Outspoken Sultan Ibrahim of Johor sworn in as Malaysia’s 17th king
KUALA LUMPUR – Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar was sworn in as Malaysia’s new king at Istana Negara on Jan 31, becoming the second ruler from the southern state to ascend the national throne.
Sultan Ibrahim, who will reign for five years, is the country’s 17th king. He takes on the role about four decades after his late father, Sultan Mahmud Iskandar, became king from 1984 to 1989.
Dressed in ceremonial attire, Sultan Ibrahim took the oath of office in a traditional ceremony at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur. “With this oath, I solemnly and truly profess to be faithful, to rule fairly for Malaysia in accordance with the laws and Constitution of the country,” he said.
Perak’s Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah was sworn in as deputy king for the next five years, continuing in his previous role.
The ceremony was witnessed by other Malay rulers, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, and Deputy Prime Ministers Zahid Hamidi and Fadillah Yusof, as well as other government officials and dignitaries.
The 65-year-old King, who was elected in October 2023 by his fellow royal rulers, succeeds Pahang’s Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah. The previous king ascended to the post in 2019 following the historic abdication by his predecessor, Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan, after just three years on the throne.
Malaysia’s nine royal rulers take turns to be king for a five-year term, under a unique rotating system in place since the country’s independence in 1957.
In an interview with The Straits Times in November 2023, Sultan Ibrahim said his priorities as king include stamping out corruption, proposing that the anti-graft agency should report directly to the king.
Malaysians whom ST spoke to have high hopes for the country under his upcoming five-year rule.
Business owner Tiew Swee Kim, 41, hopes Sultan Ibrahim will ensure there is political stability in the country, which he said will boost economic development and strengthen the ringgit.
Ms Fathin Farhana, a Johorean, said she is proud that the new king hails from her state. “We hope that his kind and forward-thinking nature will unite the nation and foster racial harmony,” said the 40-year-old lecturer.
Sultan Ibrahim has long promoted racial and religious diversity in his home state, where he refers to all ethnic groups as “Bangsa Johor” or being of the Johor race.
Entrepreneur Serivasudevan, 40, said: “We hope that his reign will bring fairness and equality to all citizens of Malaysia.”
The monarch also hopes to revive stalled plans for a high-speed rail project between Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which was cancelled in 2021.
Malaysia is still reviewing fresh proposals from the private sector on the project, after conducting a request-for-information exercise.
Singapore has said it is open to discussions on a new proposal “starting from a clean slate”.
Sultan Ibrahim has spoken warmly of the close ties between Johor and Singapore, describing them as a “special relationship”.
The new king received many congratulatory messages on his installation, including from Singapore’s President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as well as Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and the United States and Canadian embassies in Kuala Lumpur.
Known as one of the most colourful and outspoken of Malaysia’s sovereigns, the royal intends to make his presence felt in Kuala Lumpur. He has also suggested that judicial appointments be made independently, separate from the executive, and that state oil firm Petronas report directly to the king.
However, his powers as king as set out in the federal Constitution are largely confined to matters pertaining to Islam and the culture of the Malay majority, and the dissolution of Parliament.
Executive power is held by the ruling politicians and the civil service.
Nevertheless, Malaysia’s monarchy saw its influence grow during the reign of the previous king, Sultan Abdullah, who used his discretionary powers during a period of political instability to pick three prime ministers between 2020 and 2022.
In an interview with selected media outlets on Jan 3, Sultan Abdullah said he hoped that Datuk Seri Anwar’s administration would last its full five-year term, calling for political stability in the country.
Saieed, Z. (n.d.). Outspoken Sultan Ibrahim of Johor sworn in as Malaysia’s 17th king. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/outspoken-johor-ruler-sultan-ibrahim-sworn-in-as-malaysia-s-17th-king