Malaysia King's human touch

Malaysia King's human touch
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V's down-to-earth persona made waves when he set aside protocol during a meeting with the press as the Sultan of Kelantan.

During the rare interview on May 6, 2011, the then 42-year-old Ruler was asked whether he would get married soon to which he promptly replied "InsyaAllah" (God willing).

He hinted that he might tie the knot and Kelantan might welcome a Raja Perempuan. However, when probed further, he declined to elaborate.

Dressed in a light brown Nehru-styled suit, he answered about 20 questions from the media and referred to himself as "saya" (I) and "kita" (we).

Sultan Muhammad V was proclaimed the 29th Sultan of Kelantan on Sept 13, 2010.

The eldest son of Sultan Ismail Petra Ibni Almarhum Sultan Yahya Petra, he married Tengku Zubaidah Tengku Norudin in 2004. However, they divorced some years later.

During the interview, Sultan Muhammad V touched on the need for more infrastructure in Kelantan.

Saying that he always travelled by road to meet the people, he observed that roads were an integral part of development and crucial for economic growth as they connected people with the world at large.

He also spoke about his hobbies, including taking part in four-wheel drive adventures and other outdoor activities, such as hunting.

He has often worn a skull cap and a jubah (robe) during meet-the-people sessions in Kelantan, saying he preferred to be dressed in simple attire as it helped break the barrier between the palace and the people.

Known for his unassuming ways, His Majesty was spotted driving his car without being accompanied by bodyguards, from Istana Negara to a mosque to perform Subuh prayers.

There was another instance of this casual charm during his Royal Address at the opening of the fifth session of the 13th Parliament last month.

The King was speaking on the need for the people to take care of their health and live a healthy lifestyle, when his voice wavered slightly.

He reached out for a bottle of water, and with a shy smile on his face, he twisted the cap and said "Kejap... minum air kejap" (Just a moment... (I) need to drink water for a moment).

MPs and VIPs in the august house smiled at the King's unassuming nature despite his status. The video of that scene went viral, showing that people responded well to how he carries himself.

During the massive floods that affected more than 100,000 people in Kelantan in 2014, Sultan Muhammad V made a surprise visit to Kuala Krai district. He arrived at a flood relief centre in his 20-year-old four-wheel drive vehicle with only a bodyguard.

The publicity-shy Ruler quietly walked into the centre and helped himself to a hot drink in a styrofoam cup. No one among the hundreds there seemed to realise that it was the Sultan himself.

One of the flood victims who was standing beside Sultan Muhammad V commented that he had an uncanny resemblance to the state Ruler.

A video clip of the man commenting about the Ruler went viral for several days afterwards, reflecting the many attributes of the humble and easy-going King.

Read also: Johor Sultan declines offer to be Malaysia's next king

'Walk With Me' walkathon programme

Sultan Muhammad V is well liked among his subjects for being informal. Born on Oct 6, 1969, he loves the outdoors and mooted a popular walkathon programme in 2011 as a way to get closer to his subjects.

He received his early education at the Fatima Convent kindergarten, Kota Baru, from 1974 to 1975, and went to Sekolah Rendah Sultan Ismail 1 from 1976 to 1981.

He studied at the Alice Smith School and Oakham School, Rutland, in Britain from 1983 to 1989, and graduated in diplomatic studies and Islamic studies at St Cross College, Oxford, and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

He also studied diplomatic relations and business administration at the Huron University College in London besides taking a diplomatic relations course at the Deutsche Stiftung Internationale Entwicklung in Berlin, Germany, and European business administration at the European Business School in London.

Sultan Muhammad V was made the Crown Prince in October 1985 and the Regent of Kelantan in 2009.

Read also: Kelantan Sultan is Malaysia's new king

An avid reader and a fan of four-wheel-drive expeditions, horse sports, bowling and archery, he also follows closely the developments in and outside the country.

He has been going to the ground, meeting the people, often quietly and away from the glare of the media.

He has also been involved in many charitable organisations.

He has served as Commander of the 506 Territorial Army Regiment with the rank of Brigadier-General.

Sultan Muhammad V was chosen as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Oct 13 last year at the 243th (special) Conference of Rulers held at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur.

In a statement, the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal Datuk Seri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad said the appointment would take effect on Dec 13, for a period of five years.

Sultan Muhammad V has also made it a point to visit the orang asli community at the settlements in Gua Musang and Jeli in Kelantan as part of his official programmes.

He prefers to wear a jubah (robe). He also likes to wear the baju Melayu, which is known in Kelantan as baju gumbang, with a kain pelikat (sarong) and a white kopiah (skull cap) when visiting his subjects.

He has also been instrumental in nurturing spiritual values among Muslims in the state by organising the Qiam With Me programme, which is held every year since 2011 during the month of Ramadan. (Qiam means standing to denote prayer).

The programme starts at 9pm after the Isyak and Terawih prayers. There is a religious lecture by a guest preacher before the congregation performs the Subuh prayers.

As part of the programme, Sultan Muhammad V presents zakat donations to the asnaf (qualified group) recipients and the less fortunate.

Both programmes - Walkathon D'Raja Kelantan and Qiam With Me - are included in the state's tourism calendar and serve as unique tourist attractions.

Despite his status as the Sultan of Kelantan, often receiving wide media coverage from the press, he has always demonstrated sincere concern for the welfare of villagers and extends assistance to those in need without making a fuss about it in the media.

Read also: Johor sultan to mark 59th birthday with affordable housing scheme

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