The Durbar (Persian for Shah’s noble court) was the Council of Rulers for the Federated Malay States, the predecessor to the Conference of Rulers (Majlis Raja-Raja which was created under Article 38 of the Malaysian Constitution on 27 August 1957). The Durbar provided a platform for the Malay Rulers of the FMS (then comprising Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang) to discuss issues pertaining religion, custom as well as matters of Malay affairs. The Durbar was first convened in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar on 14 July 1897 which lasted for four days.
The idea for a Durbar was realised from a suggestion made by Sir Charles Mitchell, the British High Commissioner from 1894 to 1899. During the period since its inception to the last Durbar in 1939, there were twelve meetings altogether, including two meetings which included Rulers from the Unfederated Malay States which was known as the All-Malaya Durbar.
There was a 24-year gap between the second and third Durbar as the British assumed that the Durbar was no longer relevant as all the FMS Rulers became members of the Federal Council in 1909. However, the Malay Rulers felt that the Federal Council offered them less say than the Durbar. In 1927, the FMS Rulers withdrew from the Federal Council and third Durbar was re-convened.
It was reported that during the second Durbar in 1903, Sultan of Perak, Sultan Idris Murshidul Azzam Shah spoke out against the British centralisation of power in the Federated Malay States. Sultan Idris realised that under centralisation the four states would gradually lose their powers to the federal government. Sultan Idris then sought decentralisation. His son, Sultan Iskandar Shah, pushed for drastic decentralisation in 1924. A major reform was made a year later in 1925 which includes the devolution of powers of the Federal Secretariat to the Residents, state councils and federal heads.
1. Arkib Negara Malaysia
2. M.A. Fawzi Basri. Cempaka Sari: Sejarah Kesultanan Negeri Perak. Yayasan Perak; 1986.
3. The Encylopedia of Malaysia. Volume 7: Early Modern History [1800-1940], Archipelago Press, 2001.