Major celebrations planned for Johor Sultan's crowning

Street parades, concerts to mark state's first royal coronation in 55 years

Johor will hold its first royal coronation in 55 years on Monday, with street parades, fireworks and four days of free concerts at Danga Bay.

The official crowning of the Sultan of Johor has been declared a public holiday in the southern state. Commemorative stamps and special gold medallions will be issued.

The highlight of the celebrations will be when the Mufti of Johor, the state's Islamic head, places a jewel-encrusted crown on Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, four years after he ascended the throne.

Singaporeans driving into Johor Baru will be directed to alternative routes until late afternoon on Monday, as several roads in the city centre have been closed for parade rehearsals and to dress up the streets for the celebrations, officials said.

The last time Johor held a coronation was in 1960 for Sultan Ibrahim's grandfather, Sultan Ismail Ibrahim.

Malaysia has 13 states, of which nine, including Johor, have Malay constitutional monarchs.

Sultan Ibrahim, 56, asked why he was holding the coronation when he had already ascended the throne, said: "The coronation is not a legal requirement but a customary tradition to enhance the sovereignty or daulat (majesty) of the Ruler."

He told The Star newspaper in a recent interview that his ancestor, Sultan Abu Bakar Daing Ibrahim, was crowned in 1886, 23 years after ascending the throne. "This is not just my celebration but also one involving the people of Johor," he said, adding that the month-long royal festivities will see him visiting each of the 10 districts in the state.

"The coronation is a very important part of keeping customs, traditions and history alive," Datuk Md Othman Yusof, executive director of property developer Country Garden Pacificview, told The Straits Times.

"I believe this is also an opportunity for Johoreans to come together to celebrate this joyous day."

Johor Baru's city centre has been transformed into a fairyland at night with LED lights and colourful lamps, media reports said. Residents said the city and state have grown under the business-minded ruler, who said he is into business activities so that he will not have to depend on his monthly government allowance of RM27,000 (S$10,200).

Sultan Ibrahim has brought big Chinese developers into Johor.

Said Johorean property executive Adeline Chng, in her early 30s: "I am glad that our ruler's foresight and business sense have proven to critics that he has turned 'kampung' Johor Baru into an 'international' Johor Baru that is a liveable place for locals and foreigners."

The free concerts starting from March 26 will feature top Malaysian artists such as Sheila Majid and Jaclyn Victor and foreign groups including Black Eyed Peas and Korean girl group T-ara.

There will also be a powerboat race in the Strait of Johor, a "cycleton" around Johor and beach sports games.

Speaking to reporters last week, Johor Royal Court president Abdul Rahim Ramli said the royal crown weighs 1.6kg, about the weight of three iPads, and is made by London jeweller J.W. Benson.

It is made of gold, silver and encrusted with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

The Sultan's wife, Raja Zarith Sofiah, will be declared Permaisuri (Queen) of Johor and crowned with a white gold tiara studded with diamonds.

Sultan Ibrahim said he has lost 20kg in order to look his best for the ceremony. He has gone on a diet, eating lots of fruit and vegetables and drinking a lot of water, he told the New Straits Times newspaper last week.

"The coronation ceremony has given me the motivation to go on a diet because I want to be slimmer. I want the people to see me fit because this is a once-in-a-lifetime event," he said in the interview.

Raja Zarith admitted to being nervous.

"Moreover, I will be wearing a heavy robe that will make it difficult for me to move... God willing, everything will be fine," she told NST.

reme@sph.com.sg