A woman from Subang Jaya, Selangor is looking to return an antique suit of armour to its rightful owner, the sultanate of Brunei, after taking care of the treasure for over 18 years.
The woman, 66-year-old retiree Raja Aini Rahman, said the armour is believed to have belonged to the 16th sultan of Brunei, Sultan Husin Kamaluddin Malik Al-Dzahir, who reigned in the 18th century from 1710 to 1730, and once again in 1737 to 1740. Refusing to go into detail about how the armour came into her possession, Raja Aini said the three-piece set mysteriously arrived at her doorstep one day in 2004. The only thing she knew she needed to do was to keep the artefact safe and eventually return it to its owner.
Unfortunately, the retiree said she has tried and failed countless of times to get the armour back to the current 29th sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah.
The armour — consisting of a chain mail, helmet, and one gauntlet — has been under her care for almost two decades and has never been on display to the public. Raja Aini said she has previously engaged brokers to return the armour to Brunei, but nothing came of those attempts.
Meanwhile, in 2007, she said a delegation from Brunei once came to inspect the armour, led by a Bruneian historian. However, they only authenticated the armour and left.
“I only want to give back the armour to Brunei as it is their heritage, and I must ensure it goes back to where it belongs,” Raja Aini said.
“As the trustee of the armour, I humbly seek permission to present the armour to the successor to the throne of Brunei Darussalam, and to complete the akad (contract) in returning it to its rightful owner, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.”
In her latest effort to return the armour, Raja Aini has called on her family friends to help grab the attention of the Brunei government on social media.
The family friends, Aina Nabila Mazlan and Nurul Shafizi Mazlan, also known as Aina Belle and Nurul Belle, have made several posts about the armour on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, spreading news of the armour far and wide.
“We are helping our family friend as it is our hope to relieve her of the burden of being the caretaker of the armour,” the sisters said.
“Seeing that Aunty (Raja Aini) had tried so many ways to return it but was unsuccessful, we are trying to share it on social media and hope that the Brunei government will take notice and take it back.”
As of writing, the videos and photos have been well circulated across the platforms, with Aina Belle’s TikTok of the armour having garnered over 400,000 views since it was uploaded on 10 April.
The caretaker and the sisters affirm that the chain mail, helmet, and gauntlet have been authenticated by Muzium Negara and the Conservation Centre of the Department of Museums Malaysia in 2014.
The armour which weighs over 30kg is made out of various metals, including silver, iron, and nickel. It is adorned with real gold, rubies, and pitis (old metal coins that were used as currency in Brunei in the 1700s).
Throughout the armour are also symbols of crescent moons and winged umbrellas that the conservation centre said were used under the rule of Sultan Husin Kamaluddin. The sultan’s name is also etched in Jawi on multiple coins.
“The chain mail, helmet, and gauntlet are genuine because it matches the dressing of a Malay sultanate leader at the time,” reads the letter by Muzium Negara shared by Nurul Belle on Facebook.
“The motifs and symbols found on the armour clearly show characteristics and symbolism that represent a Malay government, especially in Brunei.”
It concluded: “Based on the physical examination and the report received (from the conservation centre), there is no doubt that the armour of the 16th sultan of Brunei, Sultan Husin Kamaluddin Malik Al-Dzahir, is in your possession.”
In an Instagram Story yesterday, 14 April, Aina Belle wrote an update that said, “We’ve been contacted by Brunei officials now. Thank you so much everyone.”
Lastly, Aina Belle also confirmed that she has been in contact with the officials but no arrangement has been made yet, nor have they received an official letter about the matter so far.
Check out her TikTok showing the artefacts here: