Back in 2007, the Malaysian Immigration Department detained two women who arrived in our country from Indonesia. Now, normally immigration detentions can happen due to incomplete travel documents, visa issues, and other formalities that are not thoroughly observed and conducted while travelling. Or in the case of illegal migrants, crossing between international borders illegally.
But for these two women, the circumstances behind their arrest are just as bizarre as their origins, as this story will no doubt go on to prove. Meet Fathia Reza and her sister, Lamira Roro. Or, if you want to go by their royal titles as per the Sunda Empire, which they claim to hail from, Her Imperial Majesty Crown Princess Fathia Reza and Her Imperial Majesty Crown Princess Lamira Roro.
So why on Earth have they been detained for well over 13 years in Malaysia? Well…
The Sunda Empire doesn’t actually exist.
You see, the main reason why they were arrested, to begin with, is because they were holding passports from the Sunda Empire, and not from their actual country of origin, which is Indonesia. And with the Sunda Empire not being officially recognised as a legitimate nation, Malaysian authorities had no choice but to detain both the ‘Princesses’ who are stateless.
Claiming to be living under exile in Switzerland, the duo entered Southeast Asia using their ‘passports’ issued by the Sunda Empire and traveled into Brunei where they were arrested. They were then sent into a ‘buffer zone’ between Brunei and Sarawak, where the pair were once again arrested, this time by Malaysian authorities. At the time of their arrest, Fathia was only 23-years-old, while her younger sister, Lmia was only 21-years-old.
Upon being interviewed, authorities were surprised to find that both women were fluent in English, French and Dutch.
They could return to Indonesia if they were willing to recognise and admit that they are Indonesians, but remaining steadfast and adamant to hold on to their ‘sovereignty’, they’ve been stuck in Malaysia for 13 years.
But what is the Sunda Empire?
To put it into simple terms, the Sunda Empire is a fictional empire that was founded by self-proclaimed grand prime minister Nasri Banks and his wife royal imperial highness Raden Ratna Ningrum. While it’s difficult to trace the origins as to when the ‘Sunda Empire’ was first founded in modern times, what is clear is that grand prime minister Nasri took inspiration from a very real part of Indonesian history to establish his rule.
As researched by The Jakarta Post, the present-day Sunda Empire is based off on the historical Sunda Kingdom, a Hindu kingdom that existed between the 7th and 16th century and occupied an area that included present-day West Java, Banten and Jakarta.
The Sunda Kingdom eventually fell to the influences of Dutch colonisers, political turbulence, and of course, the formation of the Republic of Indonesia, which still stands strong today. Of course, this means that grand prime minister Nasri Banks and his Sunda Empire does not, in fact, have any legal claims to any of their titles, and they have no legitimate authority either.
What have they been up to?
The Sunda Empire was initially founded, according to grand prime minister Nasri, to help Indonesia settle its debts with the World Bank. That’s not all. They also claim that the United Nations was under the span of their control.
But they haven’t actually settled any debts. In fact, alongside the arrest of both princesses in Malaysia, the grand prime minister and his wife have also both been detained in Indonesia earlier this January for fraud.
Under Articles 14 and 15 of the 1946 Misinformation Law, the duo can face up to 10 years in prison for their stint as rulers of the Sunda Empire.
The fates of the princesses
Under immigration law, both ‘princesses’ are considered to be stateless as of right now. Which means that until they acknowledge that they are Indonesian citizens, they can’t be sent back to Indonesia.
“…They refuse to acknowledge themselves as Indonesian citizens and were adamant in identifying themselves as citizens of the Sunda Empire,” said Agung Cahaya Sumirat, coordinator for information and social cultural affairs at the Indonesian embassy.
“Our impression is that their belief in being a member of the Sunda Empire is what matters most [to them],”
As of writing, the women are still detained in the Melaka Immigration Depot. What makes this all the more surprising is that the Sunda Empire is not, in fact, the only fictional kingdom to have been established, as just about the same time as the Sunda Empire gained noteworthy attention online, another ‘kingdom’, the “Keraton Agung Sejagat” or ‘World Empire’, also established its presence.
While we may not think too much about these kingdoms that have absolutely no legitimacy to their claims to authority, historians are concerned over the narrative that they are trying to recount, especially in using the grandeur of romanticised history to gain power among the people.
What do you guys think of this?
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