DYAM Raja Sir Chulan ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah was born in Tanjong Brambang on 1 July 1869.
Having obtained an English-styled education at the Raffles Institution in Singapore and the English High School in Malacca with his elder brother, Raja Ngah Mansur, he started life as a civil servant and was attached to the Perak Secretariat in 1886. A few years later, he visited his father, Sultan Abdullah, who was living in the Seychelles, exiled by the British following the assassination of JWW Birch. It was following his return from the Seychelles that Raja Chulan informally introduced a French tune (that was said to be the origin of the Perak State Anthem) well-loved by his father and siblings in exile to Raja Ngah Mansur. He was then a Settlement Officer in Larut in 1890. Other civil service posts he held were Acting Land Revenue Collector at Kuala Kangsar and Assistant District Officer at Selama.
In 1900, Raja Chulan married Raja Puteh Kalsom, the daughter of Sultan Idris I. He later accompanied Sultan Idris I to England for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. When he returned to Perak, he was made District Officer (DO) in Hulu Perak. According to an article by Prof Khoo Kay Kim, Raja Chulan was likely to be the first Malay ever to be appointed DO. He became a Perak State Council member in 1907 and finally retired from government service in 1911.
Raja Chulan was the outstanding spokesman of the Malays in public life and when he retired from the Federal Council just before his death after 26 years on the Perak State Council. He became the first Malay communal representative of the Federal Council in 1924. In the Council, he urged the British to improve the economical standing of the Malays and their accessibility to the civil service. In a Federal Council Meeting in 1931, he opined that a substantial reduction expenditure in government can be achieved by employing more Malays wherever possible in the civil service, rather than continuing to engage a larger number of European officials. Raja Chulan added that the Malay will spend his earnings locally and will work on a smaller salary than a European whose savings will go elsewhere (i.e. out of the country). He understood that at that point in time, it was not possible for all highly qualified experts to be held by Malays but after 50 years of British administration, he felt that surely there are sufficient Malays trained to undertake responsible work in technical departments such as the Public Works Department, the Post Office and the Railways. In the same meeting, Raja Chulan suggested the need for the British administration to look into encouraging Malays to study medicine and dentistry. He hoped to induce the Malay public to form a scholarship fund to support this endeavour, provided that the government promises to provide employment to these Malay doctors and dentists on graduation. Raja Chulan was also vocal in other matters of British administration of the Malay States. He was unhappy with the decision to levy import duty on petrol and kerosene as this would affect the poorer classes of the population. Sir Cecil Clementi, the High Commissioner once mentioned that “no Malay of modern times has done more for his country and his countrymen than Raja Sir Chulan”.
He was granted the title of Raja Di-Hilir by Almarhum Sultan Iskandar on 1 December 1920, after the British lifted the ban on the descendants of the exiled Sultan Abdullah from succession to the Perak throne. He was the first non-ruling Malay Royal to have been knighted, which he received a KBE in 1930 from George V. He was partly instrumental (together with Almarhum Sultan Iskandar ibni Sultan Idris, Tuanku Muhammad ibni Yamtuan Antah and Datuk Abdullah Haji Dahan) in the forming of the Royal Malay Regiment, which was finally formed in 1933. In a Federal Council Meeting in 1931, Raja Chulan had explained that the formation of such a regiment would afford a stimulus to Malay patriotism.
He died on 10 April 1933 and was buried at the Al-Ghufran Royal Mausoleum, Bukit Chandan in Kuala Kangsar. He had issue, most of whom were daughters. From his marriage to Raja Puteh Kelsom, he had a son, Raja Zainal Azman bin Raja Sir Chulan, later Raja Kecil Bongsu (1948-1956) who was educated in England, and a daughter, Raja Amnah, who later married Sultan Osman Al-Sani Perkasa Alam of Deli. From Almarhum’s marriage to his second wife, Che Sariya binti Sahat, he had further issue – Raja Zania Shah, Raja Mentera @ Mahtra, Raja Kimas, Raja Mimi, Raja Zan and Raja Amriah.
Trivia: Weld Road in Kuala Lumpur was renamed Jalan Raja Chulan in 1982.
2. Khoo KK. Man behind the national anthem. Sunday Star. 1994 October 23.
3. Raja Nur Jannah Raja Hirdan.
4. Proceedings of the Federal Council Meeting of the Federated Malay States, 1931.