Johor prince a humble royal with a big heart

PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

JOHOR BARU - Tunku Laksamana Johor Tunku Abdul Jalil Sultan Ibrahim's kindness towards people and passion for animals touched the hearts of many around him.

Among them is Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) Johor Baru chapter deputy chairman Velasamy S. Pillai.

The prince, he said, was a "very down to earth person" who even volunteered to help the victims of the floods that hit the state in 2006.

"He was a kind-hearted and warm person who was also caring and loving towards the people since his teens.

"I remember that on one occasion, when delivering aid to an orang asli village in Mawai, he took the time to patiently listen to the problems faced by the community," Velasamy said over the phone from London, where he was for a private visit.

He added that he was sad at being unable to return home to pay his last respects to the prince.

He said Tunku Abdul Jalil travelled a lot during the floods as he was the MRCS deputy chairman of National Committee for Community Services then.

"His mother (Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah) chaired the committee," he added.

Former journalist Meera Vijayan, who interviewed the prince a few years ago when she was reporting for The Star, described him as "genuinely friendly and soft-spoken".

"I met him on several occasions and he would always wave or stop for a chat.

"Once when I met him at the Johor Zoo, he revealed that he kept an astounding number of pets at home," Meera said in an e-mail from Australia where she now lives.

Indeed, Tunku Abdul Jalil was noted for his love of animals and interest in wildlife conservation.

A graduate of zoological and conservation studies from a British university, Tunku Abdul Jalil volunteered as a zookeeper at the Singapore Zoo for a year and the London Zoo for two years.

Born on July 5, 1990, Tunku Abdul Jalil was the fourth of six children of Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar and Raja Zarith Sofiah.

His elder siblings are Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Idris, 31, Tunku Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, 29, and Tunku Temenggong Johor Tunku Idris Iskandar, 28.

His two younger brothers are Tunku Panglima Johor Tunku Abdul Rahman, 22, and Tunku Putera Johor Tunku Abu Bakar, 14.

Tunku Abdul Jalil received his early education at Sekolah Sri Utama Johor Baru and then later at the Yayasan Pendidikan Johor Zaikarim Johor Bahru International School.

He created history as the first member of the Johor royal household to serve in the police force, becoming an inspector last October, after a nine-month training stint.

Unlike other members of the Johor royal family, Tunku Abdul Jalil never played polo because he was allergic to horse hair.

Regarded as Johor's favourite prince, Tunku Abdul Jalil often visited patients at Sultan Ismail Hospital and Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru to talk to them and cheer them up.

He was active in various non-profit organisations, including the Malaysian Nature Society, Spastic Children's Association of Johor, MRCS and Orangutan Appeal UK.

In October, he was appointed the officer in charge of Johor Palace affairs.

His illness led his father Sultan Ibrahim to set up the Tunku Laksamana Johor Cancer Founda­tion this year to assist other cancer patients in Malaysia.