Commentary Local

Lack of official information caused unsavoury speculations


Written by Aziz Hassan

January 10, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

IN two weeks’ time the nine Malay Rulers will meet to decide who amongst them will be the country’s 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong since independence in 1957 and also to elect one as deputy for a five-year term.

That many Malaysians are in the guessing game is perfectly understandable for an event that has yet to happen. Could it be Pahang, Johor or Perak, with the first of the three available to be considered only if the ailing 88-year-old Sultan Ahmad Shah abdicates. Otherwise Johor should be next, if the Rulers decide to conform to the unwritten rotation system that has been the practice all along.

One guessing game is on what could possibly happen at the federal level if Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar of Johor is elected, given his spats with Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who the Ruler has requested to meet in Johor today in what is their first meeting since Mahathir became PM the second time around after the May 9 elections.

But those who anticipate a rocky relationship forget or may not be aware that this was exactly what many Malaysians had predicted before Sultan Iskandar became the eight Agong on April 26, 1984. To the surprise of everyone, nothing untoward was heard in the five years Sultan Iskandar was in Kuala Lumpur. To a lesser extent some also speculated that Mahathir may not have an easy time dealing with Perak’s Sultan Azlan Shah, who succeeded Sultan Iskandar, especially when Sultan Azlan was a lord president (country’s top judge of that title then) prior to ascending the throne in Perak, to mean that the government would be ill advised to try and do something unpalatable. Nothing that rocked the boat happened. If there was an issue with the Johor palace, it was after Sultan Iskandar had served out the five years as Agong.

The relationship between the institution of Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy and the government isn’t that difficult to understand and it’s simply that if each respects the role of the other as enshrined in the federal Constitution, there is no reason why there should be a flare-up.

There were also the recent speculations surrounding the resignation of Kelantan’s Sultan Muhammad V as the 15h Agong after he had been on the throne for only two years and 24 days. Interspersed with these speculations were disparaging remarks and insults via social media, for which a few persons ended up losing their jobs when their employers decided that what they did was damaging to the companies’ image. A few have been hauled up for investigations by the police under the Sedition Act, which everyone was told had a moratorium placed on it. Strange too this one.

I have not seen any of the insulting comments but to ask people not to speculate on Sultan Muhammad’s decision wasn’t such a sound statement for the simple reason that people speculated because very little information was officially made available to the public and since this involves one of the country’s fundamental institutions and the position of their King, Malaysians deserved better.

Here and there people were talking about Sultan Muhammad’s marriage and just like everyone else, it is his right, and his only, to choose the life partner he prefers. There was this ridiculous comment that Mahathir didn’t like the Sultan’s choice, that the wife could not be the permaisuri (Queen) as if that was an issue, and also who Mahathir prefers as the next Agong, as if Mahathir has a say in the decision-making, and even linking the final choice to some business interests. The wiser amongst us would simply refer to the Constitution to understand what is allowed or possible and what isn’t.

A palace insider said the marriage was the least of the Rulers’ concern but there were a couple of other issues they felt could affect the entire institution and it is this – the institution – that the Rulers wanted to shield and avoid a confrontational situation with the government.

Thus the source said that if Sultan Muhammad had stayed on, in all likelihood his brother Rulers would have convened another meeting after January 9 to decide on the next step.

But all’s well that ends well and later in the day on January 24 Malaysians need no longer speculate because by then the choice of the nine Malay Rulers would have been officially announced.






About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.