Article 11 (3) (a) & (b)

An asnaf family receives a symbolic key to their house from a Lembaga Zakat Selangor representative

The issue of the distribution of Zakat to non-Muslims is still not over.  Today, I saw three news articles of statements on the issue made by the CEO of Zakat Pulau Pinang, the Mufti of Negeri Sembilan, and the Mufti of Pahang.  All of them stressed that Zakat is not to be distributed to non-Muslims.

“It cannot be given to non-Muslim individuals. If it is to be given to non-Muslims, it will be done through NGOs or associations that conduct dakwah (Islamic outreach),” said Datuk Seri Dr Abdul Rahman Osman, the Mufti of Pahang.

Many, some Muslims included, do not understand the meaning of Zakat.  It is a mandatory religious obligation decreed by Allah SWT for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth.  Its role in society is to preserve social harmony between the wealthy and the poor through a more equitable way for the redistribution of wealth.

I wrote two days ago (Zakat is for the Rulers to decide) that as the Head of the religion of Islam in their respective states, the affairs of Islam come under the purview of the Rulers – their Constitutional prerogative.  And it is because of this prerogative prescribed by the Constitution that had the Sultan of Selangor issue a media statement on the issue.

His Royal Highness is very concerned about the number of Muslims who fall into the categories of poor, hardcore poor and the needy.  A check in all the nine districts of Selangor through a page maintained by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), the number stood at 21,621 people in 2009, 50,947 in 2018, and up until the end of September 2019, it was 54,568 people. On average, 3,300 Muslims enter the list of Zakat recipients every year!

Selangor has the highest GDP in Malaysia.  In 2010 it was RM177.7 billion.  In 2018 it was RM322.6 billion.  Although its labour force has increased from 3.2 million in 2015 to 3.5 million in 2018, its percentage of the unemployed has also increased from 2.4 percent (77,900 people) to 2.8 percent (99,600 people).  Rapid urbanisation in a short span of time and migration of workforce from other states into Selangor have contributed to escalating economic and social costs – rentals, housing, transport, land.  This has in turn imposed the burden of employment generation causing an increase in unemployment, the inability to offer higher wages, and incidence of poverty.

When we talk about the poor, hardcore poor and the needy, we no longer talk about people begging on walkways or even the homeless.  We now look at those earning less than RM2,000 a month, with very little or no savings, and cannot survive two to three months without work.  This is the reality that we now face – rapid urbanisation presents an increase in the number of the urban poor.  Those who are particularly vulnerable are those with low education level, low-skilled, handicapped, single parent, the youth, the elderly, orphans who have to leave their orphanage when they turn 18.  These are the people His Royal Highness is very concerned about.

Take the Petaling district for instance.  In 2009, 2,478 Muslims qualified for Zakat aid.  By 2015, 7,248 Muslims in the district were qualified for Zakat aid.  In 2018, it was 7,781.  By the end of September this year, that number is 7,858.

The amount of aid distributed in Selangor was RM279.2 million in 2009.  By the end of 2018 it was RM414.6 million..

The same pattern can also be seen in Pahang where in 2015 its population was at 1.61 million. That increased to 1.66 million in 2018. With about 75 percent of its population being Muslims, Zakat aid distributed in 2015 was RM113.4 million. In 2018 it was RM140.8 million. A 3-year study led by Emeritus Professor Chamhuri Siwar of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia between 2008 and 2011 found that the highest incidence of hardcore poverty in rural Pahang was observed among the Malays (97.33 percent), while for the urban areas of Pahang it was again the Malays (72.22 percent).

Therefore, as the Head of State and Islam, His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor was right in pointing out that although Islam emphasises on humanity, Zakat aid collected from Muslims are only to be given to Muslims in need who fall into the eight categories mentioned in my earlier article.  His Royal Highness added that in Selangor there are still many Muslim people who fall into both the rural and urban poor categories and are in dire need of Zakat aid.  This is because almost 60 percent of its population are Muslims and its population increases by about 100,000 annually.

Zakat is a matter of Islam, for Muslims.  Article 11 (3)(a) and (b) of the Federal Constitution states that Every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs and establish and maintain institution for religious or charitable purposes.

What Anwar Ibrahim et al. should have advocated was for the establishment of similar tithe collection institutions by respective religions instead of peddling articles of Islamic affairs for his own popularity and political mileage.

Zakat Is For The Rulers To Decide

Can Zakat be distributed to non-Muslims as mooted by Anwar Ibrahim?

A week ago Port Dickson MP Anwar Ibrahim mooted Zakat reforms saying the non-Muslims should also be included as Zakat recipients. He said this at the International Seminar on Islamic Zakat, Wakaf and Philantrophy in Selangor.

His statement incurred the wrath of the Sultan of Selangor who, through a statement issued, said that Zakat (tithe) can only be distributed to eight categories of the needy that include the hardcore poor asnaf, poor asnaf, and mu’allaf who are Muslims.

Asnaf is defined as a party that does not own any property and whose work cannot meet the demands for basic needs and therefore is eligible to receive Zakat aid collected from Muslims. A mu’allaf is an individual who are non-Muslims who have the hope of converting to Islam or those new to Islam whose faith still needs to be supported or reinforced.

Based on the above-definitions, the Sultan added that Zakat can only be given to a non-Muslim mu’allaf based on the principles of asnaf Mu’allafati Qulubuhum (those whose heart has accepted Islam). This principle is based on the Quran where Allah SWT said, “Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect (Zakat) and for bringing hearts together (for Islam) and for freeing captives (or slaves) and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the (stranded) traveller – an obligation (imposed) by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (Quran 9:60).

Both the Mufti of Perlis and Pulau Pinang have made a statement supporting this. In a television interview the Mufti of Perlis said that Perlis had issued a fatwa to enable non-Muslims to receive tithes under the concept of asnaf Mu’allafati Qulubuhum in 2017.

“This means that Perlis follows the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h not only to help (the non-Muslim asnaf) but also to hopefully embrace Islam,” said the Mufti. He added that the decision of the fatwa rests on the Ulil Amri (leader – the Raja of Perlis).

The Mufti of Pulau Pinang said that non-Muslims who are poverty stricken can obtain assistance from other governmental resourcees such as the Welfare Department. Distributions should only go to non-Muslims if collections exceed what was needed for Muslim recipients.

He said that according to the Quran, Zakat could be extended to non-Muslims with the purpose of making them to favour Islam, to encourage them to help Muslims against the latter’s enemies, or for them to sympathise with Muslims. This was because the contributions come solely from Muslims who pY the tithe as a religious obligation.

Malaysia, being a country that has Islam as its religion as prescribed in the Federal Constitution holds to the doctrines of Imam Shafie who in his book Al-Umm said the following:

“The Mu’allaf (those whose heart have received Islam) are those who have accepted Islam. Zakat is not given to the musyrik to entice them to Islam. If there are those who say that during the Battle of Hunayn the Prophet had distributed collections to the Musyriks, those are the distribution from fai (spoils of war) or from his own property. Not from Zakat collection.” (Al-Umm, 2/388. Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi).

As mentioned in the above paragraph, the religion of Malaysia is Islam. The Ruler of the states that have a Ruler as Head of State, is the Head of the religion of Islam. In states where there is no Ruler, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the Head of the religion of Islam. Matters of the religion of Islam come under the purview of Their Majesties. It is a pity that a seasoned politician such as Anwar Ibrahim does not know his position when mooting such reform.

In the words of the Sultan of Selangor: do not take advantage of and use the affairs of the religion of Islam to gain popularity or win the hearts of certain parties.

Your Choice: Evolution or Revolution?

Murdered members of the East Sumatera sultanates, March 1946
Members of the Eastern Sumatera Sultanate killed in March 1946

Malays love to idolise the wrong people.  We name roads and university buildings after people like Burhanuddin Al-Helmy, Ishak Haji Muhammad, Ibrahim Yaakob, Ahmad Boestaman who once fought for the unification of Malaya and Indonesia under the Indonesia Raya political concept where the former comes under Indonesian rule from Batavia, rid of its feudal system.

On 3 March 1946, five Sultans from five Malay states in East Sumatera, along with thousands of their family members were brutally murdered by supporters of the Communist Party of Indonesia as well as Sumateran Malays who fell for their anti-royalist propaganda.  The pogrom did not only end the Malay Sultanate governments of East Sumatera, but also the customs and traditions of the Sumateran Malays.

Those whose name had the prefix Tengku, Wan or Raja were immediately executed, while the Malay population had to assume Javanese or Batak names to avoid persecution.  At least two generations of Sumateran Malays had to hide their real identity after the pogrom.  It was in essence an ethnic cleansing, and was done under the battle cry “Daulat Rakyat.”

I often wonder if the same is being done here in Malaysia, the sowing of hatred towards the royal institutions in order to remove the very protection of the Malay and Bumiputera rights as well as the sanctity and status of Islam as the religion of the Federation?

Once, there was deep respect for the Rulers. Malaysia Incorporated changed all that.  Money was power and that came from those with political power.  Political interference in the constitutional powers of the Rulers eroded further whatever was left of that respect.

There is a revival of love and respect for the royal institution, now that things are going bad and election promises reneged upon.  But people are still confused by the roles that the Rulers have in this democratic system of ours.  Many people think that the Rulers institutions should be dissolved as they do not have any tangible role to play.  The truth is far from it.  Whatever executive powers that the government has, the fount of that power is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The roles of the Rulers were watered down from the beginning – in our school text books.  It does not augur well for a government to be seen as playing a second fiddle to the Rulers.  Hence, nationalism was injected into our history text books and the Rulers’ role in our “independence” was only as a signee party to the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957.  Nothing more.  In the end, the Rulers are now “living extravagantly on taxpayers’ money.”

Therefore, it is of no surprise that the Rulers and members of the Royal institutions have their set of haters spawned by this lack of understanding.  And when Her Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Agong recently retweeted a known UMNO cybertrooper’s post about the incident at the University of Malaya’s convocation ceremony, she was immediately condemned by the haters.

It was unfortunate for Her Majesty to have retweeted that person’s post, but I can understand why.  It was driven by her displeasure of the act by the graduate, choosing such an occasion to display an absence of decorum.  What if it was the Sultan of Perak who was there to present graduates with their scroll?  Her Majesty undid her retweet later.

The Raja Permaisuri Agong is not the first of the first line member of the royal institutions to have suffered attacks both on and off social media.  Almarhum Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak, the Sultan of Johor, and the Sultan of Terengganu were criticised for choosing a Menteri Besar for their respective state by people who do not understand the constitution.  Since when is the choosing of a Menteri Besar the prerogative of a winning party or Prime Minister?  Where in any constitution does it say that?  By convention? By convention is not a rule of law.  That is not binding at all.

The Sultan of Selangor was criticised for protecting the sanctity of Islam, with some calling the state’s Syariah criminal enactment unconstitutional.  It is the duty and absolute right of the Sultan of Selangor to protect the sanctity of Islam in his state; the same goes for the other Rulers as well.  And the state Syariah criminal enactment that was passed by members of the state assembly remains a law of the state until proven unconstitutional by a constitutional court.  Has there been any challenge?

I have mentioned in several of my previous writings that this land has always been Islamic by nature and this was reinforced by two British judges in the landmark case of Ramah binti Ta’at v Laton binti Malim Sutan 6 FMSLR (1927).

For the past few years I have seen many attacks made on the Rulers as well as on Islam and the special rights and privileges of the Malays and the Bumiputeras. Many non-Malay Bumiputeras fail to understand that they stand to lose a lot too if these attacks prevail.

Being the constitutional protectors of both Islam and the special rights and privileges of the Malays and Bumiputeras, the protection for the Rulers, for obvious reasons, must be removed first.  Hence, we have seen the attempts to introduce the National Unity Consultative Commission Bill in 2015, ICERD and the Rome Statute.  Times are dangerous in Malaysia for Islam, the Malays and Bumiputeras.

The reason for the UM graduate’s outburst on stage was his claim that the Vice-Chancellor of the university is a racist for attending the recent Malay Unity Congress and for delivering a speech then.  A quick read of his speech text revealed nothing racist.  But if the graduate still thinks it is, why stop there? Why not demonstrate in front of the Prime Minister’s office or residence for delivering a speech there as well? Why be selective?

And what has the Malay Unity Congress achieved? Absolutely nothing.  Even the Prime Minister seems powerless to tell the graduate to go fly kites with his demands and to stop being such a rude person.  The PM also seems powerless and reluctant to summon and reprimand the CEO of Media Prima for giving airtime to the said graduate.

That is why I used to tell my Muslim friends before the last general elections – politicians and governments come and go, so never rely on them to protect your rights and the special constitutional status of Islam in this country.  And do not ever think that the politicians are bigger in status than the Rulers.  The politicians only want to cling on to power. For that, they will make compromises and are willing to compromise their beliefs.

Imam al-Ghazali in his book, al-Iqtisad fil I’tiqad, challenged the idea that Muslims can perfect their individual actions and morals without a state that governs by Islam.

The Deen and the Sultan are twins,” he wrote. “the Deen is the foundation and the Sultan is the guardian. That which has no foundation is doomed, and that which has no guardian will perish.”

And that is why there seems to be an attempt to undermine and eventually remove the guardian, so that the foundation can be permanently removed.  So, what is it that we want?  A nation where we live by the Federal Constitution as our paramount law so we can continue our evolution, or, believe in ‘Rakyat Hakim Negara’ where it becomes a revolution?

Black Shoes and Tears Alone Will Not Help Graduates Employability

How is the graduates employability rate like in Malaysia? (photo courtesy of says.com

In a WhatsApp group discussion yesterday, someone made a comment on how difficult it is for fresh graduates to find a job now.  While the usual nonsensical prerequisites are applied (e.g. fresh graduates are encouraged to apply, with minimum 3-year work experience), the current Malaysian economic climate does not allow for the creation of meaningful jobs.

In a report published in March of this year, Bank Negara Malaysia said that between 2010 and 2017, an average of 173,457 diploma and degree graduates entered the workforce annually over that period while only an average of 98,514 high-skilled jobs were created.  Therefore, we ended up with having 599,544 jobless graduates over an 8-year period – those who cannot find high-skilled jobs.

Without looking at the big picture, they swallowed hook, line and sinker Pakatan Harapan’s promise to provide 1 million jobs in over 5 years. It is of no surprise that first-time voters kicked out the Barisan Nasional for failing to assist them adequately.  This situation is not showing any sign of improvement.

In a statistics released on 1 March 2019, the Department of Statistics Malaysia reported that there were only 198,000 job vacancies in 2018 compared to 206,000 in 2017 and only 101,000 jobs created in 2018 compared to 157,000 in 2017. Only 27,000 new jobs have been created in Q2 2019 of which 55.3 percent are for semi-skilled workers (48.5 percent) and low-skilled workers (6.8 percent). At this rate if everything else remains status quo, only half a million jobs would be created till the next general elections – half of what was promised to the voters in 2018.

Whether or not the graduates possess the right skill-set is another matter.  Employers often lament about the lack of quality of graduates being produced: poor social skills, lack of sense of responsibility, unwilling to work extra hours.

More jobs will be lost now that the era of Industry 4.0 is here.  We are already seeing over-the-counter services being taken over by automation.  We already have self-order kiosks at MacDonald’s, online banking causing banks to consolidate branches making tellers more and more redundant.  In Singapore, robots have taken over the job of mortals delivering room service to hotel customers.

Self-driving vehicles will see the demise of jobs such as taxi, limousine and lorry drivers.  No traffic policemen will be needed as autonomous vehicles will abide by traffic rules. Local municipalities will not have traffic wardens while robots with artificial intelligence will service these vehicles at service centres instead of by human beings. Self-driving tractors and harvesters will help manage paddy fields better and more efficiently while drones will help plant seedlings and spray fertiliser and insecticide without having to employ and pay tens of workers to do the same jobs.

With automation becoming more and more affordable, menial jobs will soon be unavailable to our children and grandchildren.  This will leave the underprivileged children in suburban and rural areas at risk of being unemployed. Robots do not need annual leave, maternity leave, sick leave and nor do they have moods to set their daily levels of productivity.

All the above will create social time-bombs that will explode from time-to-time, especially during general elections if not handled carefully, no matter who administers the government.

Therefore, it is imperative to look beyond black school shoes, crying and balanced breakfast meals to prepare the future generation for a future with far less jobs.  I stand corrected but not one education roadmap has been produced to create a path on which the Ministry of Education can properly plan its policies. This needs to be discussed with the relevant ministries and industry players to create the optimal environment in which the right jobs can be created for the right skills set. Otherwise, be prepared for frequent demonstrations, change of governments, and increase in crime rates.

A Little History About Your King and Queen For You Little Band of Haters

MALAYSIANS are not accustomed to seeing a Yang di-Pertuan Agong and a Raja Permaisuri Agong that they can relate to.

Remove the pomp and regalia, you see a CEO who holds work discussions at a mamak joint over teh tarik, and a mother who stops at stalls to buy kuih, just like ordinary parents would do on a daily basis.

To say that Malaysians have gone all gaga over this Royal couple is an understatement. The ability to interact, especially with the Queen, on social media is totally unprecedented.

In some ways, being able to tweet to your Queen like you would speak to your mother is good, but some tend to forget that there are lines drawn in such engagement. They mean well, but tend to forget mannerism.

Of course, the royal institution also has its band of haters – people who think that the royal institution does not have a place in modern democracy.

They call the royal families the untouchables, the unelected, the ones whom we pay for their lifestyle. All these remarks have been made thinking that the Malaysian democracy is a true democracy in every sense, where the Malay Rulers are nothing but overpaid rubber stamps.

They are anything but rubber stamps.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the Supreme Head and executive authority of the Federation.

In other words, he is the fount of authority in Malaysia. As the Ruler of a State, he also represents the other eight Malay Rulers who have elected him to the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Prior to 1 February 1948, save for the rulers of Terengganu and Johor which governed in council with the Sultan as head, the rulers were all absolute monarchs.

The British were here in agreement with the respective state Ruler to assist the latter in making the administration of their respective state more efficient.

The Rulers delegated their administrative authority, except in the affairs of the religion of Islam and Malay customs, to the British Residents who were in the Rulers’ payroll.

These residents were answerable not to the Queen of England, but to the sovereign ruler of whichever Malay state they were transferred to.

Come February 1 1948, these Malay states were all federated – with central control, but with some internal autonomy.

The Malay states still retained their sovereignty.

A popular belief is that we were colonised and were therefore not sovereign states, but the court case brought by one Jenny Mighell against the Sultan of Johor in 1894 brought forth an 1885 Treaty with the Crown of England and a letter each from the Colonial Office and Queen Victoria herself to confirm Johor’s status as a sovereign nation.

When the Sultan of Johor sent Dato’ Mohd Seth bin Mohd Said as his representative to the Merdeka discussions in London, the latter was given an instruction to disagree with Malaya being given independence.

Detractors of the royal institution regarded this as the Johor family wanting to remain as a colony of England instead of being independent as a single nation under the Federation of Malaya.

The truth is, Johor was independent at the time as other states were, had its own civil service, courts and postal service. Used to efficient governance headed by British advisers, the Sultan of Johor did not want a Malaya governed by Malayans who, in the view of the Sultan, do not possess any idea of how a nation should be governed.

The 1948 Federation of Malaya had a Federation of Malaya Legislative Council with the High Commissioner as its Chief of Executive; three ex-officio members namely the Chief Secretary, the Finance Secretary and the Attorney-General; 11 State and Settlement members consisting of the President of the Council of each of the Malay states and an elected member of the council from Melaka and Pulau Pinang; and 45 official (including the Chief Ministers) and unofficial members.

This council was made via the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948 by Sir Edward Gent on behalf of the Malay Rulers, and only for the Malay Rulers and their Successors.

This again, is proof that the Malay Rulers were sovereign and not subjects of any colonial power.

Fast forward to 1957, the final agreement was reached for the Malay Rulers to transfer the delegation of some of their executive powers from the British administrators to the representatives chosen by the people in the 1955 elections.

The Malay Rulers had preferred a hybrid government that would have consisted of elected representatives as well as representatives appointed by them made up of professionals who could help run the country in the case where elected representatives do not meet the expected mark.

In hindsight, that would have saved us all a lot of trouble now.

The office of a Yang di-Pertuan Agong, representing the other eight Malay Rulers, was created by the Federal Constitution.

In this constitution it also states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the right to choose from the Lower House, an elected representative whom to the opinion of His Majesty, holds the confidence in the House, to become the Prime Minister.

This Prime Minister shall then advise His Majesty on whom to pick as members of His Majesty’s Cabinet.

Likewise, the Sultan or Raja of the respective states has the right to choose an elected representative from the Dewan whom to the opinion of His Majesty, holds the confidence of the Dewan, to become the Menteri Besar. This Menteri Besar shall then advise His Majesty on whom to pick as His Majesty’s Executive Councillors.

If the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or the Sultan or Raja, feel that none hold the confidence of the House or Dewan, Their Majesties can not appoint anyone until a candidate that enjoys the confidence of the elected representatives is found; but this has to be done within 120 days after the dissolution of the Parliament and states assembly.

It is not for anyone to force Their Majesties to choose.

Having said that, there was no business whatsoever for Umno members to hold a demonstration in front of the Terengganu palace, for Pakatan supporters to roll on the roads leading to the Perak palace, or for the Prime Minister to say that the Sultan of Johor has no say in choosing a Menteri Besar.

The Prime Minister is the CEO of the country, answering to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who is the Executive Chairman.

And what do the Malay Rulers receive for them to agree to being in this Federation and to allow the people to choose amongst them representatives who will be administering the Malay Rulers’ government?  The emoluments stated in the Istana Negara (Royal Allowances) Act, 1982 and the various states’ enactment for royal provisions.

The constitution of the Malay states was made by the Malay Rulers and with the State Legislative Council. The Federal Constitution was made by the Federal Legislative Council. The Federal Constitution made the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Acts, us Malaysians.

Take the Federal Constitution away and dissolve Malaysia, you will not have a Yang di-Pertuan Agong, no Prime Minister, nothing. However, the Malay states will still exist with the Sultans as the supreme executive authority of those states.

And they are above the respective states constitution because they made the state constitution.

That is why they are the unelected, the untouchables as some say.

And no, you do not feed them. 

You are merely paying them in exchange for your right to vote in the people in your judgment would be the better ones to administer the government by the people, for Their Majesties.

(This article was first published by The Mole)

The King and Queen of Hearts

Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah

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 )

Why Penalise The Four Academicians For Voicing Their Opinion?

Istana Negara

Almost a year ago, voters voted for change and hailed the dawn of a new era.  They kicked out the Barisan Nasional administration for a coalition that promised them better life quality, better pay, freedom of speech among others.

A month later, the Minister of Education announced that public universities could organise debates and forums “like in other renowned universities around the world” (Menteri: IPTA kini boleh anjur debat, forum – Malaysiakini, 6 June 2018).

This prompted an academician, Dr Khoo Ying Hooi, to pen his feelings saying that the newfound freedom of speech is needed to create a new narrative that academicians do not only teach in universities but have a bigger responsibility, that is to contribute to society (Suara hati ahli akademik yang kini bebas selepas berdekad dirantai – The Malaysian Insight, 9 June 2018).

Just six days to a year of taking over the administration, the same Minister of Education wants the four academicians who presented their views to the Rulers Council to resign from their post (Maszlee: Academics must take responsibility for executive summary on Rome Statute).

He was alluding to the fact that they should not continue to hold their post due to alleged lack of integrity.

The four are Professor Datuk Dr Rahmat Mohamad, Associate Professor Dr Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, Dr Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi.  The four were summoned by the Yang DiPertuan Agong to present their views of the Rome Statute to the Rulers Council.  The four were opposed to the Statute and cited their reasons.

The Rulers Council also summoned Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi and Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to present their views and reasons for their support of the Statute.

If the government is truly serious about respecting freedom of speech and expression, then it should also respect dissenting views.  Furthermore, the four academicians, like Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi and the A-G, were summoned by the Rulers.  They did not just appear in front of the Rulers at their own time, whims and fancies. It was an order.

It just happens so that the views of the four managed to convince the Rulers Council that the Rome Statute is not good for the nation while Shad Saleem Faruqi and the A-G failed to convince their Majesties otherwise.

Therefore, in the name of integrity, shouldn’t Shad Saleem Faruqi and the A-G resign too?