Respect the office or respect the individual?

Opinion  |  Francis Paul Siah
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Let me tread with caution again in this article touching on Malaysian royalty. I must state for the second time that I’m sharing my thoughts and views here with the utmost respect for the Malay rulers and members of their families.

Yes, this is a sensitive and touchy subject but I have been very much encouraged by the words of Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim stating that “people have the right to give their own opinions”.

In recent days, the Tunku Mahkota Johor (TMJ) has three Facebook postings which were widely read and debated in the social media.

I have commented on his first posting in which he launched a thinly-veiled threat against Dr Mahathir Mohamad by telling Johoreans not to be misled by a certain “forked tongue” individual in the coming general election.

My message to TMJ was that “many find his wading into political territory on the eve of a very important general election quite unacceptable and that the timing of his comments was absolutely wrong”.

But it was TMJ’s second posting in which he clarified what he actually meant in his first statement which I find most interesting.

It tells a lot about how the various royal households operate and what their concerns and priorities are as the head of their respective states.

I’m not sure whether any Sarawakian or Sabahan has ever broached this subject in writing or in speech but there is always a first time.

I am a Sarawakian and I only have a governor, not a sultan. The governor of Sarawak is my head of state and he is appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. But many of us are aware that isn’t exactly how it works.

In most cases, the king will approve the recommendation from the state authority on the choice for governor. I believe this is the same for the other states, Sabah, Penang and Malacca with a governor as head of state.

As a Sarawakian and as everyone else should, I accord the office of the Sarawak governor my highest honour and reverence. However, it’s a different matter altogether when it comes to respecting the individual holding that esteemed position.

Let me be honest here. I do find great difficulty in according any honour or respect to the current occupant of the Astana in Kuching for obvious reasons.

There are times when I keep asking myself whether Sarawak really needs a ceremonial head of state. During the Brooke era, the Rajah of Sarawak was both the head of state and government and this sounds a better proposition to me today.

Allow me now to dissect the relationship between Malaysians born in states without a Malay ruler, just like me, a Sarawakian, and the royal households...

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