The King and I

Sultan Ibrahim appears to intuitively understand the paramount expectations that the people hold for their monarchs, which can also serve as an integrated expectation model of a monarch...

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Published by MYsinchew, TheStar, AstroAwani, malaysiakini & theSun, image by malaysiakini.

Al-Sultan Abdullah of Pahang became the Agong or King at a time of profound change in the nation’s political landscape. Under his reign, Malaysia navigated through the unprecedented challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating resilience and achieving a commendable recovery. Throughout the nation’s political turbulence, which saw three short-lived Prime Ministers, Al-Sultan Abdullah’s intelligence, foresight, wisdom, and prudential judgment ensured that political stability was finally restored with the formation of the unity government.

As Sultan Ibrahim of Johor assumes the role of the new Agong or King, there is anticipation that he will continue to foster a strong and positive working relationship with the Anwar administration – which was already so evident before. His traction with the people on the ground is intense and profound. Interestingly, this sentiment is universal across diverse ethnic groups, which is not unnatural as Sultan Ibrahim is known to be very close to the pulse of the rakyat.

Furthermore, his understanding of the macro-economy and business is both immense and grounded in practical, real-world knowledge. The new Agong’s or King’s acumen and insights will help to contribute to the facilitation of greater economic growth for the nation, e.g., increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.

Sultan Ibrahim has already expressed his desire to be a more participative Agong or King who’s involved and hands-on, in the matters of running the country and the well-being of the rakyat. He will decide and act based on research founded on data, science and economics that’s good and beneficial for the nation. As such, Sultan Ibrahim will also be a worldly-wise and pragmatic Agong or King who emphasizes a deep understanding of ground realities, combining research with lots of empathy and sympathy for all and the many.

Sultan Ibrahim has unequivocally given his assurance that he’ll be the Agong or King for all 34.3 million Malaysians, not just 222 Members of Parliament.

So, Sultan Ibrahim will adopt a rakyat centric approach. As exemplified in his gracious and very considerate interactions with the rakyat, Sultan Ibrahim appears to intuitively understand the paramount expectations (heavy responsibility) that the people hold for their monarchs, which can also serve as an integrated expectation model of a monarch leadership (Figure 1):

  • Unite rakyat around big ideas and engage across diversity towards common progress as a Nation.
  • Ensure the interest and well-being of the rakyat, which manifests in having a holistic overview of what the rakyat really needs, the ability to reach out to or stay close to the rakyat — “turun padang”, giving importance to the rakyat feedback in decision making, interceding/intervening when the interest of the rakyat is compromised and provide a sense of protection and security — “aman dan salam”.
  • Provide check & balance vis-à-vis government institutions by auditing administration/government affairs, alerting and advising the administration/government to recalibrate their focus on the rakyat while also working effectively/constructively with all the administration/government institutions.
  • Being a role model in terms of governance by exemplifying good governance within constitutional rights, remaining apolitical, and having empathy and compassion for the rakyat while also practising and exhibiting down-to-earthness.

No one would disagree that Sultan Ibrahim embodies the above approach well. Undoubtedly, his pro-rakyat stance will shine through his reign, which bodes well for political stability in the years to come and is also very congruent with the essence of the MADANI economy concept.

Another defining feature of Sultan Ibrahim’s reign is that he is rational when it comes to religious issues which are always sensitive. He believes in religious harmony, mutual understanding, tolerance and the celebration of diversity. Sultan Ibrahim, therefore, will stand against extremism and will brook no compromise with the extremists.

He surrounds himself with individuals of exceptional intelligence who are also distinguished by principled pragmatism. These advisers provide him with competing wisdoms that guide and inform his own conviction in serving the nation. Under the reign of Sultan Ibrahim, there’ll be political stability that will, in turn, accentuate economic growth and prosperity for the MANY!

Dr Rais Hussin is the Founder of EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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