The inevitable departure that was Muhammad V

“It is understood that the Raja of Perlis and the Raja Perempuan of Perlis then met the King for a private dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night, which ended at 12.40am, Sunday morning”


THE inevitable happened in just under seven weeks.

The minute reports of the November 22 wedding and photographs made their rounds on social media, it just became a matter of when the Malay rulers would convene a meeting to discuss the future of Sultan Muhammad V as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

And once the Agong understood that he had lost the favour of the majority of the sultans, he had little choice but to resign, rather unprecedentedly in a country with an unique rotational constitutional monarchy.

The Malay rulers will now have to convene a Conference of Rulers meeting to decide on the next Yang di-Pertuan Agong but with the vacancy today, Deputy King Sultan Nazrin Shah from Perak will be the acting Agong.

Courtiers from among the nine palaces in Malaysia told The Malaysian Insight that the rulers made this unprecedented move to protect the royal institution – already reeling from rising public questioning about their role during the May 9 general elections that finally saw the Barisan Nasional (BN) lose their grip on power since Merdeka when the pact was known as the Alliance.

The courtiers said in the meetings among the rulers, it was not unanimous but clear that the majority of rulers felt that given all that has happened in last few months, the King had to step down.

Photographs of Sultan Muhammad V’s supposed wedding with a former Russian model made the rounds in late November. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 6, 2019.

What had happened was simple. Sultan Muhammad V had taken official leave for two months from last November 1 to December 31, ostensibly to rest after some medical treatment.

But word and photographs came at the end of November that the King had married a Russian beauty queen in a private ceremony in Moscow. Oksana Voevodina, who was crowned Miss Moscow in 2015, married the King in a lavish ceremony after reportedly converting to Islam earlier last year.

The 25-year-old doctor’s daughter has worked previously as a model in China and Thailand. There were more photographs and video clips from her modelling career that raised more than eyebrows in the conservative parts of Malaysia, more so the Agong’s home state of Kelantan, which is run along puritanical lines by the ruling Islamist PAS government.

Rumours of a possible meeting among the rulers scheduled for January 2 was already circulating just as the Perak ruler ended his two-months stint as the acting-King on December 31.

The unofficial meetings among the rulers were finally held on January 3 and 4 to discuss the King’s wedding or the “the straw that broke the camel’s back” as described by a courtier privy to the discussions.

Palace staff also confirmed that five rulers  from Perlis, Johor, Perak, Kedah and Terengganu had met at the Istana Perlis at 10am last Friday to discuss the matter.

“The rulers agonised over this move. They did not want it to be a secret vote so a resolution was put in place so that every ruler knew each others position,” one courtier told The Malaysian Insight.

Only one ruler, the Sultan of Pahang, did not attend any of the meetings as he is incapacitated. The Kelantan royal household did not attend the unofficial discussions as the King is the Sultan of Kelantan.

Only the Selangor and Johor sultans among the remaining 7 rulers who can vote on Sultan Muhammad V’s position as Yang di-Pertuan Agong defended him. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 6, 2019.

The Malaysian Insight learnt that of the remaining seven Malay rulers, only two – Selangor and Johor – had defended the King in the discussions. The other five agreed he should step down.

It is understood that the Raja of Perlis and the Raja Perempuan of Perlis then met the King for a private dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night, which ended at 12.40am, Sunday morning.

Courtiers said the King was advised to step down at the private dinner.

“Since the King decided to resign, there was no official vote. But he was told that if he didn’t quit, the Malay rulers had the minimum five votes to vote him out,” said one source.

Under the federal constitution, the Malay Rulers will convene soon to decide on the next Yang di-Pertuan Agong, which by convention rotates in a particular order among them set when Malaya became independent on August 31, 1957.

The sultan of Pahang is next in line but will pass as he is ill. The next in line is the Sultan of Johor but the process to fill the vacancy will take several weeks, automatically making the Perak ruler as the acting King.


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