04 April 2010

Ruling justly and with compassion

Johor Buzz, NST, 28 March 2010

JUDGING by his first public speech since ascending the throne I could not help noticing that Sultan Ibrahim Ismail is proving to be his father's son. He has inherited the same tenacity and commitment as the late Sultan Iskandar.

Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ismail departing on one of his Kembara Mahkota to meet the people. — Picture by Zulkarnain Ahmad Tajuddin

He also has the vision and wisdom of his royal forefathers for a holistic development of his state to benefit his people.

In his speech, he stressed on the need for transparency, accountability and integrity of the administrative machinery and putting the peoples' interest above personal gains.

At the same time, he wants his people to live in harmony and be supportive and have confidence in the government. These are reminiscent of the calls often made by Sultan Iskandar.

Although politics is outside the province of the royal family, Sultan Ibrahim is an intelligent student of world affairs. At a recent meeting with Singapore's Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, who paid a condolence courtesy call on him, Sultan Ibrahim stressed on strengthening the cordial bilateral relations between Johor and the republic that have existed since the days of the Temenggongs.

He is desirous that his people should be given priority in harvesting the fruits of development. He is echoing the call made by his great grandfather who once said Johor hendaklah jadi Johor (Johor for Johor) in the context of Johor's socio-political development in the early 1900s before the arrival of the first British General Adviser.

He is not being parochial but he wants Johor to be consulted and engaged in projects and he wishes to see more of his people holding the reigns of business and commercial development in his state.

I am fortunate to have served Sultan Ibrahim's father and grandfather before him. I noticed a common trait among them in their commitment to rule justly and with compassion. They were strict disciplinarians and would not compromise on integrity. They loved their people and bore malice towards none. Their concern for the well being of their subjects was the hallmark of their reigns.

Sultan Ibrahim is following their footsteps. He insists that we should not inconvenience the people in whatever we do. An example of his caring attitude is reflected in his decree that the wearing of mourning attire was voluntary. He also does not wish to inconvenience schoolchildren by having them line up along the route during his visits.

I was entrusted by Sultan Iskandar to groom the young Tunku Mahkota on the complexities of managing state affairs by having him attached to government departments and by keeping in close contact with the people.

His military training locally and at Fort Benning, and special forces training at Fort Bragg in the United States further broadened his knowledge and strengthened his discipline and mental toughness.

As the crown prince and later as regent, he toured Johor to personally monitor the various development programmes and have a first hand understanding of the livelihood and the difficulties and encumbrances faced by his subjects.

The annual Kembara Mahkota, his brainchild, is a continuity of the visits. He has promised the event will continue in the years to come.

He endeared himself to his people during the visits. He insisted on sitting cross-legged on the uncarpeted floor and eating with his hands the simple food prepared by village folk. He would visit the kitchen to personally thank the ladies who prepared the food, often asking for take-away, much to their delight.

He never passes up an opportunity to rub shoulders with his people. He graciously allows people from all walks of life to have their photographs taken with him.

And now Sultan Ibrahim will continue to touch base with his people.

Before embarking on these visits he arranges for detailed briefings by all departments and agencies to enable him to assess whether the execution of projects are indeed according to plan, and that his people benefit directly or indirectly from the projects.

He has a meticulous eye for detail and an inquisitive mind, and will often pose questions out of the ordinary.

Among his first priority is to ensure the preservation of the environment, especially the creation of green lungs and the cleanliness of towns and rivers.

The Istana Gardens and other landscaped areas are to be rehabilitated. He insists on environmental impact assessments before approval of projects. Heritage buildings, private and public, are to be restored to their former glory.

Informality and a reluctance to insist on the protocol his position demands are very noticeable in him. He dresses casually in polo or sport shirts that present an aura of friendliness that makes one feel at ease in his presence.

He has no immediate plans to move to Istana Bukit Serene, the official palace of Johor sultans, but prefers to stay in the century old Istana Pasir Pelangi, which he calls home.

For the record, his great-grandfather built the palace in 1911 and stayed there for the best part of his reign.

An accomplished horseman and polo player, sailor and pilot Sultan Ibrahim honed his skills at a young age, tutored and encouraged by his father. With discipline that is second nature and a competitive spirit, he is brimming with confidence and enthusiasm and injecting a sense of urgency into the bureaucracy.

Johoreans can look forward to exciting times under our new ruler.

Datuk Abdul Rahim Ramli is the secretary of the Council of Royal Court

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