Royal flap over ‘unwise’ spending

The splurge did not go down well with the rakyat, irrespective of whose money the Sultan used.

Jewan Kaur, FMT

Recently, when former Perak menteri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin in his Tweets questioned the whopping RM520,000 spent by the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, to secure ownership of the car registration number “WWW1”, Nizar was labelled as being rude by current Perak Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir.

The fact of the matter is that such splurge did not go down well with the rakyat, irrespective of whose money the Sultan used. On his part, Nizar, who is also Perak PAS deputy commissioner, had merely twittered that the RM520,000 would have been better used to help the poor in the state.

According to the Road Transport Department, the 53-year-old Sultan of Johor’s bid for the number was the highest, alongside bids for other “popular” numbers under the “WWW” series.

Even the country’s current and oldest King, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, 84, could not resist splurging RM220,000 to make the plate number “WWW5” his – all because WWW is the prefix for “World Wide Web”.

In the Sultan Ibrahim vs Nizar case, the truth might have been too bitter for the royal family to swallow or they were just plain ashamed – either way it was Nizar who bore the brunt after the crown prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, decided to defend his father’s “shopping spree”, saying his family members had never taken “any money from the government”.

It was not long before Nizar found himself apologising for questioning the huge spending by the Sultan of Johor.

What was wrong in Nizar asking what he did that the Johor police had to scramble to their feet and set up a task force to investigate Nizar for sedition, saying it was to “ensure justice”?

Saturation point

When former Perlis mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin in a posting on Twitter said members of the royalty are human beings, too, and not above criticism, did the police act just as swiftly in charging him with “sedition”?

“If the behaviour and actions of royalties cannot be questioned, we are only deifying them and subjugating ourselves.”

Asri said this applied to all situations and his comments were not specific to the controversy surrounding Nizar’s tweets questioning the RM520,000 spent by Tunku Ibrahim.

In Malaysia, the rakyat is at the crossroads when it comes to challenging subjugation, be it reclaiming their basic rights or taking the authorities to task over their misdemeanours.

However, the issue of “deify royalty at all costs” has reached a saturation point. Are the people of this country not “good enough” to question or reflect their unhappiness over such unwise spending by a Sultan?

Twelve years ago, Sultan Ibrahim, then crown prince of Johor, owed the traffic police RM26,700 in summonses. Did the traffic police dare ask that he settle the huge outstanding amount? No, not a soul had the guts. It was out of sheer embarassment that he paid up the fines after news about it reached the Press.

More “drama” was in store. In 2005, a brawl occurred on Pulau Rawa after a Johor prince allegedly gatecrashed a wedding party. The prince ordered some guests off the island after a fight broke out when a woman refused to dance with one of the gatecrashers.

Among those arrested was a 20-year-old prince from the Johor royal family and the police very “kindly” decided to keep the names of the culprits “private and confidential”.