Reflections on the Regent of Negri Sembilan, Tunku Naquiyuddin Tuanku Ja’afar’s recent media statement on 26 November 2008 to reinstate complete legal immunity to the rulers.

On 26 November 2008, the Regent of Negri Sembilan, Tunku Naquiyuddin Tuanku Ja’afar did the royalty no favours when he made a self-serving statement for royal immunity to be reinstated so the constitutional monarchy can be restored to its full sovereignty. It is not unsurprising that he made such a call. His father was reported to have been ordered by the Special Court to pay Standard Chartered US$ 1 million and by doing so honour his letter of credit. According to the report, ‘[t]he suit arose after Tuanku Ja’afar, on or about Feb 12, 1999, established through SCBMB a standby letter of credit valued at US$1 million made in favour of the Connecticut Bank of Commerce (CBC) in the United States for credit facilities to be extended to a U.S company called Texas Encore LLC (TEC).‘ The Special Court unanimously allowed the claim and dismissed the Yang Dipertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan’s, Tuanku Ja’afar Tuanku Abdul Rahman, counterclaim for a declaration that the bank was not entitled in law to uplift his fixed deposit to settle the sum of US$1 million. Since Article 182(6) of the Federal Constitution states that a decision by the Special Court ‘shall be final and conclusive and shall not be challenged or called in question in any court on any ground’, this means that there is no further avenue for appeal and the Yang DiPertua Besar now has to pay Standard Chartered US$ 1 million. There is another newsreport of it here. So clearly, he had a personal or familial interest in calling for the return of complete immunity to the Rulers.

But now let us examine the basis for his call. He was reported to have said:

He said that if the Ruler were to exercise his duties in a fair, just and impartial manner to protect the Federal Constitution, his sovereignty needed to be protected too.

He said the restoration would enable the constitutional monarchy to play a more fitting role in the 21st century as guardian of the Federal Constitution.

My question to this supposed basis is what has the royalty done when they had complete immunity to protect the Federal Constitution before Tun Dr. Mahatir stripped them of it in 1993? For one, look at all the Chief Justices that came after Tun Salleh Abbas. All of them have brought disrepute to the Judiciary. I would like to know what has Tuanku Jaafar Tuanku Abdul Rahman personally done to protect the Federal Constitution or the interest of the rakyat. The answer is nothing. Even Sultan Azlan Shah, the former Lord President merely watched as the Judiciary fell to ruin. It almost becomes like a cruel joke when the Regent is reported to have said this:

He said a Ruler was a personage who had the keen sense of what the rakyat wanted.

He added that a lot of people were grateful that the country had Rulers to intervene in matters of interest because they did not want them messed up by politicians.

“Politicians have a lot of self-interest and self-motivation, greed and corruption. Rulers become some sort of referee to instinctively come in to safeguard the constitution,” he said.

Firstly, how does the Ruler have a keen sense of what the rakyat wants when they live in their palaces, travel overseas, attend Tatler events, look after their own not necessarily halal business interests and drive around in expensive cars? Perhaps the Regent did not want to distress us by telling us that royalty actually have telepathic powers, but I seriously don’t think that’s the case. How do they do this when they are so busy dishing out titles and going into business with mere common folk? Perhaps if I were royalty, I would know about the hardships of royalty.

Secondly, who are these grateful people besides the people working in the palace? Was there a survey done to back his assertions? I hope the Regent can release his wide ranging survey on all the citizens of Malaysia including the orang asli so we can see how much they support them. Say, has the royalty done anything to alleviate the poverty, marginalization and suppression of the orang asli? I doubt it because they are not usually allowed into Tatler events.

The Tunku also claimed that the rakyat did not want the politicans messing up matters of national interest and condemned them as ‘a lot of self-interest and self-motivation, greed and corruption.’ It is fortunate that all the royalty including the Tunku and his father are not self-interested, self-motivated, greedy and corrupt. Yes, that is very good. But wait, what about that Standard Chartered claim that his father tried to avoid paying on the basis he was a ruler? I suppose that deal was really for the benefit of the rakyat, all the poor people, the orphans, the single mothers, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what the news report says:

The suit surfaced after Standard Chartered paid the Connecticut bank US$1million for credit provided to a US tire rubber firm in a deal arranged by Tuanku Jaafar. Standard Chartered said the ruler had to reimburse the bank, but Tuanku Jaafar’s lawyers said the king tried to revoke the contract and refused to pay the debt.

The Regent also said this:

Tunku Naquiyuddin described the amendment as the biggest setback to the institution of the rulers, saying that it was nonsensical that a ruler could be taken to court for trying to protect the interests of the nation and people.

He is naturally fudging the issue here. How about when the ruler is not bona fide and abuses his position as ruler? What if the ruler was abusing the interest of the nation and the people, should they still have immunity then? Bringing it back to Standard Chartered claim against his father – does the Regent think he should be given immunity for falling back on his word? It does not sound like the Regent is being completely candid about the issue of immunity. But look at his magnanimous concession here in when a royalty can be held accountable:

Tunku Naquiyuddin stress-ed that the immunity should not cover acts of criminality, such as when a ruler assaulted someone.

Clearly he is excluding the Johor royalty’s act in 1993 when the Sultan battered the national hockey coach. But what happens if a ruler cheats someone? Should he get immunity still? And is this Regent really bona fide about whom should the immunity apply to? After all it was not long ago that the Johor and Negeri princes were involved in a fight at a Kuala Lumpur night club and from what I heard through the grapevine, the Negeri princes were the losers in the altercation (if anybody can correct me with evidence, I’d happily stand corrected).

If he were really sincere about looking after the interest of the nation and the rakyat, he should be thinking hard about whether the concept of royalty is still relevant in this day and age. The Age of Kings is incompatible with the Age of Science. What value added do the royalty bring for the remuneration they receive? Royalty allowances are paid out of the Federal Consolidated Fund and there is no mention of how much they receive. Why doesn’t he disclose this as well as all their business interests and other sources of income other than form the Federal Consolidated Fund?

If the Regent were really serious about accountability, constitutionality, and protection of the interest of the nation and rakyat, he should be pushing for media reform and freedom of the press. That he confines himself solely to the issue of royal legal immunity smacks of self-interest and betrays the truth of attitude of those in royalty – they only care about themselves.

Fahri Azzat practices the dark arts of the law. Although he enjoys writing and reading, he doesn't enjoy writing his own little biographies of himself. Like this one. He wished somebody else would do it...

2 replies on “On Royal Immunity”

  1. Dear Fahri

    Well said. I think you speak for a lot of Malaysians especially the under forties. cheers!

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