The auguries for interesting times in the next Agong’s reign are good

“MAY you live in interesting times,” is a Chinese saying that raises the possibility that “interesting times” may be a blessing or a curse.

Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim anticipates that the reign of his father Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar (main pic) as Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) which is slated to begin on Feb 1 next year would be an “interesting time”.

Speaking on the Keluar Sekejap podcast co-hosted by former UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and the party’s former information chief Shahril Hamdan over the weekend (Oct 29), Tunku Ismal said his father had a “clear agenda” for his reign.

Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim

A top priority would be the restoration of what the prince termed as “order”. He did not elaborate on what precisely was meant by “order” but he intimated that safeguarding the interests of the people would be paramount.

The remarks made by Tunku Ismail raise hopes that the Agong-ship of his father would bear watching because of the history of Johor royalty wherein it sees itself as the custodian of the people’s interests.

The restoration of “order” and the custodianship of the people’s interests portend a style of reigning that would be different from what Malaysians usually expect from their Kings.

In the past, their role has been largely ceremonial but in recent times, challenging national conditions have beckoned the holder of the office to play a more assertive role within the constraints of the constitutional monarchy system.

A case in point is how current YDPA Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah successfully managed the competing demands from different political coalitions creatively and impartially with his suggestion for a unity government in the aftermath of the 15th General Election (GE15). Back then, no single political coalition won enough seats to form the government.

From the intimations of Tunku Ismail that the Agong-to-be has a “clear agenda”, it can be deduced that the father has a firm idea of what his priorities are.

Thus far, Sultan Ibrahim’s reign as the Johor ruler has been notable for his inauguration of a policy that views all Johoreans as members of Bangsa Johor, a term reassuring for its inclusiveness.

Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar

This concept was emphasised from the start of his reign in 2015 which coincided with a time when at the national level, a Bangsa Malaysia concept could not gain traction because of the race-exclusive features of certain policies.

Another interesting feature of Sultan Ibrahim’s reign in Johor was his distaste for religious extremism, coming down swiftly against such manifestations. Thisfeature was at variance to what tended to prevail in other parts of the country where such displays did not incur the displeasure of the powers that be.

If these two features – an inclusiveness in the interests of unity and the discouragement of religious extremism – are transposed to the national level, then Sultan Ibrahim’s reign as Agong would make for interesting times.

Many Malaysians would hope that the Chinese saying wishing “interesting times” on the recipients would become a reality.

Daulat Tuanku. – Nov 1, 2023

Terence Netto is a journalist with 50 years in an occupation that demands resistance to fleeting impressions.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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