JOHOR BARU • Delving into sensitive political subjects, Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim said Malaysia's current "mess" is not associated with the Johor royal family, and broached the issue of secession from Malaysia.
Asked in an interview with sports magazine Fourth Official on whether sentiments promoting Johor's independent stance that are shared on social media would create political divisions nationally, he answered: "I am going to be the future Sultan of this state and my main responsibility goes towards the people of Johor. Malaysia is important to me, but Johor and JDT (Johor Darul Ta'zim Football Club) will always come first."
He added: "People deserve to know that the mess we have in the country right now should in no way be associated to the Johor royal family. Over the years, we've always been strong and independent as well as resourceful."
The interview is posted on the Facebook page of the football club, which is also known as the Johor Southern Tigers.
The ruler of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, and his family members have in recent months received mostly public support for speaking out on political issues plaguing Malaysia, including on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal and against the increasing racial overtones in the national political debate.
Their remarks on current political affairs come at a time when Prime Minister Najib Razak is being beset by multiple problems of a weak economy and currency, and his eroded leadership stature due to allegations of money transfers into his personal account and unresolved issues linked to the state investment firm 1MDB.
The Crown Prince, who is the Sultan's eldest son, in the interview said Johor joined the Malay Federation in 1946 after the nascent federal government agreed to several conditions.
"We joined the Federation of Malaya only upon both parties agreeing to several basic terms. And if any one of those terms are breached, we have every right to secede from this country.
He added: "You can accuse me of instigating state-based sentiments, but to me, I'm merely doing my duty to the people of Johor, and reminding them of the history and heritage behind this great land."
The Crown Prince was attacked in June by Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz for criticising PM Najib for not attending an open dialogue where he was supposed to address 1MDB matters.
Datuk Seri Nazri said Malaysian royalty should stay out of politics, resulting in a war of words between him and the prince.
In June, the Crown Prince's younger brother Tunku Idris raised eyebrows when he posted on his Instagram to say Johor joined Malaya in 1946 based on several conditions.
He listed the terms of agreement that included making Islam the Johor state religion, its absolute right over water and land issues, and allowing the Johor royal house to retain its military.
"If any of these conditions are violated, then Johor will secede from Malaysia," Tunku Idris had posted on his Instagram account. The post was later deleted after attracting public and media attention.