Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Princely struggle for Cirebon throne

Nana Rukmana, Cirebon, West Java

A power struggle between two brothers claiming to be the rightful heir to the sultanate of Cirebon has intensified since the demise of Sultan Kanoman XI Prince Haji Muhammad Djalaluddin, two years ago. Both brothers are still at odds and steadfast in their claims.

The conflict escalated following Prince Raja Muhammad Emirudin's recent threat to remove every aristocratic title from him if Prince Muhammad Saladin and his kin still deny he is the legitimate Kanoman sultan.

The threat was the second to have been made after he previously issued a warning letter to Saladin's family.

The contrast between the two is that Emirudin has far more supporters, including the Magersari (palace circle), than Saladin, who has received backing only from his direct siblings.

The warning was conveyed by Emirudin's spokesman Prince H. Muhammad Nasirudin. "We shall be forced to strip them of their titles because they have not recognized Prince Emirudin as the legitimate Sultan Kanoman XII," said Nasirudin, who is chairman of the Cirebon Kanoman Family Foundation (YFKKC).

Last Sunday, Emirudin, assisted by hundreds of Magersari members who live in the palace grounds, threatened to expel Saladin and his family from the palace.

The expulsion decision was enclosed in Sultan Kanoman XII's (or Emirudin's) decree dated June 6, 2004, signed and announced by Emirudin in front of a session attended by family and Magersari members at the palace's Jinem Keraton Kanoman meeting hall, Cirebon municipality, West Java.

Saladin and his family were expelled by Emirudin on the grounds that they had tarnished the image of the palace by not obeying rules or customs of the palace.

Emirudin was accompanied by Nasirudin, Patih Pangeran Raja Muhammad Qodiran, also his own sibling, as well as hundreds of palace members from various areas in Cirebon such as Guwa, Rajagaluh, Jagapura and Mertapada, during the announcement.

The ruling once again indicated the intensifying rift in the power struggle at the Kanoman palace, which has prevailed for more than 18 months. The two heirs established themselves as Sultan Kanoman XII in early March last year, and since then the palace has had two sultans.

In the June 6 decree, Saladin, his mother Hj Suherni and the rest of his family were ordered to vacate the palace prior to a deadline of 1 p.m. on June 13.

"If Saladin and his family fail to leave the palace by the specified deadline, they will be forcibly ejected as they will be regarded as having ignored palace rulings," said Nasirudin, representing Emirudin.

Nasirudin added that only Emirudin was the legitimate sultan in Kanoman palace since March 6, 2003, and his command had to be obeyed by all.

In the meantime, Saladin's family, represented by his sister Ratu Mawar Kartina, objected to the expulsion, firmly reiterating that her brother Saladin was the only legitimate Sultan Kanoman XII. Ratu Mawar vowed that she and eight other family members would not leave the palace, even if they had to sacrifice their lives as a consequence.

Saladin and Emirudin are the sons of Sultan HM Djalaluddin, but were born to different mothers. Emirudin bears the title, Pangeran Raja, which indicates that he was born to a mother with the title, Ratu, or from the aristocracy.

Saladin bears only the title, Pangeran, as his mother was a commoner. But he deemed it proper for himself to become the sultan as his father had designated him as the sultan in his will.

A local cultural observer commented that the struggle for power was fierce due to economic and political factors.

Politically, the sultanate, which ruled over West Java people hundreds of years ago, still had wide influence in West Java political life, said Akhmad Syubanudin Alwy.

Furthermore, whoever rules was entitled to the considerable assets of the Kanoman sultanate. The assets include 1,020 hectares of land, worth Rp 1.5 trillion (US$ 158 million).