The burden borne by our royal families

nazri tmj

In the war between Najib and Mahathir, it seems like all the rules have been thrown out the window

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

For a large part of life, I stood at school assemblies chanting the pledge of allegiance without giving much thought to the words I was uttering. The idea of loyalty and obedience to some vague higher power seemed so esoteric that I never thought of the pledge of allegiance as having much relevance to my life. That is, until today.

I’ve always wondered why Malaysia retained the royal class. I was born after the royal families were stripped of most of their powers, rendering them as peripheral to the administration of the nation. I would later learn that their downfall was part of the machinations of Mahathir Mohamad, who allegedly sought more autonomy in the process of governing the country, but that was not a fact my younger self knew, and I never returned to the question as a man, until I was forced to.

The idea of royalty brings with it many things – power, privilege and status, among other enviable advantages. But it also brings with it the burden of responsibility. A royal ruler is said to be noble and just when he acts for the good of his subjects, for their prosperity, safety and longevity. But he is called a tyrant if he places his noble blood above those of baser origins and abuses his powers. Our royalty ultimately produced that paragon of responsibility, Tunku Abdul Rahman, first Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Father of Independence. He was truly noble.

It was probably for reasons of nobility – as defined above – that man first crowned a king. It was not because he wanted to be submissive, to live under someone’s yoke.

So what does it mean when we recite the pledge of allegiance? What does it mean when we say, “Kesetiaan pada Raja dan Negara”? It means we reaffirm a pledge our forefathers made to the kings of Malaysia – that in exchange for their leadership, for their protection, we give them our loyalty. It’s a holy exchange, handed down through history, relegated to a chant for school children that most adults barely remember.

But the Crown Prince of Johor does remember royalty’s duty to the people. When threatened by no less than a member of the Federal Cabinet, he remained silent in a 17-second video released by the Johor Southern Tigers, but subtly beckoning Minister Nazri Aziz to make good on his words. Nazri told a Crown Prince of Malaysia to stay out of politics, ignoring the rich interconnection of politics and royalty in Malaysia, forgetting the nobility’s contributions to our independence, their place in our history.

Nazri has forgotten the pledge he recited as a boy.