In a regal ceremony on Wednesday, Malaysia swears in motorcycle-riding sultan as new king, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, hailing from the southern Johor state, assumed the prestigious role of the country's 17th supreme monarch. Clad in dignified dark blue ceremonial attire, the Sultan pledged his oath of office, marking the commencement of his term in this symbolic yet increasingly influential position within the nation's constitutional monarchy.
Malaysia, a Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation, operates under a unique system where the king's position rotates among the chiefs of its nine Islamic royal Malay houses every five years, reflecting the country's rich heritage and traditions. As Sultan Ibrahim embarks on his term, the eyes of the nation turn towards the evolving role of the monarchy in governance during this significant period.
Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar in Kuala Lumpur on Jan. 31
In a distinctive display of regal tradition and modern governance, Malaysia inaugurated Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar as its 17th supreme monarch on Wednesday. The Southeast Asian nation boasts a singular rotating monarchy system, where nine ethnic Malay state rulers take turns assuming the ceremonial role for five-year terms, a practice in place since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.
While primarily a symbolic position, recent years have witnessed the king's involvement in the nation's tumultuous political arena. Sultan Ibrahim, known for his outspoken nature and motorcycle-riding lifestyle, has not shied away from exercising rarely used discretionary powers to address political instability. In a December interview with Singapore’s The Straits Times, the 65-year-old monarch expressed his reluctance to be a "puppet king" and emphasized his commitment to the people.
With the power to pardon, Sultan Ibrahim's role extends beyond ceremonial duties. In 2018, his predecessor, Sultan Muhammad V, granted a pardon to Anwar Ibrahim, who had previously served a jail sentence for sodomy and now holds the position of Malaysia’s prime minister. The king also plays a pivotal role in major political appointments and serves as the official head of Islam in the Muslim-majority country, along with being the commander-in-chief of its armed forces.
Hailing from the powerful Johor royal family, Sultan Ibrahim, of Malay-British descent, commands attention not only for his regal responsibilities but also for his estimated net worth of at least $5.7 billion, as reported by Bloomberg. His family's wealth includes assets in Singapore, and investments in various industries such as palm oil, real estate, and telecommunications, reflecting a diverse portfolio.
Beyond his financial standing, Sultan Ibrahim is recognized for his moderate stance on religion and his active engagement in social issues. In 2017, he mandated an apology from a launderette owner accused of discriminating against non-Muslims. His annual charity trips on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle around Johor further contribute to his image as a ruler closely connected to the people.
However, it's crucial to note that criticism deemed to incite contempt of the king in Malaysia can result in jail time, underscoring the delicate balance between free expression and respect for the monarchy in the nation's political landscape.
In a momentous ceremony witnessed by dignitaries, including Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and other royal families, 65-year-old billionaire motorcycle-riding Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of Malaysia's Johor state officially assumed the role of the nation's king on Wednesday. The swearing-in ceremony at the palace marked a significant chapter in Malaysia's unique rotating monarchy system, where ethnic Malay state rulers take turns as the supreme monarch for five-year terms.
Sultan Ibrahim, recognized as one of the wealthiest individuals in the country, with a business empire spanning real estate, telecommunications, and power plants, brings a dynamic perspective to the ceremonial position. His close ties with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim hint at potential collaboration, potentially bolstering Anwar's unity government, which currently contends with a formidable Islamic opposition.