by Datuk A Kadir Jasin

PREAMBLE: This subject has already been discussed by several debaters in the previous post. Any subject affecting the Rulers can easily trigger sedition accusation and, possibly investigation. Therefore, I appeal to all debaters to be careful when expressing your opinions. I apologise if I have to reject some of your comments.


I HAD initially not wanted to say anything about the verbal exchange between the Sultan of Johor and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the subject of “Bangsa Johor”.

My feeling is, every Malaysian state has the right to be proud of their history and to promote their uniqueness. We are a federation and not a unitary nation. Each state has autonomy in the form of its supreme ruler – the Sultan, Raja and Yam Tuan.

But Dr Mahathir thought that the promotion of “Johor nationalism” is unhealthy for Malaysia and can lead to the collapse of the federation. He had said that while it is within the right of the Johor royalty to promote the idea, it was only with unity that Malaysia could prosper.

“Well, it is their right to promote the idea. But to me, if each state tries to be separate, then the federation will collapse. We need to work together because only with unity can we prosper,” he said when said in response to a question from the floor at the 20th Perdana Dialogue Series on Aug 24.

The Sultan of Johor had since responded personally. The media had described him as rebuking Dr Mahathir and telling him “to keep his mouth shut.”

A senior participant of our Kedai Kopi Assembly (KKA), who is known to know intimately both the Sultan of Johor and Dr Mahathir, thought that the matter should not be left unexplained.

He is concerned that the Sultan might not have uttered those “un-royal” words, which the media in turn described as rebuking the former Prime Minister. He also thought that the Sultan could have misinterpreted Dr Mahathir’s role as Prime Minister and world leader.

Here is the full text of his letter to me and another fellow blogger. It is published in full with only minor editing.

The Letter

“DYMM Sultan Johor has rebuked Tun Mahathir and told him to keep his mouth shut and blamed Tun Mahathir for many things. First l would like to know if this is royal language. Do royals speak this way? Have we ever heard the Queen for example tell one of her subjects to keep his mouth shut? Or the King of Thailand or Sultan of Brunei or the Japanese Emperor? lt would be interesting if someone can tell me these Royals also do what his Royal Highness is doing.

We have a constitution, which was drafted by experts with the input from our rulers where freedom of speech is enshrined in the constitution. Is the Johor Sultan stopping people from expressing their opinions or stop rakyat from debating on issues which the rakyat show interest?

For a ruler to take personal interest in issues affecting the rakyat is very noble but to curb the rakyat from expressing their opinions shows the lack of understanding of the democratic process and leaning towards intolerance of differing views, which is dangerous.

In most constitutional monarchies, the rulers never issue personal statement. Any response from the palace will come either from private secretary or the press secretary and royalties stay away from getting involved in debates among the rakyat.

Yes, Bangsa Johor was introduced in 1920 and this was to unite Johoreans, a very good concept when we were under the British that has brought foreigners to Malaya to exploit our fertile land and natural resources but since then we had “The Malayan Union” when the rulers, without consulting the rakyat, agreed to it and surrendered their rights away leaving them with no power.

Lucky the Malays rose and united themselves under the banner of Hidup Melayu and under the leadership of Dato Onn fought the British and succeeded to abrogate the Union and saved the rulers from being just khadis in their own states.

Then we have the Federation of Malaya agreement and Merdeka, with its written constitution, and later Malaysia. This is our history. Once we agreed to form Malaysia, we all become Malaysians. Malaysians first and Malaysians last. In the Peninsula, we are free to live anywhere as Malaysians but to harp on our past means we are moving backwards and to continue with policies of the 1920’s simply means we are not facing reality of the present circumstances.

Yes, Johor is doing well under present Sultan and he wants Johor to be run like a business entity. Sultan himself is a very successful businessman and Johor government can benefit from his experience and advice but many also question if it is proper for a ruler to be involved in business. This is for government and the people to decide.

Johor will continue to progress especially with the completion of last leg of double tracking from Gemas to Johor Bahru which now costs RM7 billion yet when Tun Mahathir wanted it done, the cost was just RM14 billion for whole country.

Soon we will have fast train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, which will be a 90-minit ride. The cost to build is now estimated at RM70 billion. Johor will benefit greatly from this project. But do we have the money and what will happen to MAS and Airasia? lf we want our train to go to Singapore, why did the government stopped the Keretapi Tanah Melayu services to Tanjong Pagar and surrendered our land to Singapore?

With reference to the Sultan’s so-called chiding of Dr Mahathir, who the Sultan claimed is confrontational and likes to quarrel with world leaders, l think the Sultan should check with Wisma Putra as this involves foreign affairs.

Is this allegation true and backed by facts or just repeating what others say?

Dr Mahathir did not quarrel with world leaders but was against policies implemented by them. He was against the American and British invasion of Iraq and was vocal about it. It was the same with Afghanistan and Libya, and he was proven right.

Other third world leaders dare not voice their true views as they were poor and needed western support to help them run their countries. Privately they applauded Dr Mahathir for the courage to stand up to western powers. Even late Lee Kuan Yew privately praised Dr Mahathir and said we need Dr Mahathir to say all these things.

Where is the quarrel with world leaders? In case of Britain, their government raised university fees on foreign students. At that time we had many students studying in the UK. Dr Mahathir was fighting against British policy, which caused a lot of hardship to Malaysians, especially parents who sent their children to study there. Is championing the welfare of our citizens wrong?

Britain also did not allow MAS to fly daily to London and limited it frequency to three flights a week. Is fighting for our nation equal to quarreling with foreign leaders?

When the late British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher realised they were wrong with their policies. They approached us to settle all outstanding matters and this we agreed and hence removed our policy of buy British last.

With Singapore, is it our fault? They wanted water from us and because Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman wanted to kick them out of Malaysia, we agreed to everything Singapore asked for and the most important was water, which came from Johor. Johor provided thousands of acres of land for this purpose. What Dr Mahathir wanted was a fair deal. He wanted a higher price for raw water sold to Singapore.

Imagine, we sold to Singapore at such a low rate yet states in Malaysia sell at a much higher rate among themselves. Is this fair? Is it wrong to negotiate for a better price? Singapore, without the water from Johor can’t survive. But now with new technology, situation has have changed. Since they are now rich, they can afford to use the technology to their advantage.

After the separation in 1965, they refused to release our citizens’ EPF after they stopped work in Singapore and return to Malaysia. Fighting for their rights does not mean quarreling with Singapore.

When our combined stock exchange split and we formed our own, they sabotaged us by creating CLOB and took away business from KLSE. Is protecting KLSE quarreling with Singapore leaders?

We must not be fooled by Singapore public relations. We must check with Wisma Putra and even Bank Negara and get the facts correct before jumping to conclusions.

The Sultan also said that Tun Mahathir was a divisive leader and caused disunity among the races and among the Malays and is the cause of the present problems.

Yet in the 22 years that he was the Prime Minister he brought peace, stability, economic prosperity, massive development and had the support of the people as could be seen by the two-third majority he received in five general elections. Who really is the cause of the present problems faced by the country and by the rakyat?

Since the Sultan cares a lot about what is happening in country and the Conference of Rulers had issued a strong statement on 1MDB, the rakyat also would like to know His Highness’ view on 1MDB and DoJ case in USA and in His Highness’ opinion who the MO1 is?

Tengku Mahkota Johor (TMJ) is on record saying that he wants to kill corruption in Malaysia.

Tuanku, your late father would not have gone to the press to answer Dr Mahathir but would have invited him to the Istana and have a quiet chat with him. His would have been a different style and different approach.

Ampun Tuanku.

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* Free Malaysia Today pic

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