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?

The Price for Citizenship

The spat between the TMJ and Mahathir has not seen its end (photo courtesy of abuleman.org)

I do not think that we have seen the end of the volleys fired at each other between the Tunku Mahkota of Johor (TMJ) and the Government. Although I disagree with the TMJ whenever he writes about anti-federalism, I agree with his stand to protect the Federal Constitution. He may not have the protection from the law as he is not the Head of State, but his courage and determination to go at loggerheads with the Government on this matter deserves support.

According to Barisan Nasional Member of Parliament Annuar Musa, the recent Rulers Council meeting saw the Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah summoned by His Majesties to explain on the clandestine ratification of the Rome Statute.

His Majesties also summoned Emeritus Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi, a Professor of Law in the University of Law, who is a proponent of the Rome Statute. Also summoned were four academicians opposed to the statute: Law and Constitution lecturers Professor Datuk Dr Rahmat Mohamad, Associate Professor Dr Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, Dr Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi.

Only after listening to all above did the Rulers Council leave it to the Yang DiPertuan Agong, who represents the Rulers Council, to take the matter with the Prime Minister. The Rulers Council could have there and then issued a statement to show their displeasure at the manner their Government had acted in matters that could have an impact on the rights and position of Islam as the religion of the Federation, the Malay Rulers, the privileges of the the Malays and Bumiputeras, and the National Language.

This is not the first time that Saifuddin has gotten himself in hot soup. When he was a Minister in Najib Razak’s administration, he came up with a National Unity Bill when that was not the term given to him as Chairman of the National Unity Consultative Council. As a result, Najib Razak and the Attorney-General then were summoned to the same meeting four years ago and received a telling or two.

Mahathir was very obviously furious as seen in the video of a press conference made after announcing Malaysia’s pulling out of the Rome Statute, and unnecessarily alarmed the people with words like coup-d’etat to justify the Government’s about turn.

What he, and his supporters seem to have forgotten is that he is the Prime Minister of His Majesty’s government. It was the agreement signed between their Majesties with the ruling coalition in 1957 to transfer the administrative powers vested in the British advisors by their Majesties from the former, to the government that was elected by the people.

This was true then, true when the British were still here, and still true now that although the Rulers had divested much of their independence, they remain sovereign; and independence is not equal to sovereignty.

As a principle of international law, sovereignty denotes, in its purest form, the concept of a ‘supreme authority’ be it an individual or a collective unit and implied power to exercise independence both internationally and domestically.

And Professor Datuk Dr Ramlah Adam rightfully pointed out that the powers of the Malay royalty are now included in the Federal Constitution. They (the Rulers Council) should have been consulted first, as accorded by the Constitution, before the government took unilateral decisions to introduce and ratify ICERD and the Rome Statute.

Other than having the rights to be consulted, to encourage and to warn in daily administrative matters, the Malay Rulers also have the duty to protect the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the Federation and the states they reign over, the special privileges of the Malays and Bumiputeras, the special position of the Malay language as the National language.

These are the rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution, and any attempt to introduce anything that has any effect on the above, will need the agreement of the Rulers Council. Any deviation from that is against the Federal Constitution and the spirit in which it was made and agreed to by our forefathers with all the parties involved.

And I saw an online comment by a non-Malay netizen asking what have the Malay Rulers done that have benefitted the people? After the post-World War 2 racial clashes that saw the birth of the First Emergency, the British based on a priori saw the need to resettle the Chinese in camps while between 20,000 and 50,000 be sent back to China.

The plan moved at a snail’s pace due to the objections by many, and with the total withdrawal of the Kuomintang to Formosa, the repatriation of the Chinese came to a halt in September 1949 when the Communist Party of China closed off all ports and beaches. Only 6,000 Chinese from Malaya were sent back (Anthony Short, 1975 pp 178-201). The rest were settled in new villages to curb them from supplying the Communist Party of Malaya with food and other essentials.

Most of them had never had any form of allegiance to Malaya, its Rulers and government. Therefore, in granting citizenship to them they were required to give allegiance to the Rulers and the Federation.

That is the price you have to pay to become the citizens of this nation.

The same goes to all the Members of Parliament and members of the government cabinet: you have all taken an oath of allegiance to the Yang DiPertuan Agong, who represents the other eight Malay Rulers. State executive councillors and elected representatives have also taken the oath of allegiance to their respective Ruler. You are all administering the governments of the Federation and its states on behalf of the Malay Rulers, therefore it is totally unbecoming for you to act as though they are equals.

As in the words of Tengku Amer Nasser Ibrahim, the adopted son of the 16th Yang DiPertuan Agong, posted to his Instagram story:

“Tadbir” must be accompanied by “Adab”, only then will the outcome be just.

So, stop toying around with the Malay Rulers, the sanctity of Islam, the privileges of the Malays and Bumiputeras, and the special position of the Malay language as the National language.

We, the rakyat, are watching.