PARDON me for saying that the Singapore Straits Times newspaper was being shrewd and “naughty” in one breath when reporting its exclusive interview with Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar over the weekend.
Its headline reads “No ‘Puppet King” followed with a stand-first “Sultan of Johor Sets to Voice His Views as Malaysia’s Next Monarch”.
Fair enough. His Highness is one of several Malay monarchs who are often candid with their views and are media savvy. Others, in my opinion, are the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor and Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak.
The headline is clearly intended to be a message to all Malaysians – starting with the unity government – that the Tuanku is not about to be a passive King.
The naughty part of the report is in the introduction (intro), ie the assertion that Malaysia’s next supreme king wants to revive the high-speed rail (HSR) link project with Singapore.
The HSR is as much a Singapore’s call as it is Malaysia’s. I think, Malaysians with many more pressing issues to attend to are at best reticent about this mega project. In recent years, we see clear moves towards the integration of economies of Johor and Singapore into a sort of de facto common market.
That’s alright if Johor knows how to deal with the wily republic and its government as well as the people of the state are involved in the decision.
Alas no cross-border agreement between any Malaysian state with a foreign country is valid without the involvement of the Federal government.
The Singapore newspaper could have crossed the boundary by delving into Malaysia’s sovereignty, in particular the position of the Agong.
The King was never a puppet. His Majesty’s power and role are enshrined in the Federal Constitution. Under the Constitution, power is shared among the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Nobody is above or below the Constitution. Everybody is within it.
It’s a mistake for any of us to take advantage of what is perceived to be a weak government to empower and enrich ourselves. Such a behaviour – including by corporate empires, the news media and individuals – would weaken the government further and de-stabilise the country.
What then was the Singapore Straits Times’ intention? Surely its editors know that such a report could have the effect of de-stabilising Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy and constitution monarchy.
Malaysia isn’t a monolithic republic like Singapore although the island was part and parcel of the Johor Empire during the pre-colonial days. It’s today a republic because back in 1824, it was ceded to the British for monetary consideration and later separated from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965.
In conclusion, let’s remind ourselves of Rukun Negara (National Principles):
- Belief in God (Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan)
- Loyalty to King and Country (Kesetiaan Kepada Raja dan Negara)
- Supremacy of the Constitution (Keluhuran Perlembagaan)
- Rule of Law (Kedaulatan Undang-Undang)
- Courtesy and morality (Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan) – Dec 15, 2023
National journalism laureate and currently a blogger, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin was then former editor-in-chief of mainstream New Straits Times.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.