The Pahang Way
When Jasliza Jamil met with an unfortunate accident on her way to work in Putrajaya last month, the last person she would expect to stop and lend a helping hand was Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, the Yang DiPertuan Agong himself. The King was on his way to attend a pre-Cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
That was not the first time that His Majesty had acted in such manner. Even during his tenure as the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang he had stopped at accident scenes countless times, offering his assistance not just there and then, but to the extent of following up with the victims asking how they were recovering and at times even paying for the treatment received!
The above is the Pahang way – where putting the importance of the people first is the order of the day.
Many do not realise the other story behind that chance meeting with Jasliza Jamil.
His Majesty was on his way to Putrajaya for his pre-Cabinet meeting with the Prime Minister. This scheduled weekly meeting is where the Prime Minister briefs the King on the administration of the country and seeks the King’s advice on very important matters. The Prime Minister, after all, administers the country and heads His Majesty’s government.
But these meetings have always been held, by convention, at the Istana Negara. However, nothing is conventional when it comes to the House of Pahang. Recognising the urgency of matters, the King saw fit to go to the Prime Minister instead to expedite the process of running the government.
This is again a norm in Pahang where His Majesty, then as the Prince Regent, would meet the Menteri Besar instead of the other way around to get matters out of the way.
Just before the accident in Putrajaya happened, the social media circle was abuzz with excitement when the King was shown queuing up and ordering at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in Temerloh.
To many, it was a scene that is totally out of the ordinary. But to the people of Pahang, it was perfectly normal to see Al-Sultan Abdullah and family eat at either KFC or McDonald’s just like any other family.
Behind the bubbly character of the beautiful Raja Permaisuri Agong is the loving and dutiful wife, mother and Queen.
Not many know that Her Majesty cooks for the King daily, give away one or two days. Her Majesty was trained in cooking by her late father, Almarhum Al- Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj who once told her, “Azizah, if you don’t know how to cook, how can you tell the cook that their cooking is not right?”
Almarhum Sultan Iskandar also urged Her Majesty to learn how to cook the various Pahang recipes before she got married to Al-Sultan Abdullah. Last year, Her Majesty launched two recipe books showcasing Pahang food and desserts.
Her Majesty is often seen during floods cooking for flood victims. I was fortunate enough to witness how she cooked for thousands of flood victims in Pahang every single day at different locations for up to two weeks and more, every single meal time.
Upon arrival at any of the flood evacuation centres Her Majesty would announce to the aid workers in the makeshift cookhouse, “Assalamualaikum Pakcik-Pakcik, Makcik-Makcik, Abang-Abang, Kakak-Kakak, boleh berhenti buat kerja. Biar saya yang masak!”
She would get down to work immediately to feed the hundreds at the centre, then get her children to serve the flood victims. None of those in Her Majesty’s entourage were allowed to eat any of the food cooked.
“Ini rakyat punya,” she would say. She would ask her children to go around the dining area to make sure that everyone had eaten before saying goodbye to everyone and head for the next centre.
When Almarhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah passed away, it was Her Majesty who took charge of the funeral arrangements as the King was away in England to attend the graduation of their daughter.
Everyone could see the dutiful and loyal wife and daughter-in-law tirelessly pacing the floors of both the Istana Negara and Istana Abu Bakar ensuring that everything was in order, and at the same time guests were taken care of. And many cried seeing both their Majesties hug and console each other upon the arrival of His Majesty the Yang DiPertuan Agong at Istana Abu Bakar.
The loving wife, finally in the arms of her pillar of strength; the loving husband seeking comfort and solace from his pillar of strength.
Getting the Insights
The events above were captured by the Istana Negara public relations team that is embedded inside the King’s entourage.
Although most royal households now have a form or two of social media accounts, they are mostly dry and too formal in their presentation.
The Istana Negara social media accounts give an insight into the daily functions of both the Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Raja Permaisuri Agong. Although formal in nature, it is more relaxed in its approach that brings the rakyat into the events themselves.
The Facebook page ‘Friends of Istana Negara’ supports the official Istana Negara social media accounts by relaying the events while ‘House of Pahang’ which is found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube gives an insight into the lighter side of the Pahang royal household.
One of the events covered in the latter that had Netizens awestruck was during the barbecue dinner hosted by the King and Queen during the recent Conference of Rulers where all the Rulers, queued and took their own food! For the first time people were able to see the other side of the members of the royal families and those who expected to see their Majesties being served at the table received a huge surprise.
Transparency seems to be the order of the day. Both the Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Raja Permaisuri Agong are very open even when talking about personal matters.
We are accustomed to editorials written about the Sultans and previous Yang DiPertuan Agongs in the newspapers. This time, we get to read and hear it from their Majesties themselves.
His Majesty spoke to members of the press about his wishes for the people, and how the press then and now have helped shape his character, while Her Majesty spoke about her feelings at being appointed the nation’s First Lady and shared childhood jokes with the press.
In an age where socioeconomic gains are seen as a result of political works, the Rulers Institution is gradually losing its relevance. Intended misinformation and watering-down of the important roles the Rulers Institution play in ensuring a check-and-balance in Malaysia’s own mould of democracy and as protector of the people have contributed to the youth asking the relevance of the Rulers Institution in this new millennium.
The misbehaviour of those not directly in lines of succession have undoubtedly smeared the image of the royal households and have brought about much disrespect just because the name of those in question still bear the title Tengku or Raja. Of course, they are human, but they also carry the responsibility of preserving the name and image of the institution they belong to.
This is perhaps the reason both their Majesties have embraced social media and see the importance of ‘letting the people see the insides of the Istana’ as only transparency, without any erosion to the dignity of the Institution, is the way for the rakyat to see that the institution of the Yang DiPertuan Agong is the people’s institution, and not merely a rubber stamp for the government that is supposed to work for His Majesty. This is the mould the people have been waiting for.
And Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah is the benchmark for all future yang DiPertuan Agong to follow. DAULAT TUANKU.
(This article was first published on The Mole )