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LETTER | Fond memories of our king's eventful five-year reign

LETTER | On Jan 30, the nation will bid a fond farewell to the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah and the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.

The king and queen have endeared themselves to Malaysians with their friendly and cheerful personalities.

The king’s reign had been an eventful one from the start, with the national political situation in a state of flux. He had used his wisdom to initiate new creative ways to find solutions to the many political crises he was confronted with during a time of political instability, hitherto not experienced by the people.

His ingenuity overcame some vexatious political and constitutional problems that beset the country during his reign. These problems were compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, the subsequent lockdowns and the declaration of an emergency.

It was a time of great socio-economic anxiety and uncertainty that compelled the government to undertake untried measures to stabilise the country. The emergency declaration was much needed to enable the government to overcome administrative and legal issues to deal with the pandemic.

The king’s innovative steps to deal with the constitutional crises will remain a hallmark of his reign. His creative approach in wanting to solve the political deadlock became apparent when MPs were bussed to the Istana Negara for a short interview with the king to ascertain their stand.

A ruler with foresight

This problematical situation was resolved when Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed as prime minister, and he had his hands full in dealing with the pandemic.

Another bout of instability ensued when Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi came with statutory declarations from the MPs that the party was withdrawing its support for Muhyiddin. He subsequently lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament and had to resign.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob was appointed as prime minister and was in charge until the 15th general election, which saw a hung parliament, another first in the country’s history.

A new political conundrum was taking shape and the king had to use his wisdom again. Both Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan were evenly matched and were locked in a tussle to gain control of the government.

Muhyiddin had earlier rejected a coalition government proposed by the king. It was here, in my opinion, that the king made a foresightful decision when he opted for the multiracial Harapan with Anwar Ibrahim as PM, to form the government.

In doing so, the king had set a new convention to deal with contemporary constitutional and political issues.

The king chose Harapan because it was multiracial, unlike the mainly mono-racial PN, taking into consideration the racial and religious diversity of the country. This competent and insightful decision will be like a binding precedent when facing a hung Parliament and two evenly matched political coalitions.

In the not-so-distant future, Malay-Muslims will be dominant electorally and a mono-racial government is a strong possibility after a general election. This is where the king’s precedent will have a major influence on the future formation of governments.

The monarch as head of state has the inherent right to advise and he could use it to persuade a mono-racial coalition to include multiracial parties, reflecting the diversity of the country, before he decides to assent to the new government.

Ensuring equality, unity and stability

This precedent will ensure the equality, unity and stability of society and the government for a long time to come.

In setting a precedent the king follows the example of his late father Sultan Ahmad Shah, who lobbied for the new concept of co-hosting of the football World Cup in 2002. Both Japan and South Korea were eminently eligible and eager to host the quadrennial tournament.

Fifa was in a deadlock and it was the late ruler who, as head of the Asian Football Confederation lobbied for co-hosting and persuaded then Fifa president Sepp Blatter to opt for co-hosting to end the Japan-South Korea stalemate.

Since then co-hosting has become popular and for numerous international and global sports tournaments, it is used as an effective way to reduce and defray the enormous expenditure in hosting tournaments.

Going by the aforementioned method, the king’s precedent of interviewing MPs and choosing a multiracial coalition to govern our diverse country will also be a long-standing convention in the future.

It is with a remembrance of these noble gestures that we Malaysians bid a fond farewell to the royal couple, having completed their tenure.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.