ON January 30 the nation will bid a fond farewell to the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al- Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.
The King and the Queen have endeared themselves to Malaysians with their friendly and cheerful personalities.
The King’s reign had been an eventful one from the start due to the political situation being in a state of flux. He had used his wisdom to initiate some new creative ways to find solutions to the many political crises he was confronted with during a time of political instability.
His ingenuity had allowed the country to overcome some vexatious political and constitutional problems that beset the country during his reign.
These problems were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns and the declaration of Emergency. It was a time of great socio-economic anxiety and uncertainty that needed the government to opt for various hitherto untried measures to stabilise the country.
The King’s innovative steps to deal with the constitutional crises will remain as a hallmark of his reign. His creative approach in wanting to solve the political deadlock was seen when MPs were bussed to the Palace for a short interview with the King to ascertain their stand.
This problematical situation was resolved when Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed prime minister and he had his hands full in dealing with the pandemic.
Another bout of instability ensued when UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi came with statutory declarations (SDs) from the MPs that the party is withdrawing its support for Muhyiddin who subsequently lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament and had to resign.
Subsequently, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was appointed as prime minister until the 15th general election (GE15) which culminated in a hung parliament, another first in the country’s history.
A new political conundrum was taking shape and the King had to use his wisdom again. Both the Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalitions were evenly matched and were locked in a tussle to gain control of the government.
Former premier Muhyiddin had earlier rejected a proposal from the King to cooperate with PH to form a unity government.
It was here, in my opinion, that the King made the foresightful decision when he named Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the country’s 10th prime minister, thus setting a new convention to deal with contemporary constitutional and political issues.
The King chose PH due to the coalition’s multi-racial composition, taking into consideration the racial and religious diversity of the country.
This competent and insightful decision by the King will be like a binding precedent when faced with a hung Parliament and two evenly-matched political coalitions.
In the not-so-distant future that the Malays/Muslims will be dominant electorally and a mono-racial government is a strong possibility after a general election.
This is where the King’s precedent will have a major influence in the future formation of governments. The monarch as head of state has the inherent right to advice and he could use it to persuade a mono-racial coalition to include multi-racial parties, reflecting the diversity of the country, before he gives consent to the new government.
This precedent will ensure the equality, unity and stability of society and the government for a long time to come.
In setting a precedent the King follows the example of this late father Sultan Ahmad Shah Al Musta’in Billah, who lobbied for the new concept of co-hosting of the football World Cup in 2002.
Both Japan and South Korea were eminently eligible and were eager to host the World Cup. The International Association Football Federation (FIFA) was in a deadlock and it was the late Sultan who as head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had lobbied for co-hosting and persuaded then FIFA president Sepp Blatter to opt for co-hosting to end the Japan-South Korea stalemate.
Since then, co-hosting has become popular and for numerous international sports tournaments with the method being an effective way to reduce and defray the enormous expenditure in hosting tournaments.
Very much as the co-hosting model set by the late Sultan continues to be a popular concept given today’s global volatile political and socio-economic conditions that make solo hosting of tournaments a risky affair, the King’s precedent of interviewing MPs and choosing a multi-racial coalition to govern our diverse country will also be long-standing convention in the future.
It is with remembrance of these noble gestures that we Malaysians bid a fond farewell to the Royal Couple, having completed their tour of duty. – Jan 22, 2024
Sungai Buloh, Selangor
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Bernama