PEOPLE

Johor Crown Prince no stranger to controversy

Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim seemed to accuse Mr Najib Razak of having "everything to hide" in a Facebook post.
Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim seemed to accuse Mr Najib Razak of having "everything to hide" in a Facebook post.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, the eldest son of the Johor Sultan, touched on the most sensitive of issues when he appeared to accuse Prime Minister Najib Razak of having "everything to hide" after the latter failed to turn up at a forum to address concerns surrounding debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

"How can you have a dialogue called 'Nothing2Hide' featuring a person who has everything to hide?

"Obviously he won't show up," the Crown Prince said in a post on his state's football team Facebook page on June 5, the same day the forum was called off by police for "security" reasons.

Although still a week shy of his 31st birthday on June 30, Tunku Ismail is already used to the spotlight...

Although the prince, who is also president of the Johor Football Association, did not refer to Datuk Seri Najib specifically, the subject of his statement - probably the most scathing in decades levelled by the usually diplomatic royalty against a leader from the ruling Umno - was clear.

It marks the second time in as many months that the prince has criticised an Umno leader.

He had told Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in a May 7 post on his football team's website, to "stand for what is right" instead of supporting the "circus match" on May 27 between the national football team and English club Tottenham Hotspur.

He said the match did nothing to improve Malaysian football.

Although still a week shy of his 31st birthday on June 30, Tunku Ismail is already used to the spotlight.

His willingness to splurge on the state football team - bringing in former world-class stars like Spain's Daniel Guiza and Argentina's Pablo Aimar - since taking over its reins in 2012 has made him a hero to many Johoreans.

Football fanatics in the state had been starved of something to cheer about for over a decade before their team became league champions last year.

But on other occasions, the news has not been favourable to the heir to the Johor throne.

Tunku Ismail's reputation has been sullied by allegations of misconduct, such as that by Tunku Nadzimuddin Tunku Mudzaffar, a member of the Negeri Sembilan royal family.

Tunku Nadzimuddin claimed he was abducted, assaulted and had a gun pointed at him by the prince at a Kuala Lumpur hotel in 2008.

However, no action was taken by the authorities after a police investigation.

Tunku Ismail was also embroiled in controversy when Terengganu-based Brazilian footballer Fabio Flor de Azevedo lodged a police report against the Crown Prince for allegedly threatening to kill him during a match between the Terengganu-based T-Team and Johor in February last year.

The prince was also accused of assaulting two players during the half-time break at the same match, but he has not faced any disciplinary action as yet.

The eldest of six children of Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, Tunku Ismail received his secondary school education in Singapore before undergoing military training in India.

He tied the knot last year.

He is also a successful businessman, and has been involved in several land deals in Johor, including land reclamation in the Tebrau Strait.

Reports place him among Malaysia's 50 richest people.

SHANNON TEOH

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2015, with the headline 'Johor Crown Prince no stranger to controversy'. Print Edition | Subscribe