To mourn or not to mourn

When I am asked to mourn for him as a Johorean, the fundamental question is bound to be asked of myself: what loss is it to me personally?

By A patriotic Johorean

When my son of Primary 1 woke up early this morning, he was faced with a dilemma: to school or not to school. It was so happened that his school has designated this Saturday as replacement school day for the long Chinese New Year break. And the news the previous evening of Johor sultan gravely ill is his source of dilemma. If he indeed had passed away by then, it was certainly an off-day for the school. As it turned out eventually, it was a ‘happy’ day for him as HRH has indeed passed away.

And for me a Johorean, I am faced with an even bigger dilemma: to mourn or not to mourn. It is a sad day whenever anyone passes away. In this case, I am sad that HRH has passed away as surely it’s a great loss to his family and circle of friends. Every passing life is a loss to me.

But when I am asked to mourn for him as a Johorean, the fundamental question is bound to be asked of myself: what loss is it to me personally? As the Sultan of Johor and, for a period of time, Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, what has the HRH done in discharging his duties? All of us exist for a role, being a father, a mother, a child, an employer, an employee or a sultan and king. We strive to give our best under each role for a meaningful life.

My impression of the HRH are listed as follows: his name was used in Iskandar Malaysia economic development zone, which was originally called South Johor Economic Region but the name change was never explained; his fondness to be displayed in military attire although I do not know his military skills or achievements; riding and showing off on a large motorbike during Merdeka parade. And that’s it, really.

But then I read many commentaries and analysis of Malaysia’s history especially during his tenure as Agong. First, he was alleged to have assaulted a golf caddy and caused the latter’s death, simply because the latter laughed at him after seeing HRH miss a golf hole. The incident was promptly noted by the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir, but he did not take any action again the HRH. A great expert of manipulation and maneuver in politics, Dr Mahathir exploited HRH’s vulnerability when needed. The moment came in 1988 when Dr Mahathir wanted to sack the Lord President Salleh Abas, who headed the judiciary that had become an obstacle in Dr Mahathir’s fight with his strong opponent Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. HRH, who was then the Agong, complied and sacked Salleh Abas. That was the moment when Malaysia’s judiciary, which at that time enjoyed worldwide respect for its integrity and sound judgements, took a dramatic turn and started its disastrous decline until today. You can almost say the rot started then, under the hand of HRH. 

HRH had failed to discharge his duty as the Agong to protect the judges from interference of the Executive. This failure of HRH was confirmed when HRH invited Salleh Abas to the Johor palace four years after the incident and sought Salleh Abas’s forgiveness, according to Salleh Abas himself. 

(The recent book, Malaysian Maverick, by Barry Wain has a detailed account of what has transpired then. Or visit Wikipedia.)

So, what loss have I, a patriotic Johorean and Malaysian, on HRH’s demise? To mourn or not to mourn, indeed.