Respect the office or respect the individual?

COMMENT | Let me tread with caution again in this article touching on Malaysian royalty. I must state for the second time that I’m sharing my thoughts and views here with the utmost respect for the Malay rulers and members of their families.

Yes, this is a sensitive and touchy subject but I have been very much encouraged by the words of Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim stating that “people have the right to give their own opinions”.

In recent days, the Tunku Mahkota Johor (TMJ) has three Facebook postings which were widely read and debated in the social media.

I have commented on his first posting in which he launched a thinly-veiled threat against Dr Mahathir Mohamad by telling Johoreans not to be misled by a certain “forked tongue” individual in the coming general election.

My message to TMJ was that “many find his wading into political territory on the eve of a very important general election quite unacceptable and that the timing of his comments was absolutely wrong”.

But it was TMJ’s second posting in which he clarified what he actually meant in his first statement which I find most interesting.

It tells a lot about how the various royal households operate and what their concerns and priorities are as the head of their respective states.

I’m not sure whether any Sarawakian or Sabahan has ever broached this subject in writing or in speech but there is always a first time.

I am a Sarawakian and I only have a governor, not a sultan. The governor of Sarawak is my head of state and he is appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. But many of us are aware that isn’t exactly how it works.

In most cases, the king will approve the recommendation from the state authority on the choice for governor. I believe this is the same for the other states, Sabah, Penang and Malacca with a governor as head of state.

As a Sarawakian and as everyone else should, I accord the office of the Sarawak governor my highest honour and reverence. However, it’s a different matter altogether when it comes to respecting the individual holding that esteemed position.

Let me be honest here. I do find great difficulty in according any honour or respect to the current occupant of the Astana in Kuching for obvious reasons.

There are times when I keep asking myself whether Sarawak really needs a ceremonial head of state. During the Brooke era, the Rajah of Sarawak was both the head of state and government and this sounds a better proposition to me today.

Allow me now to dissect the relationship between Malaysians born in states without a Malay ruler, just like me, a Sarawakian, and the royal households.

Exalted positions

TMJ said, “Whatever happens to Malaysia is your problem. Whatever decisions I feel are the best for Johor are between my people and me.”

I take that to mean TMJ is not concerned about other issues in other parts of the country other than his state of Johor.

I am not a Johorean and therefore not “his people”. So I have to accept that the decisions he made are only best for his people, and not necessarily in my interest as I am not one of “his people”.

Therefore, would I be wrong to say that the royal families of other states are only interested in affairs within their own kingdom and not those outside the territory they rule?

Come to think of it, Malaysia is actually a very big country. There is Malaya with nine royal families and the Borneo territories with no royalty. It gets more complex when each state and territory have their own peculiarities and issues.

By TMJ’s own words, I cannot expect the crown prince of Johor to worry about happenings in Sarawak because “whatever happens to Malaysia (indeed to Sarawak too) is your problem”.

Such being the case, I think I can conclude that as a Sarawakian I owe no loyalty to any of the nine Malay rulers. The same goes for those born in Sabah, Penang and Malacca.

Nonetheless, we should accord the Malay rulers the respect and reverence because of the exalted positions they hold. This is indeed a unique constitutional monarchy that we have.

Still, let us all be mindful of that one pillar of the Rukun Negara – “Loyalty to king and country.” As Malaysian citizens, we are all bound by that oath.

Finally, a last word on TMJ’s third posting on respect.

“We are all different but what must remain is respect. Because without respect amongst one another, we are nothing but animals,” he said.

I agree with TMJ.

However, I have this final poser to the respected and much-loved crown prince.

For a 33-year-old to call a 93-year-old former prime minister and much-revered statesman a forked tongue isn’t being very respectful, don’t you think so?


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change

Artikel disiar pada April 12, 2018 - 3:26 pm oleh Susan Loo

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