Johor triggering a Constitution Crisis, yet again


And that is what the Johor palace is, a power above the law with a Sultan appointed by God. And because of Johor, most likely the days of the Republic of Malaysia may not be too far down the road. But then again this may not happen just yet in our lifetime. Nevertheless, if the members of the royal family are not careful, it will eventually happen one day in the future.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

The Alliance of European Republican Movements or AERM was formed in Stockholm in June 2010 to create a network of republican movements in the seven largest European countries in Europe that continue to have a monarch as their head of state.

AERM is committed to the ideals of democracy and equality in their national constitutions and to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Member organisations are primarily working towards the replacement of their respective constitutional monarchies with republics based on the principles of democracy, accountability, transparency and merit.

In a recent poll done across Europe, 25% of those polled said they wish to see the end of the monarchies and for republics to be installed in their countries. Only 20% still support the monarchy while the balance 55% could not care less one way or another.

With the current and very strong anti-monarchy sentiments in Spain, expect that country to be the first of the new European republics to emerge — but probably not after some level of turmoil and chaos.

Asia is not going to be spared either. Most people in Thailand support the ruling King but do not necessarily support the monarchy. The question now being debated is, ‘will Thais want to retain its monarchy once the current King dies’? Many appear to think that once the present King is no longer around there is no reason not to turn Thailand into a republic.

However, knowing Thailand, it will be up to the military to decide that and chances are the military will retain the monarchy if it suits their purpose, which means the military can hide behind the monarchy to suspend Parliament and the Constitution and impose military rule, as it has done a dozen times in the past (the present included).

Most Malaysians also do not see the need for a monarchy, especially when the country has nine royal households with the Agong making up the tenth. The joke in Malaysia is that there are just about two-dozen or so monarchies left in the world and almost half of them are in Malaysia.

The first Constitutional Crisis in Malaysia was triggered about 30 years ago when the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad got pissed with the then Sultan of Johor. At that time, most of us thought that this was the beginning of the end for the monarchy and that soon we were going to see Malaysia turned into a republic.

That did not happen, though, and Dr Mahathir continued to ‘rule’ Malaysia for 22 long years as the de facto ‘king’ with a monarchy that had had its wings clipped and subservient to the government of the day.

But that was Dr Mahathir, a man who does not take ‘no’ for an answer and, other than the rulers of Kedah and Pahang, all the other monarchs who suffered Dr Mahathir’s wrath 30 years ago have since died and those currently on the throne are the children or grandchildren (other than Negeri Sembilan) of those who Dr Mahathir challenged.

Can Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak do what Dr Mahathir did 30 years ago? I doubt it because Najib is also a member of the elite while Dr Mahathir had no ‘royal’ upbringing. Hence Dr Mahathir did not care two hoots about palace protocol and Malay adat while Najib may not dare to be as ‘un-Malay’ as Dr Mahathir was (and probably still is).

Maybe Dr Mahathir needed an excuse to take on the monarchy. Nevertheless, this excuse came in the form of the Johor palace and Umno went to town in exposing the excesses and transgression of the Johor palace plus those of the others states (some real and some fabricated to make the story more sensational).

The Johor palace has always had what we could probably call ‘special powers’, for want of a better term, compared to the other eight Malaysian royal households. Even Singapore ‘closes one eye’ to the antics of the Johor royalty rather than risk rubbing them the wrong way — which is unique for Singapore which takes no shit from anyone (other than just the Johor royalty).

The Johor palace has always attracted controversy that makes the other royal households cringe and shudder. For example, the Raja Muda of Johor almost started a war with Terengganu around 40 years ago when he assaulted a female member of the Terengganu royal family. It seems this particular member of the Terengganu royalty was returning from a shopping trip in Singapore when her car was stopped at the causeway and subjected to a 100% check.

The Customs officer found undeclared goods in her car and when asked whom they belong to she replied they belong to Tengku Mahmud. She meant Tengku Mahmud the Raja Muda of Terengganu and not the Raja Muda of Johor, who had the same name.

The Customs officer then contacted the Raja Muda of Johor who stormed to the Customs checkpoint at the causeway and on discovering he did not know who this woman was he started assaulting her. Later, of course, it was discovered that she was not lying. She just did not explain which Tengku Mahmud she meant.

That happened about 40 years ago. If it had been 240 years ago then for sure Terengganu would have sent an army to Johor to extract an apology from the palace. And, knowing Johor, they would not have apologised but would have defeated the Terengganu army and sent it home with its tail between its legs because Johor is the only state with its own ‘Sultan’s’ army, and commandoes too on top of that.

It was also alleged that the Raja Muda had killed a golf caddy (that resulted in the ‘Private Adam’ episode) while his son had beaten up Gomez, the hockey team coach. Earlier, the Raja Muda was charged and convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead what he believed to be a smuggler while his brother was convicted for shooting dead a man during a nightclub brawl.

Both were immediately pardoned by their father, the Sultan.

And there were many more incidences before and after that over a period of more than 40 years, the most recent being that gun incident in the quarrel between members of the Johor and Negeri Sembilan royal families.

In short, the Johor palace has always had a mind of its own. It will do what it wants to do whether the law or the Constitution allows it to or not. A few words written on a piece of paper is not going to decide what the Johor palace or the Johor royal family can or cannot do.

And the Johor palace has an army behind it in case anyone would like to take this case to the streets.

The Johor palace has always reminded me of England in the 1500s. The King was capable of sacking the Pope and of inventing a new branch of Christianity with him as the head (plus he put to death all the Papalists) just to show who is the boss.

And that is what the Johor palace is, a power above the law with a Sultan appointed by God. And because of Johor, most likely the days of the Republic of Malaysia may not be too far down the road. But then again this may not happen just yet in our lifetime. Nevertheless, if the members of the royal family are not careful, it will eventually happen one day in the future.

So be warned!