Sultan Abdullah is smiling during his royal coronation at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. AFP
Malaysia’s sports-loving Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah called for racial unity as he was installed on Tuesday as the country’s 16th king under a unique rotating monarchy system.
It was a double celebration for Sultan Abdullah from central Pahang state, who turned 59 the same day. He was picked as Malaysia’s new ruler in January, after Sultan Muhammad V from northeast Kelantan state abruptly resigned after just two years on the throne in the first abdication in the nation’s history.
Nine ethnic Malay state rulers take turns as king for five-year terms under the world’s only such system, which has been maintained since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.
In his coronation speech, Sultan Abdullah warned that any attempt to sow racial discord in the country was akin to “playing with fire that will burn not only oneself but also burn down the whole village.
“Unity and national harmony are the country’s pillars of strength. Do not ever stoke racial misunderstanding by raising matters that can threaten national unity and harmony,” he said.
Garbed in black and gold regalia, Sultan Abdullah voiced confidence that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government is able to tackle economic and social challenges in trying to rebuild the country after winning last year’s elections.
A large number of ethnic Malay Muslims, who make up about 60 per cent of Malaysia’s 32 million people, still support the opposition. While carrying out economic and institutional reforms, Mahathir’s multiethnic alliance has to quell fears among Malays that their privileges under decades-old affirmative action that favors them in jobs, business and education will be eliminated.
Ethnic Chinese and Indians comprise about 30 per cent of the population.
Mahathir in his speech acknowledged minor incidents of racial strife and said the government has set up an advisory body to strengthen racial unity. He said the government will step up efforts to bolster the economy and fight corruption to ensure that “no one is above the law.”
Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan also attended the ceremony at the national palace, steeped in centuries-old Malay tradition.
British-educated Sultan Abdullah is a prominent figure in sport bodies. He is a council member of the world football governing body FIFA, president of the Asian Hockey Federation, and an executive board member of the International Hockey Federation.
He took over after Sultan Muhammad V, 49, quit shortly after marrying a 25-year-old former Russian beauty queen last November. Sultan Muhammad however, reportedly divorced his wife recently.
Known as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, or He Who Is Made Lord, Malaysia’s king plays a largely ceremonial role, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and Parliament. The monarch is highly regarded as the guardian of Islam and Malay tradition, particularly among the Malay Muslim majority. He is also the nominal head of the government and armed forces.
All laws, CaBinet appointments and the dissolution of Parliament for general elections require his assent. The king also issues pardons for criminals.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Tuesday attended the inauguration of Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al Mustafa Billah Shah, as King of Malaysia.
The lower house speaker had initially approved a motion tabled by Muhyiddin's 94-year-old predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, seeking a vote of no confidence in Muhyiddin, but the vote was postponed indefinitely after the government shortened Monday's meeting, only allowing time for the royal address.
Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah will not be granting an audience to anyone for a week as he is under observation at a hospital, a palace official said on Friday, as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim seeks a meeting with him to form a new government.
Sheikh Mohammed tweeted on his account on Twitter, saying: “An image from the UAE’s Hope Probe,135 million km away from Mars. The probe will reach the Red Planet on February 9, 2021."
The move falls within bilateral cooperation between the UAE and the State of Israel following the signing of the Abraham Accords and aims to facilitate travel to the UAE for the time being.
Being organised by the Sharjah Committee for National Day Celebrations with all necessary precautionary measures against the COVID-19 in place, the proceeds of the grand concert will go to support the humanitarian initiatives of the Big Heart Foundation in aid of refugees and the needy people around the world.