Last modified: 2004-06-26 by rob raeside
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A translation of the article [Rühl (1952)], Flags of the East Indies Archipelago (1600-1942) (Vlaggen van den Oost-Indischen Archipel (1600-1942)) by D. Rühl, was made by Norman Martin around 1997:
The general public shows little interest in the study of standards and flags. As a division of heraldry, it belongs to the larger fields of history and archaeology; they were born in the sounds of battle, developed by the spirit of chivalry and the tournament as descendent of feudalism, then transmitted to the citizenry, developing from banner into national flag. Many are ignorant of the influence of military flags and standards on national flags. The revolution which took place in the former Netherlands Indies after 1945 resulting in the use of new flags and arms, excites our attention to their history and tradition.
From the wealth of facts which, though scattered in many publications, not well ordered and not widely known, was present in 1942, much was destroyed by the Japanese occupiers and the revolution and lost forever. To give a view of the forms and colors that were in general use since 1600 in the various flags and standards, the most prominent are reported. Thus we find the triangular and double triangular forms, which one also finds in old Persian and Indian flags and in common use through the ages. That standards and flags were used even in antiquity can be seen from the reliefs of the wars between the gods at Borobudur, Candi Jago and Panataran. It is also known that princes (Erlangga 928-1049) used seals on their official documents. Thus the oldest report of a red-white flag is in 1294, immediately prior to the foundation of Mojopahit. This is the ancestor of the present Indonesian flag. These colors are also reported in the chronicle Gunung Butak, which tells that the armies of Kediri carried red and white flags. The conflicts caused by the growth of Islam and the later relations with China and the West combined faith and martial prowess into an indissoluble unity in Oriental flags.
[p.137] The Koranic prohibition of symbolic representation drove Islamic art into the ornamental. The standards and flags of antiquity are covered by geometric images, prominent among them crescents and stars formed from circles, as well as the actual image of the Dulfikar, the two-bladed sword of Mohammed's son Ali. These standards are divided or bordered by stripes and inscriptions with Koranic verses which as incantations often appear repetitively on the same standard. As late as the 19th century flag of this type,with a red field, with white inscriptions sewed on the flag, was still in use. The sword can be found in old flags of Java, Bantam and Aceh. Much has already been written concerning the development and use of the crescent. The crescent, i.e. the waning (not the waxing) moon with a 5 pointed star (Jupiter, the lucky star) inside the horns was used by the Turks centuries before the conquest of Constantinople (May 29, 1453) and was not borrowed by them from the Greeks (of Byzantium). Sultan Mohammed Te-Kesch (1192-1200) decorated the peak of his tent with a crescent and Oran(1326-1360) affixed a solver crescent to the red flag he awarded to the Janissaries. The crescent and star of the of the Turkish banners was the old arms of Illyricum, as appears from coins of the period of Septimus Severus, and thus was not originally Islamic. On Persian coins of the Chaosrew the crescent is a symbol of sovereignty, since the crescent has horns and horns are a symbol of power (Cf. 1Sam 2:1-10; Ps 75:5,6,11; Jer 48:25), just as a star represents brilliance. The place of the crescent in flags and standards as an Islamic symbol, the pointing of the horns towards Mecca, hence dependent on location, is the subject of another study. Opinions on this are quite varied, even among the Moslem clergy. We will also not consider whether the crescent might have originally been the horns of a steer or a yak. It is in any event certain that in old representations, the points of the horns are never elliptically bent inwards as they are in the so-called monjuks on mosques. We also know of the umbul-umbul, a bamboo stalk 4 to 10 meters long with a narrow flag along its length, or a cloth attached to the bent top as a pennant. With the coming of the Dutch to Java we get somewhat more information concerning standards and flags. We also know that special value was devoted to the accompanying standards which were to a degree signs of prestige of prominent chiefs, but partly also had a magical significance.. Chroniclers report that in...
...[p.138] 1628 the siege of Batavia was "colorful" and that the enemy troops in the passed the city "with standards flying". In general, one can say that in the 17th century the main equipment of the Javanese army was flags, spears and krises. The inhabitants of Makassar also used many flags and standards. The sovereignty colors of the princes were generally yellow, the war colors red or black, those of the clergy white or green. In 17th and 18th century flags, we find, in addition to geometric figures, Representations of particular events or old legendary figures.
Looking at the flags represented here we see that the first is the flag of JAVA as it was represented on very old flag charts. That is a yellow cotton field, with 2 crossed blue Turkish swords with red handles on the direction of the hoist. Next to it is a standard of Java taken from Raffles History of Java Part 1 plate 9. The field is red, the symbol is on it is white. This symbol may represent the gate of Mecca. To what degree this identification is correct, has not been determined until now. It can however be stated with certainty that it is a magical symbol. In Javanese theater (Wajang purwa) this standard is attached to the divine lance and represents the entrance to heaven (The gate of heaven).
A very old flag of BANTAM is square, yellow field with two crossed white swords, handles towards the hoist. The old flag of the Sultan of SOLO was red-white, later changed to red-white-red. In 1932, the flag of the Sultanate of DJOKJAKARTA was approved. This flag called the "Guloklopo", displays a white field with a red 8-pointed star in the center and a red comma-like figure in each corner. The following data concerning the colors red and white can be reported from official sources: on the occasion of celebrations of birthdays, red and white rice pudding mixed with Javanese sugar is served. The white pudding is dedicated to Father Adam and the red to Mother Eve; thus the whole to the creation of the individual, of man. The Javanese did not borrow the 8-fold symbol from the Chinese; it was native or at most borrowed from the Hindus. Eight is the symbol of the 8 points of the compass; the Javanese place 8 nagas (snakes) on the points of the compass. In the center of the octagon on the compass, thus of the entire world sat Cakravartin, the prince, the ruler of the world, who at each point of the compass had his cakti (energy), the true Hamengku Buwono (the name of the sultan), ruler of the world. The 8-pointed star is thus the symbol of the conquering...
...[p.139] energy of the prince, which he can send to all 8 points of the compass. The 4 comma-like figures in the corners, called kajong (sea shells) are auxiliary figures, intended to fill the empty spaces that automatically arise when a regular star is placed in a square. The flags of PAKU-ALAMAN and MANGKU- AGARAN are yellow-green and green-yellow respectively. These autonomous districts were among the Javanese princely states. These two flags were adopted in 1813. BATAVIA. Batavia has used many since J.P. Coen awarded it a coat of arms; to be sure, the basic idea remained constant, but there were many variations in detail. To which must be added that since the Netherlands Indies had no arms or flag of its own, the arms and flag of Batavia were always used for the Netherlands Indies, which was of course incorrect. The arms according to the original text was: a sword azure in an orange shield with the point through a brown green laurel wreath. The color of the field, probably an allusion the name of the house of Orange, is rare in coats of arms. The [Netherlands East India] Company always used the sword with laurel wreath on red-white-blue flags. The citizenry [of Batavia] later did use an orange flag displayed as in the arms, but it appears that the Company never did so. The oldest known version is thus as shown in fig. 1. Later in the time of the Company, we find the sword with laurel wreath on a flag with 9 stripes which repeats the red-white-blue tricolor three times (fig.2). A later change gives us a 6 striped field (twice red-white-blue) with the sword with laurel wreath superimposed (fig.3), while fig.4 is likewise 6 striped with the sword over all the stripes, but the wreath over the top three. The flag given in fig. 5 was produced on the instructions of the Minister of Colonies for use in the flag tribute of the Netherlands Indies Sept. 6, 1938 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina. [Here] the municipal arms are placed in a white canton. The flag of the municipality of BANDUNG, yellow-blue bisected with a narrow stripe of black, is borrowed from the town coat of arms The ensigns of JAPARA (Java) date from the 18th century. The ancient flag of the Sultan of MADURA is yellow charged with the following arms: On a field azure with a narrow bordure or, an equally narrow saltire or. The upper quarter is charged with a crescent moon with horns pointed up, above which are 3 saltires, another saltire on each side of the moon and 2 below the moon, all or.
The left quarter is charged with several houses or. The bottom quarter a tree vert; Surmounting, a cuirass, from which an arm extends holding a sword per pale in the right quarter (all or); The shield is surmounted by a princely crown. Supporters: Dexter, a Naga (snake) winged and crowned, Sinister a Pegasus argent. Supporters rest on a ribbon gules. Above the ribbon at the foot a few flowers and behind the shield some palm leaves. Ancient writings give the following explanation of the arms: The moon with the 7 saltires mean that Sumenep has been ruled by 7 persons of the same dynasty. The house represents the kraton [palace], the tree a waringen [a kind of tree].The armor is a symbol of the power of steel, while the saber is aimed at the face of the snake. The crown is the symbol of the princely dignity. The winged horse is, according to common superstition, the steed of one of the most powerful princes of Sumenep called "Jobo tole" or Kyai Kudha Panulé, which beast he was supposed to have ridden in the war against Dempo Awang, the prince of India who had a flying ship as a vehicle. In this war, Kyai Kudha Panulé was the victor.The winged snake is actually a winged leguana. The horse here stands for a worker obedient to his orders; the leguana as defender, who has bite and venom.
BALI That the colors red-white-blue repeated three times are not derived from the Dutch tricolor is not generally known. The colors come from the Hindu divine trinity. The red is for Shiva, white for Brahma, dark blue or black for Vishnu.
LOMBOK flies the same colors but with 5 stripes, i.e. red-white-blue-white-red.
SUMATRA flies, according to old flag charts, a flag of 7 stripes: red, green, red, white, green, red, and white.
At various times, various flags have been reported for ACEH. A crescent facing the fly, sometimes with a 6 pointed or an 8 pointed star, sometimes with crossed swords. The journal for the Netherlands Indies for 1839 reports that the real flag of Aceh is a red field with a white kris [native sword]. Kreemer states in Vol.II, p.181 "that the national flag of Aceh consists of a red field, on which in white cotton the well-known double sword of the Prophet. The battle flag is all red, the peacetime flag all white, while the war flag sometimes has the Moslem credo portrayed. In figs. 4 and 6 the white balls represent full moons. Fig.1 and 2 are Sultan's flags, fig. 3 and 4 war flags, fig.5 the merchant flag of Aceh, fig. 6 the merchant flag of the notables and fig.7 the merchant flag of the Arabs.
[p.141] For TAMPAKTUAN [Ruhl has Tampat Tuan] fig.1 is the local flag, fig.2 the merchant flag
TRUMON (West coast of Aceh). The rajah flies the flag fig.1, his son (the crown prince) that of fig.2, the war flag fig.4.[N.B. I don't find a fig.4 on Rühl's chart]. Later the rajah flew his flag immediately beneath the Dutch flag. Sometimes the flag was dark blue in which a white ball represented a shield and a white sword.
SIAK (Sumatra's East Coast) The Sultans of Siak and Indragiri flew a plain yellow flag. The former viceroy, before the coming of the Dutch flew a white flag with a green border(fig.2), the war flag was red-white-blue with a red border(fig.3), the merchant flag was also red-white-blue with a white and blue border(fig.4). Older flags from the 17th century differ. The Sultan's flag is yellow, with a square of red-white-blue in horizontal stripes at the heart (fig.5) and for the merchant flag a blue field with a similar square, divided red and white(fig.6).
JAMBI. The Sultan's flag and war flag of this region was white (fig.1), the merchant flag for notables red with a white canton(fig.2), In Siak, Linga, Jambi and Indragiri The merchant flag was blue with a white canton(fig.3).
LINGA. The Sultan's flag is white (fig.1), the national flag black with a white canton (fig.2), princes of royal blood and ambassadors of the Sultan fly a yellow flag (fig.3), princes of the family of the viceroy and his ambassadors fly a yellow flag with a green border top, bottom and along the hoist (fig.4), The Pangeran Laksamana (commander-in-chief) flew a white flag with a red border top,bottom and along the hoist (fig.5).
RIAU, by the contract of 26 November 1818, article 11, had a black flag with a white canton as national flag. The Sultan had a plain white flag, princes of royal blood a yellow flag with a [green] border top,bottom and along the hoist (fig.1) , while the viceroy flew a green flag with a yellow border top, bottom and along the hoist.
The Sultan of PONTIANAK flew a green flag with a crescent of green, horns pointed up, with a green 5-pointed star between the horns. When the Royal Netherlands Navy had difficulties with pirates, the rear admiral commanding of H.M. Navy in the East Indies requested, in a letter dated 1 December 1859 no. 4241, information concerning the war and merchant flags of cities which exist in the territories of the various peoples of the Indian [i.e. Indonesian] Archipelago. The data came in slowly and did not yield the comprehensive results desired.
The following is cited from the memo of 3 March 1881 no.1236 for the Western Division of BORNEO. The Sultan flew a plain yellow flag (fig. 1), on ships he flew a swallow-tailed flag (fig. 2), the Pangeran Ratu (wife of the Sultan) (fig. 3), the Pangeran Bandahara (Prince national administrator) (fig. 4), the Pangeran [p.142] Syarifali (fig. 5), the Pangeran Laksamana (Admiral) (6), young princes (fig. 7), the regent (fig. 8), the captain of the Arabs (fig. 9), the village chiefs of the Arabs (fig. 10,11,12,13), the vice-chiefs (fig. 14), other notables (fig. 15,16). The children of the Rajah had identification flags in the order of birth (fig. 1 through 14), while those of the minor rajahs were also ordered (fig. 1 through 10). That everything was similarly ordered can be seen by the following identification flags: judges (fig.1,2), hamlet chiefs of princely blood (fig.1,2), naval commander, village chief, hamlet chiefs (fig.1,2,3), police (fig. 1,2,3,4) Earlier the Sultan flew a black flag, on ships a black swallow-tailed flag (fig. 1,2), the ordinary ship's flag a red swallow-tailed flag (fig.3), and the national flag red with a yellow ball at the center (fig. 4), while the Moslem church flew a plain white flag.
SINTANG (Western Division of Borneo) also had fixed regulations. The Sultan's flag was plain yellow (fig. 1), the governing rajahs flew a black or a brown flag (fig. 2,3), the clergy (fig. 4,5,6), the commanders (fig. 7,8, 10), the war flag was black with one broad [red] border at the hoist (fig. 9), naval commander a green flag with a white border top, bottom and along the hoist (fig. 11), ministers and advisors a black flag with a white border top, bottom and along the hoist [(fig. 12)]
A similar rule held in MEMPAWA (Western Division of Borneo). Direct descendents flew (fig. 1-6) their flags from a gilded staff, other officials from a black one (fig. 7-25). The ruling prince flew a yellow rectangular or triangular flag on ships (fig. 1,2), the ruling princess a yellow flag with a green stripe at the top and bottom (fig. 3), the Pangeran Bandahara (Prince Governor) (fig. 4), the prince-minister (fig. 5), princes (fig. 6), advisors (fig. 7), financial advisors (fig. 8), children of concubines (fig. 9), regents (fig. 10), commanders (fig. 11), nobles (fig. 12) notables (fig. 13-16,18,19), hamlet chiefs (fig. 17), priests (fig. 20), judges and police (fig. 21,22), chiefs of Trodokan (fig. 23), district chiefs (fig. 24), hamlet chiefs (fig. 25), chief of the Klingalese (fig. 26)
The system for NEGRI SAMBAS (South and East Division of Borneo) was not less complex. The Sultan flew a plain yellow flag (fig. 1), the ruling princess and the crown prince had a flag diagonally divided (right to left) right yellow, left white (fig. 2), The senior rajah a 3-striped flag, yellow-white-yellow (fig. 3), the prince national administrator a yellow flag with a white stripe at the bottom (fig. 4), the prince-regent a yellow flag with a red stripe at the bottom (fig. 5), the prince- overnor(fig. 6), the prince-commander (fig. 8), princes (fig. 9-15), notables (fig. 16-20, 24-27), priests (fig. 21-23).
[p.143] In addition, the Sultans of Bulongan, Gunong Tebur and Sambilung (East of Borneo) flew yellow flags (fig.1-3). Research in the old flags of the Moluccas is rewarding, for besides fprm, color and meaning, it gives us a picture of the independence of the islanders who from time immemorial took to the sea. The triangular form is frequently used, colorful and sometimes abundantly decorated. The people of the Moluccas are well-known for their love of flags, which is so great that every chief of a kampong complex had his own flag under which he and his people fought. The war stories of the Buginese tell of the many flags captured. During Speelman's capture of Makassar, no fewer than 195 flags and pennants were captured. Favorite devices were the sun, moon and stars. In [Dutch East India] Company treaties of the 17th and early 18th centuries, when they speak of "eternal union" and "alliance and friendship eternal, immutable and indissoluble", we often find the sun-and moon formula "so long the sun and moon shall give brilliance". This figurative language to express our concept "eternal" is quite old: it appears as the closing sentence in an ancient Javanese oath formula dating earlier than the year 1000 and is still customary in Bali. The translation of this sentence reads: As long as the sun and the moon illumine the whole world, so long shall he be subject to the misery of repeated death and rebirth. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Sultan of TERNATE flew a yellow flag with a large white circle on which there appeared Arabic symbols in red (fig. 1). The merchant flag was white, twice as high as wide with swallow-tails at the head and foot. Two squares appeared as figures, the top one red, the bottom blue(fig. 2). Since according to the data obtained, this flag was in use before contact with the Dutch, we can interpret this, as in the flags of Bali and Lombok, as reference to the [Hindu] divine trinity. It is however impossible to be certain on this. It is known that the [Dutch East India Company] governor of the Moluccas, Padtbrugge (1679) in a memorandum of transmission to his successor, reported that on Ternate, he "did not wish to allow a prince's flag to be flown" so that "they could not under that flag harm anyone in the world". [Note: "prince's flag " refers to the Dutch tricolor, under the Republic of the United Netherlands considered the flag of the Prince of Orange as opposed to the red lion on yellow--later yellow lion on red--which served as the flag of the States General]. The sultan of BATJAN flew a red flag with a capital letter I and the well-known monogram of the VOC [the Dutch East India Company]. The ships of the Sultan flew a green pennant with a red border above and below and a triangular white flag with a red border (fig. 2), while those of the chiefs...
...[p.144] flew a narrow high flag with swallow-tails (fig. 3).The Sultan's religious flag was green with a red crescent, horns pointed up (fig. 4). The Sultan of TIDOR flew a yellow flag with a white circle at the center and a quarter circle in the corners of the flag. The rays from the white circle form a black 8 pointed star, around each of the quarter circles a parallel arc. Arabic symbols in the white areas [at the center and corners] (fig. 1). The religious flag of the Sultan was red with a white crescent pointed up, to each side of which two [white] upright half moons, crescent in the fly, decrescent in the hoist [i.e. the horns point towards the vertical median line of the flag] (fig. 2). He also flew on his ships a red flag, with a chevron form towards the fly, and with 4 white-red swallow-tails (fig. 3), Other ships flew a long triangular swallow-tailed flag, with red stripes top and bottom continuing through the flags (fig. 4). The chiefs flew a narrow flag with 6 stripes, twice red- white-blue (fig. 5). The hamlet chiefs on Tidor used a red triangular flag with a white border and a red-white pennant on their ships (fig. 6) and a narrow flag, divided red-white and with white swallow-tails (fig. 7) on land. The ships of the chiefs of TOMOLA hamlet flew a flag of 9 stripes, 3 times red-white-blue, each stripe ending at a point, with a red-white pennant.
The rajah of LOLADE (Halmahera) [LOLODA] flew a narrow white flag with white tails, on the field 8 yellow stripes, while the district chiefs of TOLOFSE [TOLOFU] flew the same flag in red, with 6 yellow and 5 black stripes.
The district chiefs of BICOLI, MABA, WEDA and PATANI on Halmahera flew a red-white flag, each stripe swallow-tailed, with a red-white pennant, the district chiefs of JAMBI red with a white border and and pointed tails top and bottom. The religious flag of the exiled rajah of BICOLI was black with a red crescent.
The chiefs of GEBE flew triangular flags. The crosses represent stars, a common portrayal. It would be excessive to describe all the details of all the flags; I will conclude with a few particular ones. ORITAALI, also called ORITAAILI (Ouw,Saparua,Amboina) has a red flag of which the tails are in the form of the tentacles of an octopus. The name [of the flag] is gorita jare jare. The 3 circles are yellow. PELEMASA. The cross in this red triangular flag represents the evening star (Crosses often occur in place of stars. Similarly, in weaving crosses often mean stars)
[p.145] UMALIO (Ouw,Saparua,Amboina). This flag is called Sintang Bintang locally. It is of yellow cotton with red balls, which, to judge by the name of the flag, represent stars. SAKABUANO (Ouw,Saparua,Amboina). This flag which is called Tatatumbu Buano, is red, white and yellow. Tatumbu is a type of luggage whose inside is is made of gaba-gaba (the main vein of the sago tree) and whose exterior is woven pandan leaves intertwined with shells in various patterns. Buano is an island west of Seran where "Tatumbus" are made.. OMA (Saparua,Amboina). This flag is used for OMA, SAMET and ROHOMONI. It is a rough textured fiery red flagon which is a very primitive representation of a sphere. The sphere was a spherical instrument used in astronomy to represent the vault of heaven; it was supposed to be thought of as surrounding the earth and having the stars projected on it. In the primitive thought of those times it was intended to represent the concept "environment" in this district. One can find the sphere even now on the Portuguese flag and the flag of Oma was probably derived from the Portuguese prior to the coming of the Dutch.
WASSU (Saparua,Amboina) This Alfurese flag is very old. One can see the so-called luggage motif in the manner in which it is woven.
KARIU (subdivision Saparua, residency Amboina) Long flag, of red, yellow and black silk with indented edges. T
UHAHA (subdivision Saparua, residency Amboina) Long flag, solidly colored with the red of the moon [sic]. According to tradition, their ancestors already used this flag when they lived in the mountains [Rühl uses the Indonesian word "goenoeng" which means "mountain"; I have no idea which mountain is referred to] and obtained this flag from Bali.
PAPERUA (residency Amboina) This flag is of yellow silk and is supposed to have been received from Admiral Arnoldus de Vlaming van Oudshoorn in 1653 when he commanded the regions of Paperua and Tuhaha in battle against the region of Iha. According to old records, the chief of the region of Paperua, Kamalan Sopamena, killed the chief of Iha, Halibe Patti, and as a reward, the Admiral granted the flag to the rajah. SAPERUA (residency Amboina) The flag is red or beige brown, with Tiger figures and a crown in white. The flag staff was wood, with an iron finial. It was raised during visits of high authorities, during kampong drills and in the customary cakalele (folk dance). Presumably, this is the old arms of the [Republic of the] United Netherlands [that is, the Netherlands in the 16th through 18th centuries] from the time of the [Dutch East India] Company. During this time this was often displayed with a crown above the arms. The tigers would than represent lions guardant and hence also be crowned. PORTO (Saparua,Amboina) The flag is of silk, quartered, I and IV green and II and III yellow, surmounted by a white elephant on a black rectangle. KULOR (Western Seran, Amboina) This flag has an unusual form, in the hoist bent out in a semi-circle, on the right side three tails of red, yellow and green in a lengthened triangular form. The flag is three foot [this is the old Dutch foot, slightly shorter than the English foot] long, the tails 6 foot. HARIA (Saparua,Amboina) Flag of yellow silk, with a brown scalloped border. On the yellow field a lion(?) [Question mark is in the text] rampant in red. According to the original description, this flag dates from before the time the Dutch got authority over this island [(Martin) This claim seems to me incredible since the lion is carrying something (apparently arrows) and hence is the quite distinctive Statenvlag with an added border]. IHA (West Seran, Amboina) This flag has a distinctive shape and has been in use from time immemorial. The edge on the hoist and the tails at the top and bottom are red, the inner surface is yellow and has triangular swallow-tailed form. This flag is 30 foot (5 depah) long, 5 spans (dingkel) wide. In the red at the hoist are a crescent and cross (star) in white. The horns of the crescent are pointed away from the hoist. In former times the ruling princes (rajahs) of Iha were also rulers of the surrounding lands and this flag was flown by them on the proa (orembaai) during tournaments and receptions for high officials. We have deliberately referred not only to flags but also to standards, since these concepts can not be separated European-fashion, since the archipelago underwent its own development. Of course, contact with the Hindus, the Chinese and the West had its influence. One should not regard this article as other than a beginning of the study of a subject which has until now never been systematically pursued. Since many sources were referred to, we have compiled a bibliography, thereby avoiding sometimes annoying footnotes. Although this list makes no pretence to completeness, it is hoped that it will serve as a guide to future research. We have not reported on the many "honorary and decorative flags" given to princes during the time of the [Dutch East Indies] Company. [Of these] Only those which were in practical use and subsequently became obsolete are included; it would however be quite interesting to review how the flags were painted and prepared and then presented with great ceremony.
Borneo states (72)
Mempawa States (26)
Negri Sambas states (27)
Tampat Toean (2)