Dina Zaman, The Malaysian Insider
It would seem that they are skittish, and prefer to either side with the current government or act as fence sitters. There are the “different” royals who have articulate and intelligent opinions — Tunku Abidin Muhriz of Negri Sembilan, Raja Nazrin Shah of Perak, the Sultan of Kelantan Sultan Muhammad V Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra, who is fast gaining a reputation as a people’s Sultan. However, these are the very few. The wealthy and corporate types shun publicity or speak only on businesses issues. Politics is an anomaly to them.
At one of The Malaysian Insider’s closed-door forums, a professional — Malay, educated, and soft-spoken — approached me at the door. He was deeply concerned about Malaysia, and he was horrified by what he reads and sees.
The neo-Malays of 2012 were not the Malays he grew up with and looked up to. You must write about this, how we Malays have lost our way, he said. He is what others would call a pragmatic nationalist.
“There is a way,” he said, and looked up at the uproar inside the venue where the forum was all hammer and tongs.
“You have to get the royals into the political picture.”
I stared at him. Malaysian royals are not favourites of the public, I reminded him. Their excesses disgust many, and almost everyone remembers their Malayan history. Most Malaysians seem bitter at how the royals of yesteryears sold their souls to the colonials, at the expense of the people.
The new generation of royals are admired for very little: their wealth, even more so if earned by merit and sheer industry; their titles and lifestyles, by social climbers and business opportunists.
“Er,” I said, holding a bowl of taco chips dip, “I suppose they are popular among our artis-artis.”
He disagreed. There are hundreds if not thousands of extended family royals who are politically aware, and who have their own opinions on how the country should be run. These are people who work for a living and do not benefit from the perks of the royals close to the apex of the aristocracy.
“They may not be termed as strictly ‘royals’ close to the Sultan, but of royal blood they still are! And they too are probably more concerned about the state of the monarchy and how it should be conducted. They should be lumped together as the rakyat.”
There was Tunku Aziz of the DAP (who has since resigned). Of course, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Yes, yes, I said. Ah. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
“You forget. Who represents the Malays of the country? The royals. The Sultans. At the end of the day, even the basest of Malays look up somewhat to their Sultan. Apa lagi we all ada? Our maruah? What?”
He continued: “I believe the Sultans, no doubt a symbol of Malay heritage and history, should be a Sultan of and for everyone, of every creed and of every political leaning. HOWEVER, what is happening is that they are too comfortable sleeping with the powers-that-be, relying on their relationships with the government to get projects, to support their lifestyle that they forget that they should be a Sultan of/for everyone.
“They forget that 51 per cent of the population voted for the opposition and why are the representatives of these people not part of governance like in England? Does the Sultan need to get permission from the MB to meet another politician who is not from BN? Why? Why are the Sultans not practising fairness, openness and approachable to all and sundry? Why shouldn’t they meet politicians from Pakatan?
“The royals should not worry about their status in the country. The Constitution will protect them. The state takes care of them. What they need to do is meet with politicians who are influencers, and talk. The Sultan can act as a role of the mediator. Politics haschanged. The power equation too.”
I reminded him again that the Sultan may act only as a head of his people and religion of his state. The government and opposition may approach him on matters, but what power does HRH have? “He may not have much (power) but he sure can make life difficult for people who have crossed him.”
“Does the ‘Daulat’ still exist?” I asked. I too was curious. I grew up in Terengganu hearing about people being booted out of the state, buang negeri because of a royal’s wrath. Was this true, because this would be good for my research?
He smiled, and left the event.