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Fluid JurisdictionsColonial Law and Arabs in Southeast Asia$
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Nurfadzilah Yahaya

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501750878

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501750878.001.0001

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Surat Kuasa

Surat Kuasa

Powers of Attorney across the Indian Ocean

(p.57) Chapter 2 Surat Kuasa
Fluid Jurisdictions

Nurfadzilah Yahaya

Cornell University Press

This chapter highlights the importance of paper as a powerful conduit for the spread of jurisdictions in the late colonial period. It compels different authorities to recognize and heed the words of colonial subjects. The chapter also discusses the Surat kuasa, the Malay and Indonesian term for power of attorney, probate, and letters of administration. The power of attorney, also known as volmacht in Dutch, was such a popular device in the Dutch colony. Produced for diverse reasons, powers of attorney were versatile and revocable, and the chapter elaborates three common kinds of powers of attorney: the first dealt with disbursing inheritance shares according to Islamic law; the second was granted by Arabs in Hadramawt to fellow Arabs, usually their relatives or business partners, specifically to manage their business and property in Southeast Asia; and the third was legally controversial and found only in the Netherlands Indies, where colonial subjects classified as “Foreign Orientals,” including Arabs, were restricted from owning certain kinds of property, such as agrarian land, which were reserved for colonial subjects classified as Natives by Dutch authorities. Ultimately, the chapter demonstrates a phenomenon called “illegal occupation,” in which some of the land was acquired through the recouping of debts and by transfer of land through powers of attorney.

Keywords:   paper, jurisdictions, surat kuasa, power of attorney, volmacht, Islamic law, Hadramawt, Netherlands Indies, Foreign Orientals, illegal occupation

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