a decision to return to Hulu Tembeling in Pahang.
Che Wan Nawang said the proteges in Kampung Pasir made a decision to send Mat Kilau to the place through the jungles but it was an arduous and long journey through the dense jungle.
"I can't recall how many days we walked through the jungles, crossing the rivers and villages before reaching Hulu Tembeling. But it was a highly challenging experience," he said.
He said after sending Mat Kilau to Hulu Tembeling, they returned to Kampung Pasir Raja using the same route but this time with the help of three Orang Asli as their guide.
However, Mat Kilau never returned to Kampung Pasir Raja.
CHE WAN NAWANG ENDS UP AS SILAT INSTRUCTOR
Mat Kilau's proteges continued imparting what they have learned from him to the others.
Che Wan Nawang who was once a silat master said, all the youngsters in the village took up silat.
"But my pupils were not many. To me learning silat is important. At that time learning silat was not only to take on the occupying forces but what is most important is that to defend oneself from the enemies," he said.
Another local who is aware of the silat group nurtured by Mat Kilau, is Ismail Hassan, 83. This octogenarian said his father too was the protege of Mat Kilau.
His father and friends also learnt silat at Mat Kilau's base in Padang Jerangau.
"I use to remember my father teaching silat until midnight and he taught me and the other villagers the martial art," he said.
Ismail said his father was teaching silat especially the `silat gayung' to the villagers in Kampung Gelombang situated near Kampung Pasir Raja.
He said Mat Kilau's deeds to the villagers are immense because he not only prepared them to fight for their nation physically but also mentally. They may not have realised that they had already started the fight for independence.
Even now, many are learning silat in Kampung Pasir Raja and the silat masters themselves have learned from their predecessors who were probably Mat Kilau's proteges, he said.
But now as we near 50 years of Independence, silat now is no more than a sporting activity but the fighting spirit instilled by Mat Kilau is still relevant in nation building.